Hello! Welcome to Forking Spoons!, a blog about entrepreneurship, disability, and determination. My name is Rayna, and I am the Owner and Chief Jamazon of PinUp Preserves. If you’ve been following our journey for a while, thank you! That support is tremendously appreciated. If you are new here, come - join the adventure!
This blog is intended to share the behind-the-scenes life of my disability-owned and woman-owned business, both the rewarding and defeating aspects. I hope to also introduce fellow friendors and highlight their successes and challenges. You may be surprised by our experiences!
You may be wondering about the title. I’ll get to that slightly longer story in a moment. First, to bring everyone up to date, I am NOT currently in jam production due to the CoVID-19 situation. I am a high-risk person and it is just not a smart idea to be in a shared kitchen at this time. This is the best decision for me, my family, and my business. However, I do plan to resume production when the world has settled down to a slightly safer and saner place. At that time, I hope to offer new flavors as well as perennial favorites. Keep the faith! Until then, I have fallen back on my theatrical skills and have non-medical grade face masks (our #PreserveYourHealth line) and hand-sewn cross-stitch 2020 ornaments (the Put a Lid on 2020 Collection) for sale through the PinUp Preseves online store. But, wait - I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s rewind.
Some history about PinUp Preserves: preserving began as a hobby and way for me to unwind, but quickly overtook my kitchen. I mean, there were cases of jams and jellies everywhere. It was absurd. After extremely careful research and evaluation, I launched PinUp Preserves in July of 2015, and began production just before the holiday season of that year. In case you don’t know, there is a huge difference between jamming in one’s home kitchen and trying to produce quantity in a shared commercial space. It is a challenge, to be sure! The benefits are better equipment and more storage space. The deficits are… too many to mention in a single post. However, until one has the revenue to invest in their own commercial production space, one must learn to maximize capacity in less than stellar circumstances.
This is often the point where many people tap out. The shift to commercial production is difficult and when compounded by the other demands of running a business - marketing, bookkeeping, client acquisition and retention, branding, social media, inventory management, events and sales, licensing and insurance, web design and SEO - the reality just becomes too much. More time and energy is spent handling the other aspects of business than is spent on creating the product you love, but it is all necessary. Sometimes, that means outsourcing (to some extent) the business side so that you can focus on production, but more commonly, the opposite is true. You end up hiring and training people to manage production so that you can focus on the business matters that keep a company alive. That means it is now up to someone else to make the product you love - the reason you started this whole endeavor to begin with! Then you have the few who do it all and that means we have no time to do anything else. Something is always sacrificed, whether that is having your hands in the kitchen, or having a life outside of work. To some, it is just not worth it - and that is completely fair. It does not mean they failed; it just means their priorities shifted.
With all of that, you may wonder how and why I ever thought starting a preserves company would be a good idea, so let me share a bit more about my background. I come from a nearly-25-year career in Freelance Technical Theater, specializing in Costumes, Wigs, and Make-Up. I have worked on hundreds of productions in dozens of theaters across the United States. My skills are diverse and ever-evolving. I specialized in the “we have no idea how to make this happen” and often had to reinvent the wheel to achieve the nearly-impossible. I have worked on projects for Broadway, opera, international tours, film, conventions and trade shows, historical re-enactors, video games, competitive skaters, dance, and the occasional wedding. I didn’t just build costumes and wigs, though. I also ran shows - the term we use to describe the work completed by personnel backstage during an actual performance. Whether it was as Dresser, Principal Hair & Make-Up Artist, or Supervisor, I had to react to any and all hiccups that occurred mid-performance and there were many! I am very proud of that work, but the reality is that I was often bringing someone else’s dream to life. I wanted to redirect that energy into my own creations.
