Jennifer Constantine (universally known as “JC”) is the founder and CEO of JC’s, an inventive goodies brand on a mission to elevate life’s everyday moments by pushing boundaries to pioneer yummy frozen treats and decadent candies that make you feel like a kid again. The brand first got its start when JC’s signature panna cotta dessert accidentally froze after a freaky fridge malfunction. After realizing frozen panna cotta is actually yummy, there were only two things missing – crunch and a stick! Thus, JC’s Pie Pops were born. Prior to venturing as an entrepreneur, JC worked in the entertainment industry, constantly dealing with the many frustrations of being overworked and feeling complacent. It wasn’t until JC’s friends encouraged her to sell these special desserts that she decided to take the brave leap. Since inception, JC’s has made its way into grocery stores nationwide by Dreaming Up Deliciousness™ with its four nostalgic, fun and memorable product lines.
How did you get into the industry?
After my refrigerator incident, I realized that the frozen concoction wasn't quite a dessert masterpiece, but it had potential. This mishap inspired me to play with new frozen recipes and several months later, I created my first signature treat - JC’s Pie Pops. For a while, I would only sample these treats among my close friends and within the community. Eventually, JC’s Pie Pops began to establish a solid fan base, and that’s when I officially decided to launch the brand in March of 2013. Today, we are available in nearly every state, the JC's brand has expanded into three frozen lines (JC's Pie Pops, JC's Nudies, JC's Scoops—coming soon) and a candy line (JC's Pie Bites) with new innovations coming in 2018.
Any emerging industry trends?
In this industry, trends are constantly emerging. For any new business, it’s important to stay on top of new developments and changing consumer preferences. It’s critical to have things like clean ingredients, non-GMO, rBST-free dairy, etc. For JC’s specifically, these are qualities we are always considering to make our offerings better and more enjoyable. We are advocates for controlled indulgence.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
In this space, it’s essential for your brand to obtain the proper food credentials. For instance, the non-GMO verification seal is something that attracts customers and is required by various retailers. However, the process has proven to be very complex, as there are many rules and regulations that are tedious and difficult to achieve in a short period of time. Every certification is different, but they are definitely worth pursuing. JC’s is currently pending for approval with the non-GMO project; upon confirmation, we’ll add the seal to our packaging for easy reference.
Co-packer availability (i.e., line time) is another obstacle that new and emerging brands tend to struggle with. In the beginning, it’s hard to find co-packers who are willing to invest their time and resources into small companies with minimal volume commitments. On the other hand, when your business starts to gain traction and become successful, the challenge is to find a co-packer that is willing to give you the proper amount of production time needed to support the brand’s explosive growth.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
JC’s started as a kitchen accident that turned into a ‘lightbulb’, which turned into a product, which turned into a business, and finally a platform brand. At first, JC’s Pie Pops was just an idea for a product. With the success of the entire line, I realized there were many unique elements that made us so disruptive, and the idea of this made me so excited that I began thinking about the possibilities of expanding the brand and tapping new categories. Eventually, I started focusing more on the big picture and setting long term goals for the business. The desired outcome of JC’s is to be a legacy, household brand that completely dominates the indulgence space cross-category.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
This is an incredibly exciting time for JC’s these days. We are continuously innovating and launching new products in both the frozen and confection categories, while building a strong, passionate team of proven winners in the food and consumer product goods space. We are also establishing a solid manufacturing and supply chain model with the ability to support a capacity lift of more than 10x. Our team is constantly preparing for the future by dedicating ourselves to pushing boundaries as an inventive platform brand.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Innovation and authenticity are the keys to success. Our customers are super loyal and passionate because they know that we genuinely care about Dreaming Up Deliciousness™. As purveyors of happiness, we will always find creative ways to use quality ingredients without compromising flavor because that’s in our DNA. We’ve established trust with our customers, and they know what to expect when it comes to the entire JC’s portfolio. We believe this kind of relatability and relationship makes for a successful future.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Having to learn how to raise capital as a founder has been one of the most challenging and frustrating moments—yet the experience has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. When I started this company, I knew nothing about raising capital and even less about the growing pains I’d experience as a business owner. Truthfully, you learn as you go and it only gets easier. It helps to have a brand that's growing and doing really well because fundraising is easiest when you're in high demand.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
It’s our mission to help customers create ever-lasting memories and enjoy the small moments in life, by themselves or with loved ones. Our customers will always be our inspiration. For them, we push the boundaries, and play with flavors and textures to pioneer fun products with cleaner ingredients. Our products bring you back to your fondest and yummiest childhood memories. When you experience a JC’s product, you should instantly feel like a kid again. Life is a collection of memories, and our products contribute to some of those fun, celebratory moments.
How do you motivate others?
(EXAMPLE: Tell us about your most effective techniques or strategies for inspiring and encouraging those that you work with)
I try to lead by example. My team sees how hard I work every day. I’m always on. I’m always available. I’m always passionate. If things are tough (there are always ups and downs throughout this journey), I’m no less passionate than the days we receive big news. From dealing with challenging vendors to celebrating a major retail deal, my focus, commitment and unshakable belief in the brand’s viability remains consistent. My team recognizes this and I think it’s what motivates them to work hard and further craft their talents. Personally, I love to help my team develop their strengths and create better leaders. The JC’s company culture is one of celebration. We’re a family that sticks together on this wild adventure, and I couldn’t imagine doing this without them. Everyone at JC’s is truly invested and wants to see the brand succeed. It’s important to know that you can have the smartest and sharpest people on your team, but if they’re not in it for anything more than the paycheck, it won’t do you much good.
Career advice to those in your industry?
If you want to start your own business, be prepared for it to cost twice as much, take twice as long and be twice as hard as you thought it would be. Now, multiply all of that by five. With that said, I can say transforming an idea into a real product and subsequently into a viable brand with broad reach and influence, is without question the single most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s not easy, but it sure is fun!