Meet the Maker: Carolyn Herbert of Herbert's Wine Jelly

Carolyn Herbert, founder and CEO of Herbert’s Wine Jelly, is no stranger to helping people. Before starting her wine-jelly empire, she spent 35 years educating special needs and at-risk children in the inner cities of Virginia and has dealt with everything from having a knife pulled on her to wrestling a gun away from a child in her school’s hallways. During those years, Herbert realized that many of the students didn’t have great support systems, so she made it her mission to support those who didn’t have anyone else to turn to. 

Herbert eventually retired from the public school system. Though she knew that she didn’t want to stop making a difference, she wasn’t sure exactly what her next move was. In the meantime, she was inspired by her mother’s love of wine and began making wine jelly as a hobby. 

It didn’t take much time at home for Herbert to realize that she had a lot more to still give to her community, so she approached the local correctional center with an idea: let a group of select convicted residents help her develop and run a business based around her wine jellies. She hoped the project would offer those convicted the opportunity to contribute to a cause and learn valuable skills to help their work endeavors upon parole. The prison agreed, and Herbert’s Wine Jelly was born. 

Soon, Herbert had a small group working with her from the inside. Her one rule: Don’t steal, and don’t lie. Communicating through e-mail and Zoom, Herbert and her team share thoughts and brainstorm ideas for the company. Each product in the Herbert’s Wine Jelly line is there because one of her employees came up with it. 

Carolyn Herbert cooking her wine jellies

Herbert doesn’t stop there, though. She offers two options to anyone who works for her while incarcerated upon their release: She either gives them the licensing rights to any product they were responsible for so they can build their own business, or she guarantees them a job as one of her employees. Some stay, and some go, but each one has had the opportunity to build a career with someone believing in them. 

Herbert says, “Everyone deserves the chance to succeed and in today’s world there is a huge stigma attached to the word ‘felon’ when in reality most former incarcerated just want a good steady job, a bit of hope, and some love.”

As you’ve probably guessed, the mission of Herbert’s Wine Jelly is more about the people than anything else. Nevertheless, each product is just as high quality and delicious as the last. Herbert’s sources its fruit and wine from local Virginia farms and vineyards, which earned them Virginia’s Finest approval, among numerous other accolades. Herbert hopes that their team can serve as an example to all those who have struggled with mental illness or incarceration and give them hope for a better future. Every jar of Herbert’s is produced with love, so you are not only enjoying an amazing treat but also contributing to someone’s second chance.

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