Jamaican Venice Thomas Simpson and her son Jasir, who live in Anchorage, Alaska, won the “New Business of the Year” award for 2022 from the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT), a non-profit organization that helps minorities set up businesses. The duo started a business selling Jamaican-style ginger lemonade at the urging of Simpson’s family and friends.
She was prompted to create the homemade drink because the lemonade drinks available to her from stores in Alaska tasted “weird” to her and like there was something missing. So she took things into her own hands, and her husband Thomas bought her the supplies she needed to concoct the lemonade beverage that reflects the culture and cuisine of her homeland Jamaica. The key ingredient was ginger, which Jamaicans use liberally in their recipes. She was encouraged to continue her efforts when Jasir tasted the first batch and enthusiastically asked for more.
Everyone who tried it told her she should sell it, and so Simpson enlisted the aid of Jasir and made their first sales through a popup shop at an advertised “lemonade day.” When they made more than $400 in a single day, the mother and son joined the ACLT and signed up for its “Set Up Shop” workshop, which provided useful information about branding, marketing, and advertising for start-up businesses. It also provided opportunities for them to sell their lemonade at various fairs, and the business continued to grow. They have since acquired a food handlers’ permit and a cottage license to continue their beverage business, as well as their first catering customer and, are working on adapting the recipe to scale up to big batches.
Winning the “New Business of the Year Award” was unexpected but “so good,” Simpson said. Simpson, a registered nurse, has made her son Jasir the face of the business, and he has proved his effectiveness and talent at talking with customers and has even conversed with the Anchorage mayor. He introduces the business to others, while Simpson focuses on developing the recipe and distributing the product.
Simpson is gratified that she has been able to put a Jamaican flavor like ginger on the map in Alaska. She includes “Jamaica” in the name so that when people go looking for Jamaican brands, they can find the lemonade easily, which she believes would represent “a win” for the culture. She plans to get the lemonade bottled for sale in stores in the future, saying it would be a “dream come true” if the brand was available in Jamaica.
Photo – Venice Thomas Simpson