Nolan Stilwell brings the heat with his jams
Running a business

Nolan Stilwell brings the heat with his jams

In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting entrepreneurs who play a vital role in creating inclusive and meaningful work for all.

Name: Nolan Stilwell

Location: Georgetown, TX

Business: Sweet Heat Jam Co.

Tell us about your business: 

Since 2012, I have been creating artisan jalapeno jams. I started out with making one flavor and now I have over 15 flavors including mustard and BBQ sauce.

Why did you decide to start your own business? Where did the idea come from and how did you put it into action?

I have always enjoyed cooking. When I was in high school I wanted to be part of the culinary program they offered. Unfortunately, they were not able to offer me a spot in the class. So my parents and a few friends helped me share my idea of making jalapeno jams and create an internship program for people with intellectual disabilities to work along with me.

What makes your business unique in its field? 

I think there are a few reasons:

  1. We have several signature jams that are unique and have changed people’s ideas of jams.
  2. Our story is special in that everyone who is on my team has intellectual disabilities like me. My parents also saw a need to create an intern program so that other students could learn the culinary arts, and they have created special equipment for them if needed.
  3. We all work for and with one another!

How does your business support people with disabilities? 

The people who make up Sweet Heat all have differing abilities. We also have a peer mentoring program where we teach our peers what we do. It helps us with our work skills, language, and social skills.

“The young people we work with have amazing skills and talents, but due to their disability, are not able to work in jobs where they need to work independently. We feel so blessed to be able to have a place where these young people can contribute to society and make a product they are proud of.”

-Christine Stilwell, Sweet Heat Jam Co.

What has been most rewarding about starting your business?

Creating a product that people love and seeing it in stores.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started?

I had to learn how to make each batch of jam perfectly—how much of each ingredient to use, and how long to cook it so that it would turn out every time.

How does running your own business make you feel?

I love my business and working with my team. It makes me happy every day.

What are your proudest moments? 

My proudest moment was being a top finalist for the H-E-B “Quest for Texas Best” in 2014. There were over 200 applicants that year and I had to go in front of a lot of judges and people to present my jam.

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

Every year I like to create a new flavor for our customers. This year we created Midnight Yell. It’s always fun to think of new flavors. I also set a goal of expanding to new stores across the United States. I hope to be able to continue to do so.

What are three things you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

My faith, my friends, and just continuing to do what I love to do.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting their own business? 

Do something you love—and always thank the people who have helped you get to where you are today.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

I can always count on my teammates to keep me smiling. We are there for each other.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

Oh, that’s easy… ”Jamming” by Bob Marley!

Get your hands on some jam at or follow them on Instagram @sweetheattx.

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