Having done freelance graphic design work for years before she decided to begin canning and selling jam, Susie was no stranger to working for herself. You can see the marriage of Susie’s design aesthetic with her love of canning, in the minimalist logo and labels that adorn her jars of unique flavored homemade jams. In 2012, Susie quit her FT job and began working exclusively on Pear Tree Preserves and her freelance graphic design jobs. And last year, Susie added one more job title, mama, to her life. Take a moment to get to know Susie and her adorable son, Klaus. They are just one more example of how mamas are finding their personal ways to make their own path in life.
Susie is also offering a discount of 15% on all orders for the rest of the year, using the code hibernation2015 on her website, Pear Tree Preserves and their range of jars of jam make perfect gifts and Susie ships!
PM: When was your company founded and where are you based?
I started Pear Tree Preserves in 2011 and I’m based in Chicago, IL.
PM: How many are involved in your company?
It’s just me! But there are many people who make it possible for me to do this.
PM: What inspired you to start your company?
It was a mix of the midwest and the preservation prowess of my Grandma Salinetti. When I moved from Orlando, FL to Chicago, I realized that there was this awesome growing season, and then a time when everyone here hibernates. I really love that about the midwest. This is not something that happens in Florida, so experiencing it was new for me.
My grandmother and grandfather had a farm in MA that we would visit as kids. It was one of my favorite places to visit and I looooved my grandma’s homemade jam. She would send it to us in FL with the wax seal on top. She would put crazy stuff like maraschino cherries and pineapple in it sometimes. My mom would tell us stories about her canning and the milk vat in the cellar souring into cream and sour cream. She would tell us about fresh eggs and my grandmother making butter. Being someone who loves to make things and loves to cook, it inspired me. I began to take advantage of the growing season, and learned to can.
PM: Did you have a background in business prior to starting your company?
Nope – I’m a pretty bad business person. I just like to make jam.
PM: Did you run into any problems or resistance while launching?
Not really. The cottage food community, farmers and markets are so wonderful here in Chicago. There are so many opportunities to sell and share your goods. People are willing to share their kitchen space and share advice and collaborate. It’s been a really enjoyable adventure for me! I’ve been involved with the Slow Food Chicago organization the past few years and they selected Pear Tree, last Fall, to represent the Midwest in Italy’s huge food and wine festival, Salone Del Gusto and Terra Madre. Traveling to Italy (while 7 months pregnant) to sell my preserves was something I never ever thought would be possible!
PM: How do you get the most out of your day?
I end up making jam, labeling, and picking up fruit early in the mornings and in the evenings. The kitchen that I rent is usually only open evenings and mornings. So during the day, I have time to work on my freelance jobs (graphic design) and take care of my baby.
PM: How is your family apart of your business choices?
My husband and I do a lot of switching on and off baby duty. He will come home from work, and I will hand the baby to him and run out the door to the kitchen space. Scheduling has to be a big part of our lives.
PM: What music inspires you?
Anything that is currently not on my ipod right now. I’m in need. Please help. (*Editor note, check out our Mixtapes Susie!)
PM: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
Hang out with Klaus, my 11 month old! He’s super fun. I wish I had more free time with him. The best is when my husband and I can both be with him. It sucks that life has to be so busy.
PM: What do you see in the future for your shop Pear Tree Preserves?
I am still trying to figure that out. Do I want to grow and hire help? It’s a tough question. It’s hard because it does take a lot of my time, but doesn’t necessarily help pay bills. That’s what my day job is for. Making that leap is always hard to do, especially with a new member of the family. For now, I’m doing it because I just really like it. As hard as it is, I enjoy the people I’ve met and enjoy producing something people seem to really like.
Remember to use code hibernation2015 to enjoy a discount of 15% on all orders for the rest of the year at Pear Tree Preserves. Check out her full range at her website.