Yes, this little jam thing I have going on here is actually a real business. It’s not all just fruits and flowers and asparagus. I have to think about other things, too, like marketing, expenses, distribution, etc.
Labels are a biggie in the etc. category. Since October I have been trying to get together some more pro looking labels on a micro-business budget. Different ideas have been thrown about and all revolved around friends who had some skills and were willing to work for jam. Initially, my good friend Kiriti’s husband, Ron Cannavino (Radharadhya das), was going to design some labels for me, but I was hesitant because he is a very busy guy with a very busy little girl. Knowing how family life can really stretch one thin, I didn’t want to get him into something that would end up as another one too many things to do in life.
On a whim I contacted an old friend of mine from high school (okay, he was my boyfriend…but that was, like, 19 years ago), Danny Frank to see if he could come up with something unique. We were both feeling very tree-y. For over a month Danny worked on the art and labels coming up with a truly colorful and original idea. But due to production considerations (read: I have like no money to put into the printing),I decided not to use those labels. Because Danny is all about loving life, he didn’t seem to mind.
I asked Ron again, reluctant because I knew his time was limited. He made a beautiful label for the jam, complete with a tree illustration. The whole thing was very black and white to ease those production worries. And then I realized why I shouldn’t have done business with friends. When it came time to fine tune the design, I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I would hurt his feelings. Or our friendship. I just couldn’t say, “Oh, I really like this but could you get rid of that.”
I emailed him and did not hear back from him. I emailed his wife. I left a voicemail message. I became worried that I offended a friend. Over what? Jam? Oh no.
And then, just when I was imagining him tearing up a picture of me on Saturday Night Live, he emailed. He wasn’t upset. He understood. He wrote that he would not have had his feelings hurt had I asked for changes. This was a jam label, not his magnum opus. Ron’s a real pro.
I ended up having a friend’s brother do the labels. Balarama Chandra (Boaz) hooked me up with his brother, Isaac Ramos (Ramos Worldwide) of Philadelphia. For a nominal fee (and some jam for Balarama Chandra and Isaac), he knocked the labels out in about a day. He still has to clean them up a bit, but they should be jar ready soon.
After the labels were designed, I ran into another problem. The idea was that I would print them myself, since there are so many varieties and many in ultra-small production. For example, I am planning on doing a jam with my lilacs tomorrow. I only have one young purple lilac bush and it will probably make just a few dozen jars of jam. To have labels in such small quantity professionally printed would far exceed the cost of what I could charge for the jam. That’s why I need the flexibility of home printing.
My plans seemed threatened by the price of Illustrator: $599! Do you know how many jars of jam I would need to sell to make that back? Well, a lot. I emailed around asking if anyone had ideas and luckily someone did! Lynn Barber (Lavanga Manjari) had the brilliant idea of looking on ebay. Well, why didn’t I think of that?
I won an old version of Illustrator, new in the box and still plastic shrink wrapped for about 20 bucks, including shipping. It should arrive soon and then I’ll have yet another technological challenge in my life to bring me up to speed with the times. Sometimes I feel like my mother. In 1984. In front of the VCR.