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Jana Farmer of Ms Jana's Candy | BOBs in the 'Burbs Ep2
Hello, this is BOBs in the 'Burbs, an interview series that shines a spotlight on Black-owned businesses in suburban areas. I am Ashley L. James, founder of ALJ Digital and social media consultant. Today, I'm excited for my guest, Ms Jana. She's going to tell us more about her business.
Ashley L. James: Hi, Ms Jana, how are you?
Jana Farmer: Good morning!
Ashley: How are you doing?
Ms. Jana: I'm well, Ashley. Thank you. Thank you for the invite.
Ashley: Oh, absolutely. I'm excited to talk with you today, so let's get right into it. Can you tell us all that we need to know about you and your business?
Ms. Jana: Yay! Ms Jana's Candy! So, I'm the Jana in Ms Jana's Candy. We make butter-based candy – toffee, caramel, and brittles – right here at our store located in Aurora. We package for industry as well as consumer use.
Ashley: Yes, I know that you do a lot of different programs and work with various types of businesses. Can you talk more about what businesses come to you for? Of course, people do annual gifts, but what are some other types of things that businesses can do at Ms. Jana's?
Ms. Jana: Thank you. Yes, there's employee appreciation, I work with a lot with realtors, I'm starting to work with a car dealership, thank-you gifts for clients. We not only custom make labels for our customers using your logo but we can also insert your own greeting card. So, we consider ourselves not just candy makers but we are in the gift-giving industry as well.
Ashley: Absolutely. I love that. Which suburb do you operate in, and can you tell us about your experience being a business in that place?
Ms. Jana: I am in Aurora, which is in Kane County. We started off working more in Chicago, we found our business through the internet mostly. In Chicago, we would go and do pop-ups. We would enter into large eateries, like within Blue Cross Blue Shield or Chase Bank, where they have their headquarters and cafeterias. They would invite us in, we would come and show our candy. It was kind of a fun thing for clients during their lunch hour.
So we arrived here and decided to build ourself a kitchen, our queen space here in Aurora. Now we've noticed a shift in our clients because we have a sign on our store saying, hey these people make candy so we get curiosity seekers in here all the time. So it's a fun thing that we do. We get people from the internet, walk-ins and pop-ups.
Ashley: Wow, that's amazing. I love that. So, how do you use social media to leverage what you do with your business?
Ms. Jana: Social media has been challenging for me, but I go onto one of the platforms that allows me to post and it gets me on a couple of other sites. I also send out a newsletter, which is helpful for me–but the getting in and having conversations I'm just not good at it because it's a time crunch for me. Social media is the one thing I know that I really need to do more of. Actually, the way I'm getting around it right now: when people come into my store, especially when they're younger, I'll say, "Hey, post some fun stuff about us on whatever platform you use. That's how I'm getting our name out there and actually, we have some really good listings and referrals as a result of that.
Ashley: Perfect, that's great and I actually really love the idea of having the people that come into the store do the social media posting for you because that's word-of-mouth and it gives you access to their whole network. With that, even more people know about you. So, I think that's a great strategy for you.
Ms. Jana: The thing with word-of-mouth is that you can get on all different kinds of social media [networks], but I think when people tell a friend or family member how good something is, or they relay an experience it sticks with them because people like to buy from somebody they're familiar with.
Ashley: That's the truth.
Ms. Jana: That way they're not making a mistake by buying something that hasn't been field tested or tried. So, I'm finding that's how Ms Jana gets around not being good at social media, I'm actually having everybody else do it for me. I say, go in there and take our picture if you want. Post what you want about us, just make sure it's good, and tell people about your experience at Ms Jana's Candy!
Ashley: Yes, that is amazing. So now we're going to move into the type of advice you would give to the next generation of business owners?
So, I started my business at 68 years old, but I've been in business all my life, doing things here and doing things there. Know first of all that you have to love what you do. If it's something that you could do day in and day out and you do it easily, that's probably the business that you should be in. Secondly, I'd say, although you love it, you have to make sure that people are going to love it and that they would pay a price for it. So, don't skip the steps in between. Field test your product, even if that means you have to give it away, do a farmer's market or offer your services for free at a local meeting. Just get yourself out there. Make sure that what you want to offer and what you feel like you're best at is something that people want and will pay for.
