We're jamming: Ceres jam company thrives during Covid-19 pandemic

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  • Jacobs Jam Company in Ceres, is a female, youth-owned jam and sauce manufacturer.
  • The company employs 75% youth and 50% female workers.
  • Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Nomalungelo Gina, visited the company this week to congratulate them on their perseverance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The founders of Jacobs Jam Company in Ceres, a female, youth-owned jam and sauce manufacturer, never thought their start-up would survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it didn't just survive, it thrived.

Christynn and Nigel Jacobs left their corporate jobs in 2018 after they decided to pursue their dream of starting their own business.

READ | SA business confidence at highest level in three years

Speaking to News24, Jacobs said it was a "long" process that required patience.

"When plans were put in motion in May 2018, we knew that for us to make a success of the business, we had to leave our day jobs and focus completely on starting our business," he added.

His wife Christynn owns 51% of the jam company and she is a qualified food technologist who has more than 10 years of work experience.

These young owners manufacture their products and
These young owners manufacture their products and distribute them to over 50 Spar stores within the Western Cape.
jam company
Jacobs Jam company in Ceres was started during the pandemic, and is now thriving to the top.

"She is the heart and soul of this business, having created the special and unique recipes from scratch in her kitchen while systematically upscaling to a commercial factory," he said.

Like many small businesses that are starting up, finance is always tight and the main concern.

"When you are a start-up company, funding institutions insist on a long track record and letters of intent from potential clients, which we did not have," Jacobs said.

After a gruelling three years knocking at different doors, they finally secured financing from the government's Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) and additional business support services from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).

It was only in March last year that the funds were released and by then, the country was under a Level 5 lockdown. In November that year, they manufactured their first commercial jam products from their brand new factory.

"We source our fruits exclusively from local crops within a 100km radius from our factory. Our apricots and peaches are grown mainly in Montagu, strawberries in Stellenbosch, pomegranates in Wellington, and apples and pears right here in the Witzenberg area around Ceres and Wolseley," he said.

Their jams come in apricot, strawberry, and pomegranate flavours and are 100% colourant, additive and preservative free. The products are sold at 50 Spar stores in the Western Cape.

We are also the first company to successfully jam pomegranate commercially.

Jacobs said it was a great privilege to be able to plough back and help create employment and opportunities in their rural community.

Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) Nomalungelo Gina visited the jam company this week.

Gina said that there was still a lot of work that the government needed to do to support small black businesses in the country, to ensure that they would succeed and thrive in the cutthroat business world.

Successful small business during a pandemic
The DTIC visited the small business and congratulated them on a successful business career thus far.
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The minister was on a week-long visit to Western Cape businesses as part of the Siyahlola programme.

"The programme is aimed at monitoring the performance of government-supported businesses, but also specifically to assess how they have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic," the department said.

"Although the government has put a lot of systems in place which include policies, funding schemes and various other forms of support programmes, opportunities to interact with small businesses and operators, and hearing of their challenges on the ground, reveal the complexities of the work that still lies ahead to ensure that the economy is truly inclusive," Gina said.

"This tells us that there is a great need to always revisit our work to assess whether... we promote black excellence among entrepreneurs.

"We need to ensure that our systems encourage young entrepreneurs to enter the business space so that they help us to grow the economy of our country," she added.

Jacobs said they were overjoyed that the minister chose to visit their company.

"She loved the jam and tasted all the flavours," he added.

"Youth month and the future belong to the youth; this economy belongs to them, and to prepare for that future means taking up the cudgels now, and not waiting for the future when they are old. They must shape their future today and now," the department added.

Jacobs Jam Company employs 75% youth and 50% female workers to increase the totals to an even higher youth and female employment contribution.

"It's been a blessing that we have been able to continue building our business amidst this pandemic," added Jacobs.

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