You may have met her at the Amsterdam Mamas Children's Market or bumped into her at one of the foodie markets around town, but did you know that Kate's Slow Jam was born on Queen's Day? Find out more as we go Behind the Business...
Tell us a little about your business.
I’m Kate, the owner of Slow Jam, and I make handmade small batch jams, jellies, curds, marmalades and savoury jams using seasonal produce and a slow jamming technique. Nothing added, just using simple ingredients for lovely classic flavours. I work from home, but you’ll find me biking around the city delivering jam and scones to my customers or at many of the fantastic markets in Amsterdam. I’m a Mum of two, a passionate foodie and not that long ago I graduated from Amsterdam Fashion Institute in Fashion & Branding after a complete career switch, leaving my previous life as an A&E junior sister behind in London. Since then I’ve worked at branding and trend agencies, but just before the arrival of my second child I decided to go freelance to try and better meet the needs of our young family. If I’m honest, Slow Jam started a little by accident. One year ago, on Queen's Day, was the beginning of Slow Jam. Alongside food, through my background in branding, I have a small obsession with packaging design, paper and wrapping and, yes, I do spend ages on making presents look pretty! I sell something every year at Queen's Day and last year I threw my passions together and came up with the idea to sell homemade marmalade (because it's orange ... and I figured if I had lots over then I'd happily eat it by the bucket load on hot buttered toast). So after a sunny days' selling, requests came for more, and Slow Jam was born.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
Probably like every small business owner, especially as a working mama of two, there isn’t much that’s typical about my day. I do everything myself for Slow Jam from making the products, branding, and even standing in the freezing cold selling at markets. My products are made slowly, so can take up to three days to make, which means a few days a week I’m doing something towards the jamming process.
How do you manage childcare?
There is a four-year gap between my kids. One is at school and for the other I have found a great crèche that will take her twice per week, short days, during school hours. With the change in childcare allowances, there seems to be more flexibility to be found in the system that is perfect for someone like me. So right now I’m running on about 12 hours a week, solo time. These hours are usually reserved for meetings and buying ingredients. The rest of the hours I need for Slow Jam (which there never seems to be enough of) are usually done in nap times, the weekends and evenings. When things get crazy I smile sweetly to my lovely Dutch Mother in Law or grab an extra day at the crèche.
How do you balance work commitments with family time?
Balancing family life with a fledgling business really is a challenge. But that’s also the reason why it works, I can work odd hours and no one complains. It’s typical that after the kids go to sleep I start working; I’m a very late night jammer. My kids regularly challenge my organizational skills and multi-tasking capabilities with sickness, school holidays and needing that last minute costume for school! I also still freelance as a branding/creative strategist, so sometimes I throw another project into the mix, all-in-all life can be pretty hectic.
What do you like best about running your own business?
I love pretty much every part of working on Slow Jam. It’s probably better to ask what I don’t like, admin and TAX, those quarterly TAX returns come round way too fast!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
My biggest challenge is up-scaling production as I grow. I patiently make everything myself by hand and in small batches, and it’s really important to me that I continue to deliver each batch with great Slow Jam quality and flavour.
How do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do with that time?
Right now that seems to be fading fast! However, food and hanging out with friends features high on my agenda so it usually involves cooking and eating. Amsterdam is a pretty special place for that, with new restaurants opening, pop-up food events and amazing markets where you can graze all day. Grazing on great food with a good glass of wine makes me very happy.
Where does your support come from? Do you have a business mamas network?
I feel pretty lucky; I have a great support network and Slow Jam wouldn’t have developed without them. I have family who will take my kids off my hands at a moment's notice, and friends who generously share their very talented business brains with me, squeeze lemons when I have a big order of Lemon Curd, or just try yet another sample pot of jam (thanks by the way, you know who you are).
What is the most important piece of advice you would pass on to a parent planning to start their own business?
I’m always picking up advice from others, but for any other parents wanting to start up by themselves I’d like to share this: firstly, just try and throw everything you’ve got at it. Secondly, is a piece of advice that someone else shared with me, and it helps especially when you're busy with the kids and your business to-do list is only growing: do at least one thing for your business every day, however small. Lastly: try to separate kids and working time, especially screen time. Everyone will be happier for it.
All imagery © Kate's Slow Jam. Used with permission.