Kathy Lee

Chapter Be_Kathy Lee_Modern Gingham Preserves_2

Kathy Lee is the founder and owner of Modern Gingham Preserves in Denver, CO – a jam company that aims to use organic produce from local trees, gardens, and farms (hand-picked whenever possible). Kathy began jarring as an adult – learning from her British in-laws and while she lived in Canada with her husband and son. Before her days of jarring, though, she received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Northwestern University. Her original plan was to win a Nobel prize – it now has shifted to winning a sofi Award!

Kathy moved to Denver during her second pregnancy, and during walks around her neighborhood (in hopes of inducing labor) noticed that there are a large number of local trees producing fruit that go unpicked. She began to ask tree-owners for permission to pick their trees, and then used that fruit in her unique fruit preserves and jams. Eventually her pantry got too full, and she began giving her jars away.  She received such positive feedback, that she made the leap and launched Modern Gingham Preserves.

As soon as someone meets Kathy, you quickly learn how open and friendly she is – always willing to talk and share her knowledge and experiences being a small business owner. Her honesty is appreciated and she evokes a realness that can be appreciated by anyone who has embarked on a business adventure of their own.

She values community within the artisanal sphere, and remains very true to the concept of small-batch. She doesn’t gloss over the hardships of being an entrepreneur, but also is the first to describe the glee she gets when working in the kitchen. Tasting her jam and knowing her – it is obvious that the secret ingredient in each jar is a heaping amount of love.

Listen below to learn more about Kathy’s Chapter Be story…



ModernGinghamFlavorMagnets[06:45] The comparison between being a scientist and making jam.

[13:35] The “Donald Rumsfeld” scenario of starting a business – you don’t know what you don’t know! So, what is the learning curve for starting a business?

[18:30] How do you ensure that you always engage in the part of the business that brings you joy? What growth can you sustain while still do the part that you love?

[26:05] Do you have time for experimentation and failure in business?

[31:15] What does small batch and artisanal mean?

[37:30] How Kathy finds her target audience – who are the people who want artisanal jam?

Modern Gingham_spoons[41:38] Fear of success – the beast you know vs. the beast you don’t know!

[44:19] Analysis paralysis vs. strategic thinking – what’s the difference?

[53:00] “There are few terminal decisions!”

[55:20] “The more money you make, the more money it costs to make more money!”

[57:10] Why do we ask someone, “What do you do?”




What’s your favorite quote, story or fact to tell at a dinner or cocktail party?

My story about picking cherries on 8th Avenue in Denver, and how it lead to my obsessiveness in picking fruit!

Worst work experience?

My third year in grad school – I was burned out, overworked, bitter and had lost any joy in the process of my work.

What is your definition of success?

This one is hard for me to answer, as I find that my definition of success is constantly evolving and changing.

How do you tap into your creative energies – especially when you are feeling drained?

A fresh box of fruit! It inspires me and gets my brain moving about what I could turn it into.

What does “to be” mean to you?

Being in the moment and not worrying about past moments or what happens next.

How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?

While I don’t make it to actual movies very often, I love watching movie trailers online!

Ideal READING LIST – books, websites, blogs, podcasts, magazines, etc. that you would want on your Swiss Family Robinson deserted island?

  1. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
  2. Saveur (magazine)
  3. Fine Cooking (magazine)
  4. This American Life  (podcast)
  5. Harry Potter books
  6. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Favorite song with “be” in the title?

Tomorrow is Gonna Be Better by Josh Radin

Modern Gingham_preserves


Images via Chapter Be and Modern Gingham

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Be a Scientist - Be an Artist - Chapter Be - June 8, 2017

    […] Kathy Lee, who went from being a neuroscientist to being a small batch jam maker, talks about the correlation between being a scientist and making jam… […]

Leave a Reply