N.C. Entrepreneur Touts Pickles during CEO Lecture at Catawba College
April 17, 2014
Jenny Fulton says her cell phone number and e-mail address are printed on every jar of Miss Jenny's Pickles and she wants you to call her – really – and let her know if you like the product or encounter a problem with it.
This entrepreneur, a former stockbroker and one of the co-founders of Miss Jenny's Pickles, shared her homegrown success story of turning her grandmother's pickle recipes into a booming North Carolina business. She spoke at Catawba College's 11th annual CEO Lecture on April 17 in Hedrick Little Theatre on campus, an event hosted by the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business.
Fulton, who hails from Forsyth County and describes herself as a "country girl born and raised," partnered with Ashlee Furr, her former co-worker and a city girl from Atlanta, Ga., to start the business in 2010.
"I'm the gas and she's the brakes," Fulton confides about her partner.
Fulton says the two went to "Pickle School" (actually the Acidified Foods Processing and Packaging Better Process School) at North Carolina State University "so we wouldn't kill people" by producing unsafe products. The women not only made their pickles initially in Fulton's church kitchen and later in the branch of a Forsyth YMCA's kitchen, but they also grew the cucumbers to make their pickles for two summers in a field next to Fulton's "Mamaw's house."
Despite setbacks and obstacles, the homegrown business grew from "jars to cases to pallets to half truckloads" and today produces 8,000 cases at a time. Fulton, dressed in a green blouse (think pickles), confides "It ain't all rosy in the pickle world."
"When you come up against a wall, step back and you'll come up with a solution," Fulton shares. "My motto is either do it right or don't do it at all."
Miss Jenny's Pickles has been featured on MSNBC, ABC's "Good Morning America," QVC, and "60 Minutes," all Fulton says, because she was bold enough to ask to be featured.
"Ask for what you want," she admonishes.
She says she has only ever spent $700 on advertising, and then remembers that she paid $300 for a yearbook ad in East Forsyth's yearbook. Her company's first commercial was produced for $400 by graduates of the N.C. School of the Arts "who had been making horror films" and "needed to diversify their portfolio," she shares.
Because "it's important for me to be a trendsetter," she has begun exporting her pickles to China, the U.K. and Canada, and says she has her sights set on Russia. She even knows how much each country spends each year on its pickle consumption.
"I've been to the Great Wall – because of pickles. Isn't that crazy?" Fulton asks. "Pickles are my passion. I loved them before I started the business and I love them even more now."
The Kernersville resident requests that her audience "Please buy my pickles; we will make more," and "straighten my shelves" after pulling out a jar of Miss Jenny's pickles.
"Dill or Sweet? Hot or Not?"
"If you can answer these questions, we have a pickle for you," she quips.
For more on Miss Jenny's Pickles, visit the company website at www.missjennyspickles.com.
Prior speakers at Catawba's Distinguished CEO Lecture Series include Louis DeJoy, chief executive officer of New Breed Logistics, Inc.; Jeffrey Kane, former senior vice president in charge of the Charlotte office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; Bob Ingram, vice chairman pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline; Ellen Ruff, then president of Duke Energy – Carolinas; Robert Wagner, Lowe's senior vice president of specialty sales and store operations support, and Kelly King, chairman and chief executive officer of BB&T Corporation; Bryan Jordan, president and chief executive officer of First Horizon National Corporation in Memphis, Tenn.; James H. Morgan, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc.; Ralph W. Ketner, one of the co-founders of Food Lion and chairman emeritus of the board of Food Lion, Inc.; and Brandi Tysinger-Temple, founder of Lexington-based Lolly Wolly Doodle.