Rachel Saunders

Photo: Sara Remington

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Rachel Saunders, 32
Oakland, California

Blue Chair Fruit

The Goods: A French major makes a career out of jam, creating vibrant flavors with seasonal fruit.

Her Discovery: When Saunders, a native of upstate New York, moved to California after graduating from Smith College, she became enthralled with the farmers' markets (who'd ever heard of a tayberry?). She made fruit desserts while she pondered her career plan. "One day, instead of baking another pie that would quickly go bad, I experimented with jam," she recalls. "I was instantly hooked. There's something so magical about being able to preserve fruit for another season, or send it to my parents on the East Coast."

Her Big Decision: Saunders enrolled in a course at a small-business training center and worked in restaurants for five years before finally striking out on her own. "I wanted to make sure I was ready to commit to it as a life, not just a hobby," she says.

Her Slow Build: Selling her jams in local cafés, Saunders raised the money to rent space in a commercial kitchen. "Now I cook 300 jars a day in six big copper pots!" she says—and her jams are sold online and at Williams-Sonoma. "My husband calls me the ten-year overnight success."