Tell us about your background and relationship with food growing up.
My relationship with food growing up has always been a good one, grounded in family and fellowship. I remember my grandfather always having people at his house, jazz music blaring while they mostly gathered in the kitchen as he cooked anything from grits and greens to boiled lobsters. Always with a stiff cocktail in hand, which as an adult I can fully appreciate and also now associate with classiness. My mother took after him, hosting late night card parties and sending off friends with infamous sourdough bacon sandwiches to “soak up the alcohol.” My food memories have always been like a warm hug, making me smile even as I write this. I never had big plans to become a chef, but I see now how my love developed into a passion and then into a career.
I went to culinary school for four years after high school, and proceeded to work in the hotel and restaurant industry, in everything from a beloved Spanish tapas restaurant to the Ritz Carlton and Westin. The long hours, nights and weekend work in the food industry extinguished my desire to continue in the field, but a book my mom bought me some years ago showed me how vast my options were, still being able to be submerged in something that I loved so dearly. I stayed close to food throughout that time, hosting food swaps at my mother’s house where guests could bring small portions of dishes that meant the most to them, and go home with a wide array of culinary creations. Canning and preserving later became a hobby, and a move to Brooklyn in 2015 reignited something in me–something that led to Trade Street Jam Company.
What inspired you to create Trade Street Jam?
I love preserving food in jars! Something about the idea of opening a jar of peak season brandied bing cherries in the dead of winter, when the only good option is frozen. I used to curate tons of handmade gifts and give them away for the holidays, and it always brought me such joy. Living in a tiny apartment on Trade Street in Charlotte, I always thought to myself, ‘I should sell jam one day and name my business Trade Street Jam Company.’ I moved to Brooklyn in 2015 and was immediately inspired by the maker culture, so I started jamming again. Next thing you know, I had an Etsy store and a mini jam factory in my apartment!
Your fruit spreads are all low in sugar and preservative-free. Why was this important to you?
One, Americans have an extremely high obesity rate. Two, blacks specifically have high diabetes rates. I’m directly affected by these two facts, and I didn’t want to introduce something to the world that wasn’t good for myself or my culture.
Tell us about the biggest challenges you’ve faced in establishing and building your business?
Everything! OMG, everything seems to be a challenge. In ’21 it was dealing with the blowback from COVID and the scarcity of raw materials. In ’22 it was a failed large-scale production that I had to quickly pivot from. In ’23 it’s been trying to raise capital and continuing to try to grow my business without it.
Where do you get your energy and drive to persevere?
My babies, my family. Gah, they mean so so much to me. Family is literally everything. I keep going because I need to keep the lights on, ya know? But also, I want them to be proud. I know they will be no matter what, because I pour everything I’ve got into being a great mother. But, I want to build a legacy for them. I want them to grow up and really be like, “Wow, mom, you started that company?!”
How can the Furthermore Ventures community best support you?
By spreading the word (or the jam?). Our products are great pantry staples, and they also make great gifting opportunities. Spread the word, buy some jam. Also, help us find the right investment partners! I know that’s a big ask, but not only do we need money, but we also need the right people to help us grow. The world needs more Alainas! Lastly, we started a movement called ‘All Founders Need Therapy,’ which helps to shine a light on the mental health crisis and how it relates to small business owners. Buy a t-shirt and help save our brand.