Special needs teen builds sweet business in Katy

HOUSTON - Sweet Heat Jam Co. is based in Katy and its products can be found in only a handful of Texas stores.  That's because there are only a handful of people behind it but each of them has a special story.

“We wanted to see what he could do with his jalapenos,” Christine Stilwell said.

About six years ago, Christine was searching for the next step for her son Nolan. As a young man with Down syndrome, aging out of high school meant losing his purpose.

Sweet Heat Jam Co. was born.

“As we built on that first just in the house type of cottage industry and then we realized that it was getting bigger so that's when we said let's invest in this as a livelihood for other young people with intellectual disabilities to be able to have purpose in their community,” Christine said.

The big break came at Special Olympics when she found a connection to help the business blossom.

“The pastor of the church here said with open arms we would love to have these students here because without them here our kitchen is closed, the lights are out and we can't do anything productive when it's like that,” Christine said.

Today the company employs several full-time young adults and acts as a training ground for others. All of them have a disability. All of them are being given a new purpose.

“It really is a jam that has a deep, deep meaning to it and we hope that whenever someone tries the jam that they feel the love and the passion that's in every jar,” Christine said.

What exactly is the best way to use the jam? Nolan has a few ideas for you.

“A marinade and I like, and use on fish, and steak. Oh yeah it's good,” Nolan said.

When asked about the future of Sweet Heat Jam Co. Christine has this to say, “Whether or not we're going to expand further, if we can we will all we need are the funds to get into a bigger kitchen or to employ more people."

“I like new friends to help you and I like my heart, my heart is good,” Nolan said.

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