stonewall kitchen jam

How Stonewall Kitchen’s fast failure made big success

You can’t take risks if failure paralyzes you. You have to learn how to expect and embrace failure.

Entrepreneur magazine has a column all about failure, helping people to reframe it as the pathway to success. Sometimes they feature stories from successful companies. This feature from one of our favourite foodie brands—Stonewall Kitchen—from one of our favourite places—Maine!—charmed us.

Some takeaway lessons:

1. Start before you’re ready and before you know everything. Imagine: these guys were selling product at a farmer’s market without even knowing what “wholesale” meant! You will never know all you need to know ahead of time; if you’re waiting to know “enough,” how will you know when that is? As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.”

2. You’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does. Especially when you’re doing everything yourself.

3. If you don’t point out your mistakes, or if you can find a way to restyle them—”It’s not relish, it’s jam!”—people probably won’t notice. And they may even prefer your mistakes over your original intentions. Chill.

4. Charge what you’re worth. So many talented people burn out doing the thing they love because they don’t charge enough. Whenever I see a knitter, woodworker, writer, restaurant owner charging so little that I know they’re only making about $5/hour, I die a little inside. Too often, people apply a formula along the lines of:

  • cost of ingredients x 2 (sometimes not even taking into account how much time was invested!)
  • hourly wage, applied across everything they do, not taking anything else into consideration
  • this item mass produced costs only $20, so I can’t charge much more than that
  • this service can be done overseas for less than half the cost here, so I have to charge the same rates to be competitive

Instead, you need to consider:

  • What will people pay? Stonewall Kitchen initially charged $3/jar of jam. When someone bought up all their jars and sold them at a higher price, they realized they could charge more. Their mustards now sell at about $9/jar here in Victoria. Yeah, that’s a lot but their bourbon molasses mustard sure makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich. How much do you pay for a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich in a restaurant? Nine dollars? How many sandwiches can you make with that jar?
  • What is the impact of your work? Are you solving a really big problem for someone? Do you have a high skill level, or are you coming in at the last minute to save the day? Are you multi-talented, keeping someone from having to hire multiple people to do one thing?
  • If you’re creating a solution for someone, for how long will they be using that solution? An hour, or years? Will you be helping someone to make a few hundred dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars?
  • What kind of service are you able to give that someone cheaper isn’t?
  • What does your product or service say about your customer or client? Do you have a set of values in line with their values? Are you offering a more ethical solution, or one more in line with their values? People will pay more for that.

If you’re looking to start a company, or looking for a makeover for a stalled business you’re starting to resent, we can help. We’ve coached clients, redirecting them from self-doubt and exhaustion to ambition and excitement, with results to show for it. Contact us today

By Natasha Clark, Creative Director of Risk Creative. Republication is welcome only with attribution and a direct link to Thank you in advance for good behaviour. 🙂


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