"American Business" profile of woman and her colleague, who, after being laid off from their jobs on Wall Street, went to "pickle school," and started a successful and growing pickle company, Miss Jenny's Pickles. Originally aired on "Your Business" on MSNBC.
American Business: Cool As a Cucumber (Miss Jenny’s Pickles)
JJ RAMBERG, reporting:
Jenny Fulton of Kernersville, North Carolina has a company called Miss Jenny’s Pickles, but she hasn’t always made her living making pickles. This fall marks the beginning of her second year as a first-time small business owner.
JENNY FULTON: I was in the financial industry for about 18 years, you know. I worked my way up, and I as a series seven stockbroker. And I managed millions of dollars. And the market tanked.
ASHLEE FURR: Our little office, from four brokers, went to zero brokers.
RAMBERG: Ashlee Furr worked with Jenny for 5 years at the same firm, until last spring. That’s when their boss told them, separately, they both would be laid off.
FURR: Oh I was devastated.
FULTON: When I actually got the word that I would be laid off, I didn’t panic. I was devastated, ‘cause it just hurts you. Hurts your feelin’s you know?
FURR: Our first thought it, “We’re gonna go into business together.” We had a lot of ideas.
FULTON: You know we decided, when our jobs went sour, we’d make pickles.
FURR: I had never made a pickle before in my life. I’m, I’m a city girl. I had never canned or pickled anything.
RAMBERG: But Miss Jenny had! In her spare time she cultivated the cucumbers on the small patch of land left to her by her grandmother, and she cured them using her grandmother’s time-worn recipe.
FULTON: Actually, my husband Bo’s, the one who said, you make a really distinctive, unique pickle. You should share it. And so do somethin’ with it. And he said, and you have land at Mama’s. And so I was like, yeah, you’re right.
RAMBERG: How did these two go from one family recipe and two pink slips to a full-blown business with about five employees?
FULTON: Ok, to be honest with you, I had never written a business plan. So do you think Miss Jenny did? She went to the library, and checked out 13 books on how to write business plans for dummies. So technically, I have a halfway business plan right now, because what happened? We took off!
RAMBERG: If you press them about starting up though, the first thing they say is they recognized how well they work together.
FULTON: Ashlee’s my partner. I’ll tell ya, we are like a left hand and right hand.
RAMBERG: They made that relationship the foundation of their business.
FURR: We’re very opposite. But very good friends.
FULTON: I’m the vision person, Ashlee’s the details. I drive, I’m the gas, she’s the break. So in a nutshell, she’s my friend and she’s my partner. And I couldn’t do this without her.
RAMBERG: They took the risk with their own modest savings.
FULTON: It was a big leap of faith. And to be honest with you, we’ve added a lot of money, but our initial investment was $2,500 a piece, kinda, sorta. So less thatn $10,000, our initial.
RAMBERG: They also drummed up plenty of free labor.
FULTON: We’ve had a lot of friends and family step in, to where we didn’t pay people. They volunteered to help us. You know, they cut cucumbers for hours, you know. So that’s how we got started.
RAMBERG: That’s not all. They persuaded the local YMCA to let them use their commercial kitchen. With that in place, they then took a class on safety precautions for manufacturing acidified foods. Pickle school!
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And once you break that seal its no longer shelf stable.
FULTON: And we went to pickle school to make sure because you know your pH levels have to be correct. There could be bacteria growth. You know I was terrified because you know, we wanna do it right. You either do it right, or you don’t do it at all, ok? So we did a lot of research.
FURR: And it was a tough four day food science class that Jenny and I went through together. Thanks goodness we did it together.
RAMBERG: And then came the selling. Miss Jenny says you can’t be shy.
FULTON: Well, no. I’m not gonna be, you know, a pest. But I’m not gonna go away. Because you know what? Just because somebody tells you no at that time, that timing wasn’t right. You can circle back around in two weeks to a month. The timing’s right because they’re probably lookin’ for ya at that point but didn’t know it. Sometimes you gotta show people you really do need us. You know?
So today I got an email from Dean and DeLuca. Their very first purchase order. I know, I know!
FURR: Did they really?
FULTON: It brought a tear to my eyes.
RAMBERG: Maggie Radzwiller, a buyer for the high-end New York city gourmet shop Dean and DeLuca, was one of their first national customers.
MAGGIE RADZWILLER: That’s awesome. This is just from today? Really? That’s incredible.
RAMBERG: She says it took way more than just passion to sell the pickles.
RADZWILLER: Quality has to be number one. You’ve gotta balance that quality with your passion and your ability to bring the product to market. You’re going to have to take some big risks and some big gambles.
FULTON: You know, we put salt and pepper on everything we eat as Americans. But you know what? Nobody created a salt and pepper pickle. But Miss Jenny’s did. We’re the pickle ladies. We don’t have a choice. And failure is not an option.
ORLANDO, Florida — At the first Parramore Farmers Market, Christopher Thornton, age 17, couldn’t believe how many customers were buying jars of honey sold under a business he helped create.
By day’s end, Black Bee Honey, run by teenagers at the city’s Parramore Kidz Zone, had sold out of all four varieties of its sweet stuff and banked more than $2,000.