Mother-son duo Venice and Jasir Simpson awarded for Jamaican Ginger Lemonade in Alaska
You can go just about anywhere in the world and find a Jamaican. But when you find a fellow Jamaican putting our food and culture on the map, now that calls for a celebration. Venice Thomas Simpson, who resides in Alaska, knew she was on to something special when others not only loved her homemade drink, but encouraged her to sell the tasty beverage as well. It wasn’t, however, until her child spoke of his desires to assist the homeless that the mother-son duo decided to go into business, creating their very own Jamaican ginger lemonade.
“We all know Jamaicans put ginger in everything from our juices to our dishes. But honestly, when I moved to Anchorage, Alaska, I didn’t like the taste of store-bought lemonade. It had a weird taste to it. Something was missing. I was also used to lime, so I had to make that transition as well,” she told Food. And with the saying ‘if you want something a certain way, do it yourself’ etched in her mind, Thomas Simpson bought her lemonade supplies and attempted to mix the refreshing drink for her family. Yet, there was still a missing element.
She wasn’t able to put her finger on it, but knew it needed something. Suddenly, the Jamaican found herself drawing on the culture of her homeland, and came to the conclusion that ginger would make a nice addition. It has since been the key ingredient of her fantastic recipe.
The first time she made the ginger lemonade, her son Jasir said “Oh” excitedly, requesting more. With her husband and son now converted, the lemonade wings spread to friends and, over time, the community. “Everybody kept telling me, you need to sell this. And if enough people tell you to sell something, then you should do it,” she said.
So Mommy Venice and Jasir decided to sell their epic lemonade at a pop up shop. “We saw an advertisement about lemonade day and Jasir wanted to make some money to help others. There’s a high population of homeless people here and he would always be sad (when seeing them). So he wanted to donate money to them,” she explained.
Making over 400 USD in one day, they followed through with their donations. Soon after, they joined the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT), a non-profit organisation which helps minority groups, signing up for the Set up Shop workshop. “They hold your hand and walk you through the business aspect; how to start, branding, marketing and advertising. I wanted a sense of community and it was a way to network.” Since then, they have acquired a food handlers’ permit and a cottage licence. They also had to do a ph test.
The organisation provided a guide, so to speak, sending opportunities their way to sell at different fairs. Little did they know that Anchorage had eyes on them. Building slowly, but steadily, the team recently got their first catering gig, working on the recipe to make a big batch.
The pair went on to win the 2022 New Business of the Year award from ACLT. “This was unexpected, but it was so good,” she said enthusiastically.
As a registered nurse, Thomas Simpson has made Jasir the face of the business, watching the process, and networking with others in the community. “When we’re out working, we see a mature Jasir, talking to customers and community members, he even had a conversation with the mayor, shaking hands. He’s very much into introducing the business to others. It is so good to see that,” the proud mother shares. She is more hands-on with the recipe development and distribution.
To put a Jamaican flavour like ginger on the map has been nothing short of remarkable for the entrepreneur. “Listen, me feel so good! The fact that I put Jamaica in the name? It stands out. Me just love it! And people love it too! They go out seeking Jamaican brands so this is a win for the culture.” Her hope is to take the time to grow and eventually get the lemonade bottled and in stores. It would be a dream come true to have her brand in Jamaica.