How does that theatrical background transition to making preserves? Surprisingly well! There is an all-too-familiar pattern of organized chaos between running a show backstage or meeting alteration deadlines for a dress rehearsal and producing jam in a crowded kitchen. Focus and flexibility are paramount to both and it is a ton of hard work, a lot of stress, and maybe even a few tears, but in the end, there is also a bit of magic. That ability to organize, prioritize, and somehow keep treading water is what separates success from catastrophe. It’s not for everyone, and that is okay. When I realized that the skills that made me great as a freelancer could give my business a real chance to grow, I decided to launch PinUp Preserves.
However, theater is not my only prior experience. I have spent my life doing advocacy work, either paid or as a volunteer. It began with the need for self-advocacy, but I’ve always been outspoken. Life events shaped and fostered that voice, but I would have spoken out regardless. It’s just in my DNA. I was determined that PinUp Preserves would be another outlet for that advocacy. From Day One, I have been clear that this is a woman-owned business AND a disability-owned business. No more hiding or pretending everything is okay. My experiences as a woman with disabilities are strengths, not weaknesses. They keep me motivated and - I hope - allow others to change their idea of just what disability looks like and can accomplish. I’m not here to be an inspiration, but I do hope I can challenge societal norms and implicit bias.
That leads me to the idea behind this blog name - Forking Spoons! Some of you may be familiar with The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, but if not, I strongly recommend you give this piece a read. It explains how those of us with chronic illness must “count our spoons” every day and never lose track of them because if we do, very bad things happen. Spoons are a metaphor for any and every task that will wear down already depleted energy - taking a shower, cooking, dressing, folding laundry, cleaning, standing in line, standing during a long and crowded train or bus commute, a full day of work, being in bright or noisy environments, going to appointments, visiting friends or having visitors, attending social events… the list goes on. Each of these events costs a certain number of spoons and depending on how many spoons you had at the start of the day, you will have to choose on which tasks those spoons are spent. Choose poorly, and you can end up recovering in bed for days.
Healthy people have no need to count their spoons. They may get tired or overwhelmed with life, but a decent night’s sleep will usually fix that. Being tired or stressed is NOT the same as being out of spoons so please do not co-opt that term if it does not truly apply to you. Spoonies - those of us who must always count our spoons - have no such luxury. We’ve likely never had a decent night’s sleep and even if we did, it does not erase the impact of our chronic illnesses. The basic abilities healthy people take for granted are precious to us. Most importantly, spoons are ours to give, not yours to take. If we cancel meetups or don’t take your call, it’s because we need those spoons for something else. If we do make time for you, realize that we think you’re important enough to spend a spoon on.
Those same spoons - the ones in short supply, the ones I must always count, the ones that decide how much I can accomplish today - are the inspiration behind Forking Spoons! because some days, I really do say “fork this shirt”. It is exhausting to always be exhausted. Don’t @ me with yoga, vitamins, essential oils, Himalayan salt lamps, or that one doctor your sister’s dog walker’s cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s roommate went to that cured everything in one visit. Were there an easy fix, I would have found it by now. There isn’t. That’s why it’s called a CHRONIC illness.
You may have noticed that a spoon also appears in the PinUp Preserves logo. In The Spoon Theory, the author relates how she always keeps an extra spoon in reserve for herself. It is a reminder to never let oneself become depleted. It is okay to say “no”. It is okay to not vend at every event that opens up or donate to every charity that asks. It is okay to dial back from social media for a while. It is okay to not create every product that a customer wants. It is okay to stay a truly small business and not be in every Whole Foods or Mom’s Organic Market. It is okay to grow at your own pace and adjust goals as needed. That little spoon is my personal reminder that is important to set boundaries and remember that I am human. Businesses come and go, and I cannot tell you what the future of PinUp Preserves will be, but I do know that my business will never be more important than my own well-being - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
I hope that gives you a better idea of who, what, and where PinUp Preserves is, as well as why I have kept this business going at a time when it would be so easy to close. Want more? Follow us on Instagram (@pinuppreserves) or sign up for our newsletter. Until next time, count your spoons.