- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Entrepreneurs Keith and Lisa Reinhart are finding out firsthand the power of social media.

Blogging and Pinterest have done the work of advertising for them, spreading images of their canning business’ products far and wide.

Their company, Fillmore Container, has tapped the growing popularity of backyard gardening, an activity that often leads to home canning and food preservation.

Fillmore sells a range of canning products, including glass jars and bottles, lids, accessories and storage containers.

It recently expanded to candlemaking products as well, mostly due to customer requests.

In the past year, the social media “effect” was especially noticeable with one of the company’s products, a pint-sized Mason jar with a handle.

It’s a popular item in the wedding industry with many brides who incorporate multitudes of the jars into their do-it-yourself weddings.

At receptions, the small glass jars hold anything from candles or lights to drinks or party favors.

“Pinterest was probably the most immediate return on investment of anything (we did),” Keith said. “It went viral.”

Photos of the company’s jars, along with its contact information, were shared over and over online and flew around Internet circles.

Keith said the volume of Fillmore Container’s sales for the Mason jar tripled in four months.

Fillmore started as an offshoot to the Jake & Amos line of mostly Amish farm food products, such as jams and sauces, founded by David Doolittle.

Adding Fillmore Container was a way for Doolittle to consolidate and minimize cost for his packers.

But, eventually, the container side of the business grew and needed separate management.

Around that time, Keith, who comes from a marketing background, was ready to stop traveling as much as was required by his former job.

And, he and Lisa wanted to have a family.

Keith heard about the container business through a friend.

A year after Keith initially talked to the owners, he and three partners bought Fillmore in 2003.

That year, the company grossed $1 million. It has grown steadily since, at an estimated 20 to 25 percent annually during the Reinharts’ 11-year tenure.

Its current warehouse of 15,000 square feet, the third in an ever-increasing series of spaces, is getting too small.

Fillmore, now owned by Keith and one silent partner, has 10 full-time and four part-time employees.

The fulltimers include Keith’s father, the company’s accountant, who also works in the warehouse or wherever else he’s needed at times.

Right now, keeping up with the demands of growth is the company’s biggest challenge, according to Keith.

The Reinharts, who live in Lampeter with their three children, started using social media only a year ago, beginning with Facebook, Pinterest and a blog.

Working from home, Lisa plans what the company will post online, seeking ideas and studying trends.

Being successful with social media, she has found, requires that her online posts be new, imaginative and original yet credible and relevant.

“The last question I ask myself before posting is, would I want this in my Facebook feed? I wouldn’t want to send something that I wouldn’t want to send to a friend.”

She also must stay on top of canning trends, such as the introduction this year of Ball’s new green-colored glass pint and quart canning jars.

Fillmore was one of the first to blog about the new green jar before Ball had even released it.

“We had a large response to it,” Lisa said.

Keith noted that in the decade they’ve been in the canning industry, they’ve had to learn a lot as well.

“You have to make sure you’re providing a value to your customer beyond ‘just a glass jar,’” Keith said.

They find that a lot of customers have canning or candle questions when they call.

“People are looking for a resource. It’s more than buying the product,” Lisa said.

The Reinharts are passionate about helping people become more interested in home cannin g.

“We look at the health part of it, and the environment,” Lisa said. “Even … people who’ve fallen on hard times can use canning.”

“That drives me. There is both a financial benefit, but also a deeper satisfaction from seeing someone start a (canning) business,” Lisa said.





Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , https://lancasteronline.com

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