Dafna Kory, 30, likes to say she got into the jam business by accident.
Kory was working as a video editor in San Francisco when, at a friend’s Thanksgiving party, she tried some jalapeño jam, loved it and was inspired to start making her own. Before long she was giving her jam to friends, which led to her selling small quantities of jam to people she knew, which then snowballed into her selling jam to grocery stores.
So in 2009, when the video production company Kory worked for closed its doors, she decided to give herself a year to focus on her newfound hobby and decide whether to take it to the next level.
“If after a year it didn’t work out, it would have been a fun experiment and I would have gone back to video editing,” said Kory, who makes most of her jam in the summer, when fresh fruit is in season. “But that’s totally not what happened. I ran out of jam halfway through the winter.”
The Emeryville resident — who was born near Haifa, Israel, and moved to the United States with her family in 1992 — launched INNA jam in May 2010. Her jams can now be found in about 80 stores — from California, to New York, to as far away as Dean & Deluca stores in Japan — and can be purchased online or in her shop. You can even have it delivered around the Bay Area by bicycle.
All of the produce is sourced directly from organic farms within a 150-mile radius of INNA Jam’s Emeryville kitchen.
Kory had no experience with business or professional cooking before starting INNA jam, and admitted that making the decision to “dive in” was difficult. Yet from the start, her business accelerated at a rapid pace.
In the first two years, production grew from 8,500 jars to 30,000 jars, and Kory moved from renting space in a commercial kitchen to leasing her own space in Emeryville. She now has three full-time employees and makes a variety of seasonal jams — from her spicy jalapeño, to “triple crown” blackberry, to polka raspberry — each singly sourced and made in season. Currently there are 19 different jams on an ever-growing list. All of the jams are nut- and gluten-free.
Kory said she has learned that “in the food business, it’s all about volume,” since there are such small profit margins on food products.
The young entrepreneur has received help growing her business along the way. In 2012 she raised about $28,000 from a “Kickstarter” campaign, which enabled her to fundraise through online donations. She also received a loan last year from the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ small business loans program to help her cover extra costs during the summer.
“We only work with fresh seasonal produce, so we have a very short window in the summer,” Kory explained. “Every summer we need a lot of capital for the wages of employees and to buy jars, labels and ingredients.”
Kory, who said her business would “definitely be smaller” if it hadn’t been for the loan, also received free consulting on strategic plans, marketing, making projections through the JFCS program.
This month INNA jam won a “Good Food” award in the preserves category from the Seedling Project, a national organization that focuses on sustainable food practices. All of the jams come in recyclable glass jars.
Kory exclusively makes “single variety” jam that has one main ingredient (some of them featuring specific varietals such as Pink Lady apple, Royal Blenheim apricot and Seascape strawberry). Kory believes the organic and local nature of her product is the main reason her jam is successful.
“I make very straightforward jam,” she said. “I think the packaging I’ve designed for it helps a bit, but the packaging only sells the first jar of jam. I think the jam kind of sells itself.”
For information on upcoming tastings in the Bay Area and workshops at INNA Jam’s kitchen, 1307 61st St., Emeryville, visit www.innajam.com.