April 12, 2024

5 Minutes with Aiyenede Akhigbe of Sticky Spoons Jam

In our “5 Minutes with an Entrepreneur” series, we pass the mic to Michigan entrepreneurs…


A person with short hair and glasses is smiling at the camera, wearing a gray t-shirt. The background is plain and light-colored.

In our “5 Minutes with an Entrepreneur” series, we pass the mic to Michigan entrepreneurs we’ve supported to hear their stories, including the spark behind their businesses, their challenges, and what motivates them to keep going.   

Sticky Spoons Jam is a Black, veteran-owned small-batch jam and preserve company based in Niles, Michigan. Ninety-five percent of the fruit used in Sticky Spoons’ jams is sourced from small family-owned farms within 30 miles of their location. Their unique flavors — like blueberry lavender, ruby red, and strawberry jalapeno — are designed to surprise and delight the taste buds. In fact, they’ve watched customers sing, dance, and sometimes use colorful language after enjoying Sticky Spoons’ tasty jams and preserves!   

Keep reading to hear business owner Aiyenede Akhigbe share great advice for fellow entrepreneurs, consider where they hopes to be in five years (the answer might surprise you!), and get real about the special role their kids play in Sticky Spoon Jams — from sparking the original business idea to providing some tough love on flavor combinations.  

What was the spark behind your business? 

Trying to make my son a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I was frustrated that I could not find jams free of artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, and preservatives, so I chose to make my own. 

Five years from now, where do you hope to be? 

On a beach in the Caribbean drinking a jam infused margarita, I hope to sell my flavors to other jam companies and begin my exit plan to sell the entire business to someone interested in continuing the brand. 

What’s the biggest challenge facing small good food businesses? 

Funding! Funding is easier when you are in tech or engineering. Food funding is quite limited — although everyone eats. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs? OR What’s one lesson you’ve learned that you’d pass onto others? 

Find a mentor/counselor. MSU Product Center counselors are AMAZING for food entrepreneurs. SCORE mentors cover every aspect of business. I have both, and my business is thriving thanks to the honest feedback and encouragement they provide. Oh, and they also stop me from making crazy moves that could negatively impact my business. 

What motivates you? 

My kids — they are brutally honest when sampling my creations. Nothing humbles you faster than a kid giving you a thumbs down. My customers — knowing that they come back because they trust that what I make will be handmade and delicious. 

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made that others should avoid? 

I purchased equipment that I did not immediately need and could not return. I should have paced out purchases, but — trying to save on shipping — I overbought. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten? 

Find people that HONESTLY support you (i.e., they will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it, but they will also help you find solutions when you feel like you are drowning). 

What key qualities should an entrepreneur possess? 

Resilience and resourcefulness — entrepreneurship is a race and asking for help will help you reach the finish line. 

What advice would you give yourself as you were starting out? 

It’s going to be a marathon — get new running shoes and start the race slowly. 

We’re honored to support businesses like Sticky Spoons Jam with business assistance that helps them scale from a cottage food business to a licensed kitchen.  

Interested in working with the Michigan Good Food Fund? See if your business is a good fit here.   

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