Like most women entrepreneurs, I wear several hats – I’m a wife, a mother of four lovely children, a foodie and a woman in business. I like to travel and read: both allow me to explore places, their culture and their food. I also enjoy good music; being by the beach (Thank God I’m a Goan) and playing with different flavours in my kitchen. I really enjoy fusion foods – both devouring and creating.
I’ve been blessed to have lived and worked in places like London, Belgium and Dubai that allowed me to imbibe, understand and learn about its people, culture and especially foods. Some of my best culinary experiences have been on visits to these places. I draw much of my inspiration from the places I’ve been to, the people I’ve met and the foods I’ve tasted… However my focus has primarily been on keeping things natural, healthy and wholesome. As, a mother to 4 beautiful children I’m very cautious of their diet and health. I have a keen eye on the quantity of preservatives and chemicals they ingest in their food through chips, squashes, processed foods etc. and the negative effects it has on their growing bodies.
My oldest son, Isaac, is quite a foodie too and since we moved back to Goa he has taken a liking to pickles. That’s when I thought I ought to give making it preservative free a shot. With a little guidance and help from a Chef friend of mine in Australia, I made my first bottle of mango pickle and it was such a hit with my biggest critics – my family. The response from them led to me experimenting with Tendli, Carrot and Brinjal pickles. I even ventured into making squash from seasonal favourites like Raw Mango, Passion Fruit and Jackfruit. These were surprisingly well received by Goa.
When you have four children, you also have four different palettes to please. Thus began my journey with jams. I started with my husband’s favourite, Mangad (the traditional Goan Mango Jam). Soon after, I made jams flavoured with Apple Cinnamon, Strawberry, Orange Marmalade, Spiced Marmalade, Fig Anise, Banana Rum and Spiced Jackfruit. While I also make common flavours of jams, I prefer introducing Goa to jams with unique, unconventional flavours. This led to my adventures with Bimbly and Star fruit earlier this year that birthed – Bimbly Jam, Bimbly Pickle, Savoury Bimbly Spread, Star Fruit Jam, Star Fruit Pickle and Spiced Star Fruit Marmalade.
Tasters with my friends led to a conversation about sharing my creations with the world. At first, I didn’t think too much about it but when the conversations didn’t die, I decided to give it a shot and started Jemma’s Homemade. The response initially was slow as nobody knew me or my products. Taking it as a challenge I decided to share my creations with a few women’s groups in Goa (WEBN Goa being the most supportive), the interest swept me off my feet. It was so refreshing to see so many women and men who are so passionate and receptive to a healthier alternative to their favourite flavours.
Goa is like a melting pot of cultures and has people from different parts of the country and the world who have travelled, people who appreciate good and wholesome food, people looking for something different and creative. Goa is really becoming a food destination with so many people wanting to try new flavours and heathier alternatives. And, as my jams and pickles started growing in recognition, my diabetic friends started to feel left out. A lot of research and a few recipes later the Chia Seed Jams were born. For the first time last year, Goa saw a healthier spread made from Chia Seeds and with no white sugar – a health enthusiasts dream come true! I started with the Orange Chia Seed Jam, which is a favourite among diabetic clients. Later in the year, introduced the Strawberry Chia Seed Jam and it soon became a hit among the kids (a very pleasant surprise!)… This year, I’ve added a Pineapple Chia Seed Jam to that list. Our diabetic friendly range also includes an Orange Marmalade made without sugar.
Our offering is ever growing. A few days ago we launched the Pineapple Kiwi Jam. This citrusy – sweet flavour is new to Goa and has become one that has been welcomed with open arms. Fuelled by the passion to curate fusion foods, most of what I create in the kitchen is very versatile. In addition to being smeared over bread, toast and crackers these jams and spreads can be used in cake, doughnut, croissant and pie fillings; as toppings for cookies, pancakes and waffles. They’re a great option for soft filled chocolates too. The squashes, as flavours for smoothies, milkshakes, lassies, mocktails and cocktails… the possibilities are endless.
In terms of challenges, the responsibility of juggling parent duties, business partnerships, being a wife, a chairperson of the school PTA and now this new business was a bit of a struggle at first. But with a solid backing and encouragement from my family, I soldiered on. My kitchen light is on well past midnight but this gives me some “me” time with my jams and I just love it when the aroma fills the house and I am surrounded by it. And, by God’s grace, people are beginning to appreciate the products and are kind enough to refer me to their friends and family.
When you venture into something new and find success, there will always be those trying to run you down, those trying to claim your ideas as their own. But I’ve learned that you have to take this in your stride. Some advice I give to fellow mompreneurs and women in business is, “Believe in yourself, work hard. Your determination will be your best freind. Hold on to the people that value and encourage you and soldier on”. My journey has been a truly blessed one so far, where I am surrounded by so much love and goodwill. I still have a long way to go, though. The love I receive goes into my products, it puts a smile on my face and I want to do the same with my customers through Jemma’s Homemade.
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