By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer
SMITHFIELD – When Jason Wood completed the special education system at 21 years old, his mom, Deb Wood, Smithfield resident and WeBeJammin founder, said she wanted to find something that would continue to get him out of the house and flourishing.
That’s where the jam business came in, Wood said.
Now in its fifth year, Wood said that the company, which works mostly out of farmers markets in Smithfield and elsewhere in Rhode Island, is thriving, and Jason is proud of his work.
Wood, who works with her husband and owner of Wood Boat and Motor in Warwick, said starting businesses is one of her many skills. For her autistic son Jason, she chose jams because he enjoys them and it could get him out into the community and interacting with people. She emphasized that it’s only jams, though, because Jason doesn’t like jelly.
Jason stocks shelves, helps pack orders, and helps deliver to local customers. Though the business doesn’t sell to stores, Wood said it’s still thriving.
She said she chose farmers markets because Jason can interact with customers and other vendors. She said Jason became quick friends with many of the vendors and looks forward to greeting and high-fiving with his favorite farmers.
The farmers market atmosphere successfully broke many of Jason’s boundaries and pushed him out of his shell, said his mom.
“Other vendors have taken him under their wing and know him well,” Wood said.
Though mostly non-verbal, Jason has a few catchphrases he says to customers when he makes a sale.
“He tips up his hat and sign and says, ‘thank you, enjoy,’” Wood said.
WeBeJammin now has one full-time employee and three part-time employees, including the Woods. Staff test and sample products, visit sale venues, and complete orders.
Wood said it was a trial-and-error system to find the right fit and the right products. What started as a few jams expanded into salsa, BBQ sauces, pickled vegetables, and more.
“Sales of the jams took off and stayed constant, growing in popularity with each week’s farmers market or town festival,” Wood said.
She said Jason likes to pick the colors for labeling and jams, and picks up on sight words.
“Jason is busy all year long because we have quadrupled the number of events and farmers markets where we sell,” Wood said.
She said when customers complete their orders, Jason will tip his hat and say, “come again next week.”
“Apparently, many do,” Wood said.
WeBeJammin can be found at the Blackbird Farm farmers market in Smithfield most Fridays.
Visit www.webejammin.netfor more.