About Jelmar

Since Jelmar got its start more than 50 years ago, the Illinois-based company has helped solve some of the toughest household cleaning problems. With Jelmar’s broad range of Greenvenient™ products, it’s simple to care for your home, your family and the environment—all at the same time.


Jelmar has always been a family business, and current president Alison Gutterman is the third generation—and the first woman—to lead the company. Alison’s commitment to simplifying her customers’ lives is evident in her investment in research into what consumers look for in their cleaning products. Much of the company’s recent success can be attributed to Alison’s efforts to expand product development while building Jelmar’s brand.


Through a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency in their Safer Choice Program as well as other strategic alliances, Jelmar has created innovative, environmentally friendly reformulations of new and existing products that have been well received by consumers. Additionally, since assuming a leadership role, Alison has spearheaded Jelmar’s certification as woman-owned business, enabling the company’s continued growth and supporting women and families everywhere.

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Why I love being part of a family business

alison_sun_times_photoWhy do the vast majority of Americans end up breaking their New Year’s resolutions? Well, if you ask me, anything you have to resolve to do is probably a pretty uninspiring task to begin with—not to mention difficult to keep up until December (or, let’s face it, February).

 

So instead of dwelling on the negative things I’d like to change about myself, I try to think about the positive things that motivate me to have a happy, productive year. And for me, being part of a third-generation family business ranks near the top of the list. I’ve written before about the challenges facing family businesses, but I’d say it’s time I talked about some of their many unique benefits.

 

Of course, family businesses vary widely, with your traditional mom-and-pop shops on one end of the spectrum and mega corporations like Wal-Mart on the other (and companies like Jelmar somewhere in between). But based on my personal experience, I think the fact that Jelmar is family-owned has a lot to do with these advantages:

 

  • Supportive of women leaders: According to a recent report, women are increasingly being selected to lead family businesses for a variety of reasons. In my case, I had the opportunity to join the company early in my career, spending many years building my skill set and proving I could handle a leadership role. While I certainly believe my dad made me work harder than anyone else because I was family, I also think my being family afforded me a certain freedom from being judged based on gender—so my work could stand on its own.

 

  • Social responsibility: Studies on family businesses show that when the business is passed down to the next generation, there’s a tendency not only to transfer wealth, but also the values surrounding it—such as philanthropy. This is definitely true at Jelmar, where family values and business values have always overlapped. My dad taught our family that anyone who has the means to help others has the responsibility to do so; likewise, Jelmar has a long history of charitable giving.

 

  • Shared sense of purpose: The idea of finding your purpose as a business sounds fundamental, but it’s tricky to maintain that sort of vision if your day-to-day concerns are meeting quarterly estimates and satisfying stockholders. Like any business, Jelmar invests in growth and development, but the luxury of being a decades-old family business is that making the numbers doesn’t need to be our only concern. So we’re free to focus on our shared purpose: creating great products that make people’s lives easier while helping the environment.

 

While I don’t think these characteristics are by any means exclusive to Jelmar or to family businesses, I do believe that Jelmar’s generational succession has helped maintain the continuity of our core values and beliefs (and I suspect that many other family businesses benefit in similar ways). My own kids are still too young to decide whether they’ll be involved in the business, so I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that our three generations of family leadership are part of what make me so proud of Jelmar’s past—and excited for its future.

 

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