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Preserving Family Tradition

Alumnus Jack Williams ventures into the world of entrepreneurship.

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Following his mother's death in 1986, Williams began to think about the dill pickles that his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother made from his great-grandmother's recipe. In 2004 he purchased a jar of dill pickles from a specialty food store.

"I paid $10 for that jar of pickles," he said. "When I got home and tried them, they were good---they tasted like the ones my mother and grandmother made from my great-grandmother's recipe. I thought, 'I can make these.' " Always willing to attempt something new, he decided to try his hand at the family recipe.

"But I needed the recipe," he said. "I finally contacted my father's sister, who I thought might still have the recipe. Fortunately, she did, and she agreed to share it
with me."

In 2004, Williams made six quarts of the heirloom pickles for his own consumption---with disappointing results.

"I had to throw out that first batch," he said. "They were way too salty. Apparently, salt is stronger nowadays than it was back then." He persevered, creating 12 quarts in 2005. He shared them with fellow employees at Hallmark and family, who confirmed that they were, indeed, good.

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"In 2007, I made 50 quarts of pickles, the next year I canned 100 quarts. In 2009, I made 200 quarts of pickles in my own kitchen," he said.

Angeline Morelli-Buzzetti's pickles were a hit. His friends and co-workers began insisting that he let them pay for them. That's when he realized that they were good enough to put on the market.

In 2009, Hallmark began a corporate downsizing, and Williams was eligible for a retirement package that offered him several options. One of those options was paid enrollment in the Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills they need to develop and start a business.

"I learned that one of the most important factors in marketing a specialty food is the presentation to the consumer---the labeling," he said. Giving credit where it was due, he placed his great-grandmother's photo on the label. It appears to have been a smart move.

Williams was purchasing different brands of pickles for a product comparison at a Kansas City area specialty food store when he encountered the store manager, who was assisting customers at the checkout.

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