I met a guy who wanted to sell shoes. He loves shoes, and so he worked and worked until he could open his shoe store, but nobody was coming. He was devastated because all his money was tied up in these shoes. I said to him, "You got to scale. You have to figure out how to find your clients." Now that he's already in business, that is not the time for people to say you should have waited or done this or that. You're already in business, you have bills to make you've got to scale. You gotta think how else can I go find clients because your friends, your family, your neighbors, those are not your customers. People that know you may not want to a pay for what you are offering or don't need it. You have to go find the people that need it now!
In this guy this guy's case, I told him, "I do a lot of pop-ups. I go to conventions and one of the things I've found in the African-American Community is that we have conventions for the churches–for AME or COGIC–and one of the things we do, we sell clothes there. Go find all the conventions, pay the booth fees, and go sell to people who are actually going to go shop for the things that you're selling." See, you have to be able to pivot and be able to shift. While he may have prematurely opened his store, now he's got to [focus on] keeping his doors open. I told him, "You might have to go and find your clients they're not going to walkthrough the door." I would say field test whatever it is that you're going to offer, make sure people want it, find the medium or however you're going to sell it and then pursue it.
Ashley: Wow, that was powerful! That's a master class right there. There you go, yes, I love that advice. That was great! Okay perfect, now we're going to get into a little bit more of the fun stuff so what's something that you've enjoyed reading, watching or listening to lately?
Ms. Jana: So, I'm a huge reality TV person, and I was just watching, I just finished the series on, let's see, "Stay on This Raft," I think it is, on Peacock or one of those. I like stories that have successful outcomes. In this case, this is about team dynamics and how people work together, strangers, all of these people are strangers, and they're surviving on a raft. They start off with some certain amount of money and have 15 minutes to prepare and buy the things they would need for 20 days of living on a raft. So anyway, that's kind of what I like. I like reality TV because I like people's stories.
Ashley: Well, that's really cool. So, that's a good one to check out! Alright, second to last question here, what is a song that really gets you going?
Ms. Jana: Oh, a song that gets me going?
Ashley: Yeah, it gets you pumped up to start working, or just, when you hear it, you can't help but dance, something that gives that energy to you.
Ms. Jana: So, in my store, I always play Ella Fitzgerald songs and Louis Armstrong songs. You'll always hear that, but at the end of the day, Ashley, after we've cleaned up, we always play Michael Jackson's "Can You Feel It?"
Ashley: That is a good one that definitely–we can't help but dance to that!
Ms. Jana: Yeah after a successful day, can you feel it! Because you know, we end our day working and then we start our day at home. We start our other life. We have dinner, we go have after hours events–we don't just live to work, we have a life! So we work and then we have our homes. So I like to leave the store clean and I like to leave it "up." Then I go home, I cook, I shop, I talk on the phone with my friends and it's not about resting from work, it's about living my other part of my life where it's social.
Ashley: I love that, yeah beautiful! So the last question here is going to be where can people follow you and learn more about you?
Ms. Jana: I am on Facebook, I am on LinkedIn and, let's see... and then there's my newsletter. I would say visit my website to read more about me and what my story is at www.MsJanasCandy.com. That's Jana, like as in Ana, Jana. So, it's MsJanasCandy.com. That's probably it or come in my store, come in and see us.
Ashley: Yes! You are lovely to speak with, I really enjoy every time I come to your store.
Ms. Jana: Yes, the first time you come to our candy store, we treat you like you're the kid in the candy store. We let you taste your way through! We love what we do! You know that our slogan is, "Butter is our best friend." Yes, so remember, we only sell butter-based candy.
Ashley: Yeah and it's delicious! It's the best place to go and fill your belly with delicious candy, so I highly recommend! Well good, thank you so much for joining me today and dedicating some of your time to BOBs in the 'Burbs, I really appreciate it!
Ms. Jana: With pleasure Ashley, you come to see me again soon!
Ashley: Oh yes, definitely! You have a great rest of your day!
Ms. Jana: Well thank you, and thank you for having me. Bye!
Ashley: Thank you, goodbye!
Alright My People, that brings us to the end of this episode of BOBs in the 'Burbs. If you are interested in seeing more interviews like this one, please follow @ALJDigitalMarketing at the platforms listed here. I will put Ms. Jana's socials in the caption, as well as, some of the other things that we talked about, so please take a moment to check that out. Other than that, thank you so much for watching and please remember, #WeOutHereToo. Thanks, bye!
You can find Ms. Jana's Candy on