Local Jam Maker Barbie Hahn Spreads Joy

That Dam Jam is a sweet-and-spicy addition to your meal.

Nearly two years ago, Barbie Hahn turned her jam-making hobby into a full-fledged business. We talked to her about her recipe creation, her goals, and the other entrepreneurs that support her.

Illustration by Chris Danger

Where did your recipe come from?

My husband and I bought a jar of pineapple habanero jam at a farmers’ market when we were traveling. We took it back to our hotel room to have as a snack and we ate the whole jar. I searched to try to find a product that was similar to buy and couldn’t find one that matched what we had on our trip, so I started experimenting with my own recipe.

How did you get started?

I have been making the Pineapple Habanero Jam and giving it out as gifts to family, friends, and clients for over 10 years. Everyone I gave it to just loved it. They would say “Barbie, I need more of that damn jam. You should sell it.” I always said, “That would take the joy out of it. I love making and giving it as gifts.” When the pandemic hit and we were all stuck in our houses, I had so much time on my hands, I made batches for weeks on end. My husband, Mike, said “Barbie, what are you going to do with all this damn jam?” I started mailing it out to people as a surprise, then they started to Venmo me money. Soon, Venmo was like, “Hey Barbie, do you have a business? You are getting a lot of payments that say ‘Jam.’ You need to open a business account.” I was like, “I guess I still love jam when I’m selling it so let’s start this business.”

How did you come up with the name?

I thought the name That Dam Jam! was hysterical and in a way logical because everyone said, “you should sell that damn jam,” “I love that damn jam,” “I need more of that damn jam.” I dropped the n to prevent having a curse word in the name. I love that when people hear or say That Dam Jam!, they smile or laugh. It just makes my day!

How long did it take you to recreate the product you’d tasted?

I experimented for a couple of years before I got a recipe that I felt was close to the one we enjoyed. The Pineapple Habanero was born out of the desire to recreate the memory my husband I shared on our trip.

What about the other flavors?

The Perfectly Pineapple recipe was developed because some people tasted the jam and said, “that’s too hot.” Some tasted it and said, “can you make something hotter?” Hence, the Pineapple Ghost Pepper.

What’s your favorite flavor of your product?

The flagship flavor, Pineapple Habanero. It is my favorite because I built it around a note that my grandmother, Ruth, gave to my mom on her wedding day in 1952. The note was included in a recipe box of treasured family recipes. The note reads:

“Cooking is in your blood. The women on your maternal side prided themselves on their good, plain cooking. I hope you will keep up the tradition. To assemble an outstanding meal takes just as much artistry as painting a picture and much more menial labor. By the same token, a beautiful painting does not come from a freezer or can. These are your tools, you must be the creator. Also learn to serve meals that will leave you free to enjoy your guests—reheated biscuits are better than reheated conversation.”

Well, Grandma, this is my one thing. I hope I make you proud.

Have any favorite stories from customers about your product?

I get so much enjoyment when people post or text photos when they serve That Dam Jam! There have been some amazing charcuterie boards with TDJ on it and some killer breakfast sammies, too! People are truly excited to try and share TDJ with others. This has been the most rewarding social experiment.

What are your overall goals for your business?

My goal for That Dam Jam! is to be a local product people feel a part of, that they were instrumental in helping build. I do not have a goal to build That Dam Jam! world domination. I would be extremely proud if people of Cincinnati said “this is our product.” Share it with friends and family. Take it on vacation and share it with people around the country. Like my tag line says, “It’s not a party unless you serve That Dam Jam!” TDJ as a staple item at every party or gathering in Cincinnati would put me over the moon.

On the business side, I hope to grow from 14 to 20 retail locations by the end of this year and continue to expand my online presence and sales. Learning how to scale up as I grow, reduce costs, and build an efficient distribution system are top of the list.

What kind of exposure have you had to the local and/or regional entrepreneur ecosystem?

My first exposure was to Patter Fam Sauces, a micro on-demand co-packer in Wheelersburg, Ohio. Joyce and Sam Peters took my recipe and scaled it up, provided an FDA-inspected and -approved environment to move my product from my kitchen to their facility. They helped me with labels, UPCs, nutrition panels. They are the most kind husband and wife team. They’re great source when you are too small to need a standard co-packer, which may have a 100-gallon minimum batch requirement. You can start small and go from there.

My other exposure has been through small business owners, many of whom are women. They legitimized my product by putting it on their shelves, encouraged me, shared war stories with me, understood when supply chain issues interrupted my ability to provide product, welcomed me back when I got things sorted out. Allison Homan of Lehr’s Prime Market, Toncia Chavez of ETC Produce at Findlay Market, Shelly DeFelice-Nelson of Dee Felice Market, Andrea Robbins of Urban Stead Cheese, and Debbie Warner-Obermeyer of A Beautiful World took a chance on me. They bet on me and I won’t let them down and I won’t let myself down either.

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