We had the good fortune of connecting with Brad Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brad, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’m an inventor at heart. When I was a kid I was fascinated with Thomas Edison and really wanted “inventor” to be what my schooling was in. I grew up in the small town of Princeton, Illinois. I concluded that was a profession that I was too late for since nobody I knew had that title. I went to college and studied computer science because it was easy for me. Math was easy for me too. I invented so many things as a kid – no light bulbs or record players like Edison. I started a number of software companies, which I sold to companies much bigger than mine. I’ve always loved inventing software solutions that change the way people think about a topic. My wife and daughter own and operate Melrose and Madison (a women’s clothing store), which is at 1500 S. Pearl St in Denver. There is a farmers market every Sunday on Pearl Street. When they opened the store my wife asked if I could come set up the tent for them on Sundays. I would set up the tent and sit there writing code while my wife sold Broncos t-shirts each Sunday. I got to know a number of the vendors selling their wears at the farmers markets over the years. I LOVED their passion for their products so I knew I wanted to create something that I could sell at the market each Sunday. Serendipitously my wife and I went to a farmers market in California and purchased some Raspberry Jalapeno jam. Then a couple of months later we were in St. Thomas and I tried to find some more raspberry jalapeno jam there but couldn’t. So I figured I’d make some jam for our trip. When I got back from St. Thomas I asked the market director if I could sell some jam if I made it. The story started there. Why not turn it into a fun little business?
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I love bright colors. My first “professional” labels were colorful. I was so excited to see how cool they looked when I first saw them. I was showing my “artistic” love for bright colors. We got into a number of stores, but the feedback was consistent – we’re excited to see your “next” labels. In other words, people didn’t like my labels. My wife, Kristen is “brand management” for Brad B Jammin. She really wanted to have a more professional, rich, differentiated label. Yes, our real “art” is in our jam – the real product – making unique flavor jams. We started with a Jalapeno line. Then we did a “basil” line. After the 2nd year of jam sales the feedback on the labels required a complete overhaul. Kristen wanted black and gold labels. So we mocked up a new label – one in gold and another in silver. We ended up liking the black and silver better. Then the real creativity came inside the jars. Our last set of black and silver labels has 66 different flavors – wow! 2 fruit combos do well – like Peach Blackberry. Our “inferno” line got renamed to what they really are – the habanero line. Simplification in naming is key! Then we came up with Sour Cherry Manhattan – sour cherries, oranges and bourbon – wow! Apple butter is a personal favorite, then there was pumpkin butter in the fall – oh my! What about bananas? Why not bananas foster jam – my personal favorite of all time. Art in the look. Art in the product – jam. Our brand is consistent. Our brand is quality. Our brand is unique. Amazing.
We’re happy to announce that we’ll be opening our new retail location where we’ll have over 50 flavors of jam, be offering PB&Jam sandwiches and more. It’s going to be at 6518 S. Broadway, Littleton, CO.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I’m dreaming big – I would LOVE to take my dad on this adventure. I personally love the back country of Colorado. I love it in the winter or summer. Snowmobiling in the backcountry is experienced by SO few people. There is something special about being somewhere that very few people can get to. Digging a snowmobile out of snow that is feet deep. Exhausting yourself beyond compare of a triathlon or marathon. Seeing the beauty of untouched snow. The silence of the snow, mountains, etc. So few will EVER experience this. I have – with friends, but not with my dad. After driving into this amazing open field of trees and 40 foot deep snow, I pack an area down. It’s near some old dead trees. We pull together enough firewood to build a nice fire in the middle of the open field. It’s silent and you can hear the fire crackling. I pull out cheddar jalapeno brats out of my bag. They are wrapped in foil which has a jar of ginger lime habanero jam that the brats have soaking in during the ride. I place it in the fire as we enjoy the peace while it cooks. We hold 2 buns over the fire on top of a wet pine branch. The brats are placed in the buns, soaked with ginger, lime and habanero. Oh the taste, the smells, the flavor. We enjoy some hot chocolate over the fire going out and we head back home. What a day!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I did the farmers market thing 1 season and enjoyed it. My father-in-law, Wes Haas passed and my mother-in-law, Carol Haas decided to move to Colorado. I was thinking “Carol can take over the jam business next summer.” Carol has worked the market a NUMBER of times and she was a big inspiration for the business. It turns out it’s a very physical business – each case of 12 jars of jam weighs 14 pounds. Setup involves 20+ cases of jam. Setting up the tent, jam, tables, signs, etc requires strength and stamina, so I figured my best bet would be high school and college students in the summers. As luck would have it, a high school friend asked if I needed an intern for the summer. I have a day job with my tech company, Onemata. We’re a data company. So I had Riley and McKenzie (Riley’s good friend) interview at Onemata. My team decided they didn’t know what they would use 2 interns for, so they declined them for an internship. I jokingly said “well, you could run the jam business this summer.” The young ladies are from central Illinois – the state capital of Springfield. So an internship in Colorado would require housing. They turned to another Princetonian for housing that summer. Those young ladies ran the business that next summer – with help from a number of other friends. Aimee Petri, also a family friend found the kids to work last summer and managed SO much for me! Then this last year, a long time family friend, Jamie Butcher offered to step up a “Chief Jam Seller.” I think Jamie thought he was going to sell some jam and that would be easy enough. Little did he know it was going to be a lesson in supply chain management through a pandemic. Managing sales was easy compared to managing the inventory, glass shortages, peaches that froze and never grew last year and hundreds of other challenges. So yes, SO many people to shoutout for their help. This business would be long gone without these people! Sure I would have kept doing 1 market a week each summer – but we wouldn’t be in 100s of stores. We would not have signed a 5 year lease for a production facility. By comparison we would be nowhere…