What inspired you to start your business?
I had a desire for feeding my son gluten free and clean label foods soon after he was diagnosed with Autism. There wasn’t anything in the marketplace at that time (15 years ago) so my Mom and I created our own – we offered our tasty treats at farmers markets and sold out every week. People kept requesting more. I felt like it was my duty to help others on their gluten free journey.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and will support you through the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur. Make no room for naysayers.
What three traits define you?
My husband and I have a saying we’ve said to our sons their entire lives – PCA – it stands for Pride, Character and Attitude. Taking pride in your actions, having the character to do what’s right especially when it’s the hard thing to do, and maintaining a positive and uplifting attitude. I hope my family would agree that I’m a good example of PCA.
What women inspire you?
The women in my family inspire me to be better. As friends, wives, mothers, sisters, and servants, they have overcome so much — the great depression, polio, divorce, death of their spouse, cancer — all the while with grace and faith that a better day is on the horizon. They have left a beautiful legacy and I’m both fortunate and blessed to have had their example along the way.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
Being WBENC-Certified has opened the doors to many new opportunities and saved our company countless dollars for fees typically charged to new vendors, this certification has also gained appreciation of consumers wanting to support other women. WBENC has given me a support system as well as numerous training opportunities to learn more about business and the opportunity to network.
What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?
People are now looking at food as their medicine — and, BeeFree has the ability to help change people’s lives in a positive and impactful way. I think that’s pretty cool!
What are the biggest obstacles you see for young female entrepreneurs?
A perceived lack of credibility for women in the business world seems to be alive and well. However, I take the approach “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Knocking down barriers is just part of it — that’s why I feel it’s super important to have a strong support network of people who will encourage and support you when the going gets tough.
What do you love about being a business owner?
I love the ability to chart my own course. I’ve always been pretty self-motivated and I love knowing that the impact I’ll make on the world is up to me — that really lights a fire in me (and scares me at the same time). Being an example for my sons makes me feel good — showing them that the way to be a change-maker is to put action behind your words. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to college students about being an entrepreneur and I really love building up young adults who are beginning to form ideas on what their futures look like!
What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?
Not letting fear and doubt rule my thoughts is a constant battle. This entrepreneurial journey is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for anyone who needs a lot of confirmation. It’s often lonely out here. Entrepreneurship was the path I chose because I wanted to chart my own course, I was willing to take risks on every level, and I believe that BeeFree has the ability to make powerful changes in people’s lives.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
My husband said “just start” you’ll never know if you don’t get started — do not wait until everything is just right, if this is the path for you, all the little things you’re worrying about will work themselves out.
What’s your favorite career moment?
I couldn’t begin to pick one favorite moment — they are all favorites and my favorites keep getting trumped — like the women who cried tears of joy when I delivered a gluten free birthday cake to her for her 30th birthday, and when we delivered our first case of warrior mix, then a pallet of warrior mix, then three truck loads of warrior mix. We keep setting our sights higher and higher. The possibilities are limitless!
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I’d run more miles, travel and create memories with my family, read more books, practice the violin more, get certified as a cycling instructor, take a photography class, teach an entrepreneurship class at my alma mater, create a cooking school for youth, build a bakery for young adults on the autism spectrum to have a meaningful place to work.
What are you reading or listening to now?
I’m reading No Greatness Without Goodness by Randy Lewis and I totally look forward to finding little snippets of time to listen to the Fred podcast — it’s uplifting and positive every time.
What’s the best way to start your day?
Spending time with God in prayer and journaling, followed by an intense workout prepares me for the best day ahead.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was clumsy and uncoordinated as a child so my mother enrolled me in ballet classes. This began a life long love of the ballet dancer. I loved the costumes, the music, the long hair pinned up in a bun, the grace… sadly, my body didn’t grow into the ideal dancers body type. But it sure was fun to fantasize about being a primo ballerina.
Fill in the blank:
When I face a challenge, I... break it down in bite size pieces and then dive in.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… I am braver than I imagined.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my family.
By this time next year, I will be… continuing to climb, searching for greatness.
To get my creative juices flowing, I… go for a run.
beefree gluten free bakery
BeeFree strives to make a positive difference in its food system. Delicious food made with real, pure ingredients is the core of their existence. Inspired by a mom committed to feeding her son with Autism tasty, gluten free food, Jen created a Paleo Warrior Mix, a soft, chewy, delicious snack for all! Now BeeFree is focused on creating more delicious, real food snacks available to all and creating jobs for young adults on the Autism spectrum.