Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 4, Page 25
Summer 1994
Alumni Profile: Rowena's wonderful jam and jelly factory

     When Rowena Jaap Fullinwider, Delaware '60, started her jelly and
jam business 11 years ago in Norfolk, Va., she knew nothing about
running a company. At that point, her expertise lay in creating unique
food products that delighted friends.
     Today, her company, Rowena's Inc., sells gourmet foods in all 50
states, places its products on a few select, international shelves and
publishes its own retail catalog. It employs 16 people year-round and
50 during the last quarter of the year to handle the holiday rush.
     Graduating from UD with a degree in chemistry and biology,
Fullinwider worked as a medical technologist until 1990, when she
decided to focus full attention on her thriving gourmet foods
     Her business began in a gradual way. Active in her community, she
donated almond pound cake, jams and jellies for fund-raising projects
by the Girl Scouts, her children's schools, her church and other area
activities. Friends started making special requests, offering to pay
the "Jelly Lady" for her creations. Fullinwider turned down those
offers until one persuasive acquaintance asked to sell the jams and
jellies in her gift store.
     At first, Fullinwider rented certified kitchens to produce the
goods, but that arrangement soon posed logistical problems. At a
crossroads, she had to decide whether to call it quits or take the
plunge into a full-fledged business venture. She took the plunge.
     In 1983, she incorporated, found an old warehouse and hired two
people-one to handle the accounting and another to help create the
     "That first day, we stood there and said, 'What do we do now?' We
just started up. We burnt cakes. The jar-filling machine threw
barbecue sauce all over the ceiling. Everything that could go wrong
did. It was my lack of experience," she says.
     For seven years after she opened the business, she worked at the
jelly factory by day and as a medical technologist at night. Part of
that time, she was a single parent with three children.
     "My biggest weakness was a lack of formalized financial training.
I didn't even have a credit card in my name. I took a course in
accounting, and I hired people to help me in my weak areas,"
Fullinwider says.
     On a tight budget, she hand-wrote letters of introduction because
she didn't have a typewriter. At the start, the company produced the
Wonderful Almond Pound Cake, Carrot Jam (still its biggest-selling
jam) and Lemon Curd, along with a few other jams it no longer makes.
That first Christmas, Fullinwider included in her cards a two-sheet
catalog of her products. That, she says, was the beginning of the
current retail catalog.
     Today, Rowena's Inc. makes about 30 gourmet food products,
including jams, sauces, pound cakes, fruit curds and mixes, such as
Sally Lund spoonbread and shortbread. All food names are preceded by
adjectives-Heavenly Curry Sauce, Devilish Mustard Sauce, Wonderful
Pound Cake. The company's products are marketed as specialty gift
items, with labels and packages designed by an in-house artist and
graphic designer. About 3,000 stores nationwide carry the company's
products, including Nordstrom's and Bloomingdale's.
     Rowena's was one of the first companies to receive a license from
the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to re-create and market authentic
18th-century foods. After extensive experimentation, Fullinwider
abandoned a costly mushroom ketchup and lemon pickle sauce and
reproduced seven other items, including cake made with caraway seeds
and a tart poor man's sauce adapted from a 1759 recipe.
     Fullinwider, who works six days a week, says her favorite part of
the business is the energy she derives from dealing with people.
Traveling four to six months a year, she says she thrives on the
interaction with customers she meets at gourmet specialty shows across
the country.
     She has published a children's story-cookbook called The
Adventures of Rowena and the Wonderful Jam and Jelly Factory, a semi-
autobiographical story that centers around a 9-year-old tomboy named
Rowena who brings an old factory to life.
     The cookbook, community work, business activities...Fullinwider
says she loves it all. Are there any drawbacks? "I would like to get
more sleep," she says.
                                         -Marylee Sauder, Delaware '83