The founder of Jambar supports jazz musicians and the defense of the bicycle

Fitness expert, drum enthusiast, successful entrepreneur, committed philanthropist, mother of six, you might wonder if there’s anything Jennifer Maxwell can’t do.

“I don’t look at the limits. I look at the possibilities,” the North Bay resident said recently, describing herself.

Maxwell, 56, launched her second business in September, 35 years after she and her late husband, world-class marathon runner Brian Maxwell, made a name for themselves with the introduction of the PowerBar.

First targeting runners and competitive cyclists, the high-protein, low-fat snack became so popular that Nestlé USA paid around $375 million for the employee-owned company when the Maxwells sold it. in 2000.


By the time Jennifer Maxwell began developing another energy bar around 2016, however, several brands of these convenient sources of quick nutrition were crowding store shelves.

Despite everything, she imagined an entirely organic version, tastier and more nutritious than the competition.

“You’re not living on your laurels,” said Maxwell, who holds a degree in food science and nutrition from UC Berkeley. “I wanted to do something big, and JAMBAR is that.”

She began experimenting with organic fruits – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – as well as innovative sources of protein such as sunflower, quinoa seeds and sorghum, ingredients that were not widely available in sizable quantities. industry when PowerBar appeared on the market.

Its new product also includes cashew butter, whey and peanut butter. The sweetness comes directly from Mother Nature, not by converting the starch in brown rice or tapioca into syrup. JAMBARs, available in four flavors – and Maxwell is developing more – contain pure honey, maple syrup, condensed and unrefined date juice, and grape sugar.

“I call myself sugar conscious — not sugar phobic,” Maxwell said. “I like carbs for energy, but if I’m going to eat sugar, I want it to be the real shebang.”

Maxwell found a 1970s bakery in San Rafael that once housed a recording studio for the Grateful Dead and converted most of the building into her JAMBAR factory, where she oversees a dozen employees.

Sold online, the bars are also on the shelves of 70 physical outlets around North Bay and beyond. Locations are as remote as Key West, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Ketchum, Idaho; and Ontario, Canada. Shops range from small grocery stores and health food markets to a musical instrument store, mountain bike shop, and health club and spa.

As JAMBAR’s name recognition and market presence grows, so does Maxwell’s donations. She has pledged to donate half of the company’s net profits to organizations that promote the causes she has personally embraced: music and recreational sports, as well as other outdoor activities.

Maxwell began drum lessons in 2007, drawn to the energy and healing they offered after her husband’s death, as well as the similarities between the instrument and racing, her first love.

“Drums are natural for an athletic person because you use all of your limbs,” she said, adding that, like running, drums are characterized by a steady beat.

Maxwell studied on Gretsch drums for 10 years, during which time she began jamming informally with various bands; she started playing professionally with the jazz band Good Karma about five years ago.

She still spends about half an hour a day practicing the rudiments of her art, which she also shares as a member of an ensemble that performs standards and Latin jazz at the California Jazz Conservatory, a private music school in Berkeley where Maxwell takes lessons.

Between work and the drums, Maxwell makes time for running, a discipline she picked up as a teenager when she started the sport with her mother and found she excelled at it.

One of the original members of Tamalpa Runners, she began competing with other club members in 1978.

Although she no longer runs marathons, Maxwell still dons her Sauconys or Nikes every day and runs a few miles on one of the Mount Tamalpais trails near her home in Ross.

“It’s freedom – I love it,” she said.

In addition to running with friends, alone or before work with her 5-year-old American Eskimo dog, Maxwell bikes, swims laps and hikes in Marin County.

Her secret to staying active

She claims she gets enough sleep despite her busy schedule, adding that one of the keys to spending so much time in her waking hours is not having a single personal social media account.

“I don’t have time for that!” said Maxwell.

JAMBAR’s name reflects its desire to stay on the move.

“It comes from… my love of music and sport – ‘Get your jam on’ is our slogan,” she said.

To share these pleasures with others, Maxwell donates to an ever-growing list of non-profit organizations. Among them is a San Rafael organization that offers free after-school music lessons on orchestral instruments for young people and a cyclist advocacy group that organizes rides and works to make North Bay more kid-friendly. bicycles.

The recipients aren’t all in the Bay Area either. JAMBAR sales support an ATV association in Wisconsin that develops and manages a network of trails encompassing a national forest; they also enrich the education of poor children in New Orleans and Haiti through technology.

Those who know Maxwell say she gives wholeheartedly without looking for accolades.

Give back wholeheartedly

“She could easily be one of those…people who have tons of money (and) could give philanthropically but they’re not emotionally attached,” said JAMBAR publicist Sally Newson. “Community is everything to her.”

Generosity has a way of inspiring more of the same, which Fairfax resident Mario Guarneri envisions with the help of JAMBAR.

Having spent his career playing trumpet for movie soundtracks and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, he knows how difficult it can be for independent musicians to pursue their craft when they have no guarantee of success. a fair wage. They often earn a little more than what a tip jar or a percentage of the cover charge or bar proceeds provides.

Guarneri founded Jazz in the Neighborhood to supplement that salary; the nonprofit solicits donations, secures grants, and uses most ticket sales from the biweekly concerts it hosts to guarantee the musicians it hires for those concerts at least $200 per performance.

Since launching his effort, Guarneri has helped approximately 500 musicians throughout the Bay Area.

Maxwell has been a regular contributor to this cause since meeting Guarneri and other musicians playing at a bookstore; he returns goodwill by regularly handing out free JAMBARs at concerts that small professional jazz ensembles hold in San Francisco parks.

pay ahead

“She’s really doing a pretty big public service by pushing the concept of putting 50% back into the community,” Guarneri said.

Now Maxwell has invited him to submit a grant proposal, funds that would allow him to invest in more musical groups, he says. His thoughts turn to the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, which offers low-cost one-to-one classical music and jazz lessons to low-income children.

“It’s kind of like passing it on,” Guarneri said.

“I think the most admirable thing (about Maxwell) is that…she doesn’t have to do the work…to feed her family. She does it because she cares about the product and of the mission,” he said.

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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