February 11, 2014

A Year In The Life Of A Food Entrepreneur – Month 1

monkeypod jamLast year I introduced to you Aletha Thomas of Hawaii-based Monkeypod Jam.  Throughout this year we’re going to follow Aletha through the ups and downs of small business ownership as told in her own words.  For this first installment, Aletha wanted to share with us what a typical day in her busy entrepreneurial life looks like which includes letting us look at her 2014 business goals and a powerful story about the role customers play in our businesses (hint…it’s not just about revenue!).

6:30am: Wake up (almost 2-year-old) Annika, pop her in her car seat, and we’re off to the harbor!

Moving through the motions of the morning, my inner dialogue begins, “Hire another part-time cook, check when the SKU labels will arrive, and find out when the new banner will be ready.”

7:30am: Meet the cook at the shipyard to pick up a pallet of jars.

My inner dialogue continues, “Have the new girl sign paperwork. Email the bookkeeper, vendors, and Kauai Fresh Farms. Text Becky, the passion fruit lady, and the farmers market coordinator.”

Wait, I still have Annika.

8:30am: Deliver Annika to babysitter.

Now I have a brief moment to coordinate the to do lists that are on post-its, in my head, and on my phone. These include the goals for the week, the month, and if I’m feeling ambitious, the year.


9:00am: Trade cars with husband, so he can pick up Annika after work.

I remind myself that Robert is amazing and definitely a keeper.


9:30am: Pack the Jeep for farmers market.

Mentally, back to the to do lists!  I decide to be ambitious:

Goals for 2014:
Finish the cursed business plan!
Capture 20 new Hawaii wholesale accounts.
Double our web sales.
Submit jam to one food competition.
Apply for grant funding.  

Speaking of funding, I need to go to the bank.


9:45am: Go to the bank. Deposit $$$. Take out $$$.

And now on to the “fun” part of my day:

10:00am: Meet farmers for fruit deliveries/payments.

11:00am: Cook one batch of jam; Coordinate my fabulous kitchen girls.

1:00pm:  Deliver product to retail location.

2:30pm: Grab coffee; Head to farmers market.

3:00pm: Set up booth (in the rain).

3:30pm: Customers arrive (in the rain).

5:30pm: Leave booth to host a cooking demo (in the rain).

6:00pm: Break down the booth (yep, still raining).

7:00pm: Head home, a bit soggy, to lovely husband and daughter.


What a crazy day! Well, believe it or not, afternoons like this are exactly what make owning my own business worth all the effort.

On this particular day, my sister Julia, graciously “volunteered” to work my booth, while I hosted the cooking demo. I was about to leave her on her own when, Jake, a retired, frequent visitor to Kauai came by to buy some jam. I teased him saying he may need to help my sister sell since he knew more about our products than she did. Thirty minutes later, I found Julia and Jake, selling my jam to a crowd of people. They were both soaked head to toe, and I heard Jake telling the customers, “When I go home at the end of the month, I continue enjoying my Kauai vacation. How? Because I have three jars of Monkeypod Jam in my cupboard. Monkeypod Jam isn’t just a jar of fruit and sugar, it’s a memory! So lady, which three jars will you be taking home this evening?”

Having loyal customers like Jake make all the late nights, early mornings and endless struggles worth it. Jake loves my jam. That warms my heart and makes me smile. It is my hope that you have a Jake who does the same for you.

You can check out Monkeypod Jam on their website or Facebook page for more information about their Hawaiian-inspired goodies.

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One comment on “A Year In The Life Of A Food Entrepreneur – Month 1

  • Jenny on said:

    Hi Aletha,
    I am a beginning food entrepreneur, and your article was inspiring to me as sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am being productive with my day. Your article helped me know, that what I am experiencing is normal.


    Much success to you,