Today we’d like to introduce you to Susie Kirkwood.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It all started when I moved from Orlando, Florida to the Midwest and seasons became an actual thing that happened in my life. I remembered how my grandmother who lived in Massachusetts, would always send us homemade preserves and how wonderful they were. Being someone who has always loved cooking and baking, I decided it would be fun to try my hand at preserving some midwestern fruit… and so it began.
At first, they were just gifts, and then it grew into more. I’m a freelance graphic designer and couldn’t wait to dig in and design a label/brand for my little jam company. I ended up getting into the Logan Square Farmers market and found a partner in my friends at Willow Garlic Growers, so we became tent partners and were even selected to attend Salone Del Gusto, Terra Madre in Turin, Italy to represent the midwest through Slow Food Chicago. I can’t quite quit my day job, but it has been a great experience that has given me so many amazing opportunities.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The struggle for me is always time. My priorities have to lie with my little boy and my freelance work, so squeezing in another business has always been my challenge. I’m not quite big enough to hire help so the responsibilities are all mine to take care of. I am really lucky to have supportive and helpful family and friends, if not for them I would not be able to operate!
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Pear Tree Preserves – what should we know?
The company is named after the very old and beloved pear tree in my backyard, Pear Tree Preserves is based out of Chicago and is made with fresh and locally grown produce. It is handmade by me and the flavors change with the season. My inspiration comes from the traditions of the past, and great respect for what the seasons bring, with the goal of wasting nothing.
My produce is grown in the Midwest by small farms & farmers with good sustainable practices. All batches are small, and flavors are seasonal & limited. All sugar used in making Pear Tree Preserves is (non-GMO) pure cane sugar and all the honey is made by local bees. It is all low sugar.
I think because I’m so small, being able to source exclusively with midwest family farms sets me apart. I think people like my jam because it’s like something your gramma would make at home, not fancy, just simple and good.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Definitely family and friends. My husband who is always there to pick up slack and take care of business when I need to do “jam stuff”. He is extremely supportive. My sister is my biggest fan and is always there for my markets and is willing to help with absolutely anything! My wonderful and talented printmaker friends who helped with my labeling early on.
My tent partners at Willow Garlic Growers have been cheerleaders and generous friends as well as supportive partners, and the Logan Square Farmers market has been Integral in my business promotion. There have been many small businesses that have chosen to sell my tiny label in their stores and I’m so grateful for that.
One of the first was Cup & Spoon in Humboldt Park, they serve my jam as well as sell it retail, I’ve been with them since they opened and just love the owners. Working with and meeting fellow Chicago small business owners has been amazing. The people I have met through this little business have been some of the smartest, most interesting and humble people I’ve ever met. I really am thankful for this experience!
- My 8 oz jars are available at markets and for shipping for $8.00 each.
- Website: www.peartreepreserves.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: peartreepreserves
- Facebook: Peartree Preserves