Clutch MOV was proud to sponsor this year’s Mid-Ohio Valley Entrepreneur of the Year. We envision a community where citizens can take risks on the promise that a success would uplift the residents of our valley. Artists, creators, makers, and small business owners strive to build something anew, something worth putting their stamp on – to promote and share with each other – and entrepreneurs are on the edge, finding ways to build in a way that hasn’t been done before. This year we received dozens of nominations for innovative, forward-thinking, community-building entrepreneurs from the Mid-Ohio Valley. The panel believed five individuals stood out for the impact they are making through their work. We are sharing their stories in this series.
Andrea Duke is actively engaged in everything that is In A Jam! She took a hobby that she enjoyed and has made it a business that she uses to make the Mid-Ohio Valley, Parkersburg and West Virginia very proud. She is the one-woman-show behind the scenes that manages accounts, orders supplies, finds the local fruits for the jams and jellies, makes and labels the product and meets the deadlines. The business began with a special bond between Andrea and her grandmother, Clara, who helps pick and store the fruit used for the business. Now, more than 20 flavors are made throughout the year. These jars of sweetness are now available in more than 50 locations throughout West Virginia, Marietta OH and Virginia.
Why did you choose to start your own business?
I’ve always enjoyed spending time with older generations and listening to their stories of the past. Picking strawberries with my grandmothers when I was little and making Strawberry Freezer Jam are among some of my own favorite memories from my childhood. Combine that with my interest in the art and history of preservation and that is where the love for this business comes from. Starting the business was sort of an accident! It was a hobby and has become a full time business that supports myself and my son along with helping others in the agriculture industry.
What need did you see that you wanted to fill?
Preserving history and food preservation. It’s a lost art.
What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur and working for yourself?
This business has given me confidence. It has been very rewarding and at the end of everyday (even the long, tough ones) I have pride and am so humble by the success so far.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
Challenges include the difficulty of fulfilling orders in a timely manner at times due to the growth of the business. Also a misconception is that when you work for yourself or own a business that you are your own boss, but that’s not true. In reality, entrepreneurs have many bosses and are held accountable by many.
What keeps you energized and motivated to continue on?
Motivation comes from having a strong work ethic, pride and wanting to succeed. Being recognized for my achievements is also motivation. I am lucky to be doing this in a very supportive city and state.
What do you wish you would have known when you first started?
I didn’t know the proper way to label jars and friends and I still laugh at how that was done in the beginning. I also am a great procrastinator and have learned that I have to constantly work to manage my times to meet deadlines.
What advice do you have to others thinking about starting their own business or organization?
Take the chance, although I am not a risk-taker myself, but starting small to see if what you want to do has a need or want in the community. Ask questions and find a mentor that already does what you want to do. I have a few people in the specialty food business that has been more helpful than I could ever articulate.