This interview by Matthew Swinnerton of Event Santa Cruz was originally published on June 22 at eventsantacruz.com.
So Bradley, what inspired you to make a company selling gourmet marmalade & jams?
My inspirations to start a company making jam from local organic fruits come from a range of people, organizations, ideals, events, and job experiences. On a trip to France in 1998, I remember breakfast always included fresh butter croissants accompanied with delicious strawberry jam.
I’m passionate about our environment and food, including sustainable agriculture, which I studied at UC Santa Cruz. Food preservation allows people to utilize more fruit from a tree. For example, a single plum tree typically provides more fresh plums than a family would be able to consume. By making plum jam, the incredible taste of locally grown plums can be enjoyed all year round. Environmentally, this seems to be a better decision than importing plums grown in another country when they are out of season locally.
In February 2013, I attended an information session presented by the City of Santa Cruz at the downtown library about crafting a food business. Around the same time, I was impressed by the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project’s promotion of local fruit harvesting and preservation. Slow Food Santa Cruz, which is part of a global grassroots organization linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to local communities and the environment, was also a big influence. They held an event in February 2013 at the Louden Nelson Community Center with presentations by women who own local food business, and information on how to get started. Also as a website developer, I wanted more experience with e-commerce, so I decided to jump right in and start a business.
Have you always thought of yourself as an entrepreneur / business owner?
It’s been a winding path, that’s for sure. I grew up in Oak Park, CA, and have always loved nature, particularly oak trees. As a teenager, I was entrepreneurial and business-minded. I was involved in arts and crafts, including ceramics and sculpture. I lived in Santa Barbara for a year and surrounded myself in ceramics by taking classes, as well as working for a couple established ceramicists.
In 2000 I moved to UC Santa Cruz, and environmental studies was the focus of my life. Then I began broadening my scope, and discovered social justice. In the fight for social and environmental justice, business interests are generally adversaries rather than allies, therefore I wasn’t picturing myself as a business owner. It’s easy to critique the actions of others, however it’s difficult to build an exemplary organization. With Copper Pan Jams, I strive to be a positive role model.
What challenges do you face running the business?
I’ve been working on this business for over two years, and yet in some ways, I’m still getting started. The challenges are numerous and often feel overwhelming. I’m grateful to have tremendous support from my partner Taunya, who loves both jam and baking. Taunya finds creative uses for jam and shares delicious recipes on the Copper Pan Jams website and social media. It’s a constant challenge to allocate limited time and resources for so many business responsibilities, including sourcing local organic fruits, accounting, production, packaging, distribution, website development, design, photography, marketing, social media, networking, wholesale, and direct sales.
Does living / working in Santa Cruz County influence what you do?
Living and working in Santa Cruz County has been a huge influence for me and Copper Pan Jams! I can’t imagine that I would have started this business if I lived anywhere else. Santa Cruz County provides breath-taking beauty, and serves as an epicenter for sustainable agriculture. Fortunately, we have access to excellent fresh fruit grown locally and organically.
Santa Cruz County is the birthplace to so many incredible organizations. I believe much of that success can be attributed to the support of Santa Cruz County residents who not only understand the importance of backing local enterprises, but also take pride in doing so.
Copper Pan Jams is honored to be a member of Think Local First County of Santa Cruz, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting locally-owned businesses and building the community of Santa Cruz County.
What is next for Copper Pan Jams?
When people sample Copper Pan Jams, they really love them. Current varieties are apricot, orange marmalade, kiwi, pear, plum, apple, and strawberry. It’s great participating in community events which feature foods, arts, and crafts, such as the Santa Cruz Makers Market in Abbott Square at the Museum of Art & History.
Of course there’s much more to do than make, sample, and sell jams. Next up is more photography, recipes, design, marketing, networking, social media, and becoming Etsy’s go-to jam shop!
Copper Pan Jams is part of an emerging movement, which is growing quickly in Santa Cruz County, of small business. Copper Pan Jams welcomes partnerships with local retailers, as well as companies producing artisan foods.
Apricot jam, the latest and greatest, tastes fabulous with pancakes and dolloped on cheese. It is a culinary treat exploring and documenting the endless ways to enjoy jam and marmalade. I look forward to these explorations, and want to learn all about your adventures with Copper Pan Jams!