Meet Illene Sofranko!

 Illene Sofranko at The Urban Canning Company's kitchen space in St. Petersburg, FL. 

Illene Sofranko at The Urban Canning Company's kitchen space in St. Petersburg, FL. 

We’re so excited to introduce you to Illene Sofranko of The Urban Canning Company. For those of you who already know Illene, this Boss Babe Wednesday feature is a reminder of your fierce, determined friend whose food and music taste is always on point. To those who haven’t met Illene yet, get ready to fall in love with her blunt sense of humor and total commitment to being honest with herself and about her business. She gave us our first Pickleback Shot experience (crazy, but delicious!) and some of the best advice we’ve ever heard: grow slow. Enjoy her words!

Watch our video and get a peek into Illene's daily life. Shoutout to Kaitlin Wing and Brandon Walsh. Kaitlin & Brandon, Illene's kitchen staff, are featured in her video as well. 

Tell us about yourself and what you do!

My name is Illene Faye, after my Grandma. I am a romantic, I love heritage, I have a daughter, I eat a lot, I'm getting married soon, and I own a small canning company.

How did your business begin? 

My business began out of some rubbles that life leaves you with sometimes. I was a single Mom for many years and I worked a secure job that I hated for a long time because I thought that stability was the right thing to do. It turns out it was eating my soul! I just quit one day and had no choice but to come up with some kind of income. After owning an online vintage shop for a while, I started working with Rosey Williams, founder of the St. Pete Indie Market. I began selling vintage and jam I made from home out at the first Indie Markets when they were back on the 600 block. The jam I made gained some popularity! My Uncle Ray taught me how to preserve food and it was a hobby for me that just took off! After a year or so I decided to put the last $700 I had into creating The Urban Canning Co. It's been a roller coaster ever since.

 The Urban Canning Company specializes in jam, pickles, & mustard. 

The Urban Canning Company specializes in jam, pickles, & mustard. 

What’s 1 challenge you’ve faced and 1 success you’ve had since you’ve created your business?

Capitol is my biggest challenge in business. We have never taken out any loans, or taken on any investors. We are boot strapping our growth and it's a risky business! That leads into my biggest success, which has been not being afraid to take risks and watching most of them pay off. Each growth spurt is a gamble. If the growth spurt doesn't pan out we're out of business. It's that tricky!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and has it come in handy for you?

The best piece of advice anyone has ever given me happened on my first airplane trip when I heard the flight attendants give us the safety speech. The part where they tell you how the oxygen masks will fall down and to make sure you put yours on before you help anyone else? I was like mind blown. Truer words were never spoken. We can't be of service to anyone else unless we are taking good care of ourselves first. 

When are you at your happiest?

This has to be a multi-part answer for me because inside me I am woman, a mother, a daughter, a future wife, a business owner, a cook, an adventurer, and the list goes on and on. We play so many different roles as modern woman that I couldn't say only one thing makes me happiest. When I dream up a flavor in my mind and execute it perfectly I am at my happiest. When my daughter, Ava, comes to me and hugs me for no reason I am at my happiest. When my fiancé and I are dancing around our kitchen while we cook dinner together, I am at my happiest. When I'm eating my way through a new city, I am at my happiest.

 Illene Sofranko at an outdoor market serving up fresh The Urban Canning Company products.

Illene Sofranko at an outdoor market serving up fresh The Urban Canning Company products.

What do you tell yourself when things get difficult?

See answer to question 8.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for a lot, but I think I'm most grateful that I come from a family of self-sustainable, hard-working, bull-headed hillbillies.

What’s 1 personal goal and 1 business goal you plan to accomplish this year?

This year our goal at The Urban Canning Co. is to launch new labels. It sounds little, but I've been working on this project for 2 years now. For me it's a big step for our company in many ways and I'm scared to change! I'm like a snail, but I just want to feel perfect about it all first. 

Next year I'm getting married and personally a goal of mine for this year is to complete some upgrades on our house, because we want a backyard wedding. You don't make a lot of money as the owner of a start up, so big house-hold projects require a lot of creative saving and work.

 Mustard is one of The Urban Canning Company's specialty products.

Mustard is one of The Urban Canning Company's specialty products.

Where can you be found on a Tuesday afternoon?

I have Tuesdays off a lot. In the afternoons, I love to get high and go to Therapy. There's a stigma regarding both cannabis and therapy, actually. If it's normal to exercise and treat your body right it should be normal to exercise and treat your brain right, too. Serious life hack though: stoned therapy.

How about on a Friday evening?

I always start off a Friday evening in the kitchen with my crew doing a pickle back shot. It's a tradition! It's a short-lived party though, because I'm totally home most Friday evenings since we all have to get up early for farmer's markets on Saturdays! 

A Sunday morning? 

I teach canning classes and food preservation classes most Sundays! If I do have off, I like to have a relaxed morning where life feels like a wave in slow motion. And we always cook our own breakfast. 

 Illene Sofranko at an outdoor market serving up fresh, locally made mustard, jam, and pickles.

Illene Sofranko at an outdoor market serving up fresh, locally made mustard, jam, and pickles.

Finish these sentences: 

I love: Getting it right.

I’m always looking for: The next idea.

My inspiration is: Happiness.

I’ll never: Not love food.