There are certain plants that can only release their seeds when they encounter the heat of an intense fire. In other words, they need a disaster to strike so they can continue to grow. Such is also the case for many people who entered the pandemic working from home in quarantine and emerged on the other side as entrepreneurs. Kadijah McKenzie, owner and founder of Honey Sweet Jam LLC, probably would have remained content with making her jams and jellies for friends, family and neighbors and keeping her full time job were it not for the sheer boredom of being at home in quarantine. Looking for a creative outlet for her talents and suddenly-available time, Kadijah set out to try her hand at running her own company. And with the help of the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College (WBC) she has succeeded.
Honey Sweet Jam is a small home-based business in Kenmore, NY. All of their jams and jellies are 100% handcrafted by Kadijah. They are sweetened with natural honey and sugar in the raw to balance the sweetness. The jams are also selectively crafted with herbs and spices rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which are formulated to maximize health benefits.
Honey Sweet Jam creates artisanal small batch and customizable homemade jam and jelly favors for weddings, showers, parties, fundraisers, business events, and corporate gifts. Honey Sweet Jam also supplies large quantities of jam and jelly for large events, corporate and hospitality use, restaurants, bakeries, and in-store wholesale.
Living The Sweet Life
Several years before the pandemic, Kadijah was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. Not knowing what to bring as a gift – but wanting to do something special – she made her first jam: Apple Pie. It was a huge hit and her friends and family encouraged her to continue making them. She did – but only sparingly. That is, until the pandemic struck and she became isolated at home.
The stress of her job – combined with the uncertainty and loneliness of quarantine – awoke her desire to take her jams and jellies a step further and launch her business. “During the pandemic, I received a lot of help and support from the Buffalo community,” she said. “I was able to connect with others through social media and local markets, which helped me gain exposure and build business relationships.”
Over the past year, Kadijah has had the opportunity to be a vendor at various farmer’s markets, sell her jams and jellies in a local store, and partner with other local businesses. Like every business owner, she experienced the highs of having her business exceed her expectations – and the lows of roadblocks and unexpected crises. But, thanks to the WBC, she was able to overcome the lows and build for a strong future.
Creating The Perfect Balance
Making jams and jellies requires the skill to take the right blend of ingredients and create something that is both tasty and unforgettable. That can also be said of balancing your professional and personal life. In the case of Kadijah, it was juggling three things instead of just two: her job as a social worker, her life as a new entrepreneur, and her personal life. All during a pandemic.
“My biggest lesson over this past year was learning to set boundaries and creating balance,” she said. “I’ve decided to be more conscious about the decisions I make regarding my business. Because I have two jobs, I became overwhelmed by the demands of preparing for the store and farmer’s markets. I thought about what was important to me and how I could be more efficient with my time while generating new and consistent customers. Going forward, I am looking to continue business-to-business services and ecommerce while maintaining a presence in local markets.”
Enter the WBC, which Kadijah began working with in November 2020. She took part in their “Ignite” sessions and, as a result, became much more confident in her ability to make decisions for her business. She also received support in developing new ideas on how to grow the business in a competitive market – and she has learned from other women-owned businesses that provided assistance in various areas of her own business. And, most importantly, she has learned how to create the balance that has made her entrepreneurial journey both successful and enjoyable.
Boldness Has Genius
As the old saying goes, “Whatever you can do or dream you can – begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” And that is exactly what drove Kadijah to start her business – and why she encourages others to do the same. “I would tell anyone thinking of starting their own business to just go for it,” she stated emphatically. “There are countless opportunities available once you’ve put yourself out there. You’ll find that others are supportive and want to see you succeed. It can be scary to take the leap, but once you do, you’ll find that it can be very rewarding.”
Kadijah also credits the WBC and their theme of “Reconnect, Restart, Regrow” because it firmly aligns with her business. “As someone with no prior business experience, I’ve learned to appreciate making mistakes,” she admits. “I am continuously learning what works or doesn’t for my business and making adjustments as I see fit.”
You just never know what will grow out of a bad situation. And, in this case, it was the sweetest jams and jellies you could possibly imagine.