Veneise George was tired of spending hours in the kitchen after coming home from a long day at work. The proud Clarendon native moved to Toronto in 1986 and is now married with two teens, aged 16 and 14. Dinner time was integral to the George family as it allowed them to check-in and spend time together. Wanting to maximise family time, George started developing cooking hacks that allowed her weeknight dishes to deliver the same flavour bombs of Jamaican Sunday dinner in a fraction of the time.
She made batches of jerk marinade in her Scarborough kitchen that she would eventually gift to family and co-workers. One lucky recipient suggested scaling the product and getting it into supermarkets. Anyone familiar with food and beverage retail knows that this is easier said than done. However, in 2015 George took the plunge and decided to make a go of her jerk marinade business. Thus Yawdi's was born.
George, who is first cousins with former Early Childhood Commission Chair Trisha Williams-Singh and politician Ann-Marie Vaz, comes “home” with her family each year. “It's important for me not to raise 'Canadian' kids,” said George. This dedication to watering her children's Jamaican roots, too, informed her foray into entrepreneurship. According to George, “I wanted to break the cycle and create generational wealth. Starting a company and having your children involved in the company from the ground up teaches them valuable lessons. Being an entrepreneur isn't an easy thing; there's a lot of rejection. But what you learn from that rejection and how you persevere is important.” George is building Yawdi's so her children have a future that isn't dependent on a nine-to-five.
Yawdi's currently has a jerk marinade, pepper jellies (pineapple, lavender, red bell pepper), and mustards (horseradish, smoky honey, and beer) in its pantry offerings. Each item is made with all-natural premium ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours. Though available online at yawdi.ca, Yawdi's is available at over 100 Zehrs, Loblaws, Your Independent Grocer, Valu-Mart, and over 50 Sobeys locations across Ontario. This wide distribution is due to George participating in an Ontario Made initiative. Fun fact: Loblaws and Sobeys are two of Canada's largest grocers.
Who would have thought that she'd get here seven years later after the first jars were sold at local Scarborough Caribbean grocery store Rubini West Indian? Well, George did. She knew that the brand would thrive and that Yawdi's success signifies something bigger. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation featured the brand in its 2021 holiday gift guide and the Art Gallery of Ontario proudly sells the jerk marinade in its gift shop. We can't wait to see what this year (and the next seven) brings for Yawdi's.