We can all use more sweetness and encouragement in our everyday, especially when
embarking on a divergent career path because passion is at the forefront. Such is the case with
Jan, as she navigated a unique path with a successful film production business to embarking on
an incredibly successful venture with Just Jan’s.
Take a closer look at the complete, one-on-one interview below to learn about her inspiring
journey, life lessons, and what to expect next.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
I have had a career in the film industry and been in the food business for almost a decade now. For
me the best lessons have been the ones that apply regardless of the chosen career path, and that’s
the ability to be flexible. Food and film are both creative endeavors and sometimes you can get so
locked into your vision that you may miss some key things along the way. So being willing to adapt,
which doesn’t mean compromising your vision, it just means adapting your vision to what is
I would also have to say RESEARCH! I have learned so much from doing extensive research in both
careers but especially in Just Jan’s. I knew nothing about the food industry except that I have a
passion for cooking and comfortable creating in the kitchen. I learned so much in the first year and a
half before having a finished product that was ready for store shelves. Creating the flavors was only
part of the process. Designing packaging, budgeting all the costs, understanding my category
competition and getting a lesson in the chemistry side of food all had to be considered before
getting the finished product on shelves to sell. Educating myself on all the various steps has been
key and I continue to learn and of course be flexible as trends change.
What have been your greatest obstacles along the way to achieving your success?
One of the many obstacles to accomplishing success would have been if I listened to the doubters
and naysayers. I have learned to lean into my instincts even more than ever before.
I would say another challenge I encountered was finding a co-packer who could make my fruit
spreads exactly like mine. This was key to my feeling comfortable moving forward and took about a
year. Although there are quite a number of co-packers who make jams and jellies nationwide they
Can you share a story about that?
Early on when I was just starting out with Just Jan’s I had managed to get a meeting with a large
distributor. I came prepared, I brought homemade scones and all my jams for sampling. I’ll never
forget how after trying my products and liking them, the person I was meeting with proceeded to tell
me all the reasons why I shouldn’t be in the business. He listed who my competition was, and how
much of an uphill battle I was facing in a crowded category, and I left that meeting a little deflated. I
dusted myself off so-to-speak and was resolved that there is always room for some new take on an
idea. My passion and vision were stronger, so I carried on!
What have been your greatest personal strengths that have enabled you to succeed?
Can you offer some examples?
I would have to say one of my personal strengths that has helped me along the way is that I’ve
always been a self-starter. Growing up I spent a lot of time in the kitchen (or in my room with my
Easy Bake oven) learning how to cook and bake. I LOVED baking, so I taught myself recipes that
interested me, which just lead to trying more creative or harder recipes. I found inspiration in my
surroundings. We had a number of fruit trees in my backyard and they translated to flavors in the
Just Jan’s line. I don’t surrender easily so I think that quality along with my tenaciousness groomed
me for success.
What are three words that describe you? Why?
Creative – Since I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for creating pretty much anything. As a
child, I would put on entire productions including playing the piano, singing and dancing, my love for
drawing has always been part of my life and became a minor for me in college. For more than 20
years dancing was my life and I enjoyed being in the kitchen creating recipes. I happily passed these
loves onto my daughters. It’s definitely in the DNA.
Determined – I am probably my toughest critic, so when I start something – anything, 90% of the time I
finish. This determination does not apply to spreadsheets though. When I started Just Jan’s I dove in
all the way. The time I spent doing research, finding out the answers to the many questions and not
stopping until I had what I wanted as a finished product, took a ton of determination!
Compassionate – I love helping others, always have. Our motto is “Spread the goodness” and that is
something I try to carry forward every day. I have benefited from serendipity and the kindness of
strangers throughout my journey in this industry. If I can be the kind stranger on someone’s path, if I can
give them the advice that propels them forward then that’s what I do. I can still remember how much it
hurt to have distributors or retailers try to dissuade me from even attempting to start this business, so I
offer as much support and information to beginners as I can.
Who has been your greatest source of inspiration? Why?
In the cooking world – I have two: Ina Garten and Roy Choi. Ina makes me smile, and I know I’m not
alone in that sentiment. She’s a literal rock star in the culinary world. Her early career life from working at
the White House writing the nuclear budget under two presidents to opening a specialty food store, talk
about a major life shift! I admire her savvy and business acumen and her sense of humor. She would be
so much fun to hang out with – maybe one day we’ll have brunch together sharing stories over a glass of
Roy Choi- I read his book L.A. Son and actually want to read it again. His life’s journey is hard, fascinating,
complex, and inspirational. This is a story everyone should read. How food ultimately changed his life.
You can feel his pain and passion for what he has been through and how all this shaped who he is, what
inspired him and the creations he comes up with.
What is one motto/mantra you live by?
“Change is the only constant or the only thing you can count on.” This idea has been a constant thread
throughout my life. My mom was frightened of change and wanted to control her daily surroundings and
outcomes. I didn’t quite understand how much this affected our lives until I was an adult and realized I
had the tendency to do the opposite and actually embrace change. Not that these transitions I went
through weren’t hard, but trying to resist them made it much more difficult to deal with. I believe this was
inherent for me as a child. My dad died before I was born and my mom had a business to run so she hired
a live-in nanny to take care of my older brother and me. Grace became my mother figure for 13 years.
During that time, my brother was drafted for Vietnam and I was adopted by my stepdad. When my mom
decided she wanted to close her business and be a stay at home mom, Grace left – the hardest change.
So as I got older I decided that leaning into changes – good and bad were where my growth would happen.
I have leaned into it ever since.
What do you have planned next that readers can engage with you?
We’re trying to provide useful information for people sheltering in place. One thing we did was to
create a guide for freezing and pickling vegetables. It’s really useful information during this time. You
can see it on our website www.justjans.com. We are also encouraging readers if they have any
specific questions to email us via the website or DM via our social media. Happy to help how we
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @justjansspreads