We had the good fortune of connecting with Danica Simpkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danica, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in Miami the morning after Hurricane Andrew. I was raised by a mother who taught me to never give up when things get tough.
I grew up in a family with many female entrepreneurs. My grandmother was a real estate broker and owned her own agency. My godmother (aunt) owns a business that has received multiple awards from contractors as well as from the governor of Florida as a female-owned business. My mother in law owns a business that helps the mentally and physically challenged. My father has his own company which has been operating for nearly 30 years. I remember going to his office when I was young. Being around so many entrepreneurs as a young person I knew I always wanted to have my own business one day.
Both of my grandmothers are great cooks, an inspired my love of cooking. My paternal grandmother had 8 children and was used to cooking for a crowd, using ingredients from their own farm and garden, showing me the importance of using fresh ingredients. My maternal grandmother always hosted holiday gatherings. This motivated me to take Home Economics in high school. I used to sneak out of class and deliver food that I had prepared to my boyfriend (now my husband). This led to my attending Johnson & Wales and earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Food Service & Restaurant Management.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In order to earn my degree, I had to do an internship. I spent most of my time in the Pastry kitchen – although I was supposed to train on other areas as well – where the Pastry Chef taught me how to prepare and plate all the desserts. I was employed by several fine dining restaurants and hotels, often working 80 hours a week, and eventually decided that being my own boss would be more rewarding. .
Creating exciting new flavors is a fun part of the business, but at times it’s not always as I might expect. For example, in the beginning I made a Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade that I thought would be awesome, however it wasn’t as big a seller as I expected. This resulted in me giving the product away for free. From that I learned that when making a new flavor, I use small jars and give away samples and ask for feedback before I make a large batch.
I’ve learned that communication is important on every level, and it is pertinent to create positive relationships, whether it be with suppliers, customers, or colleagues. For example, we have many repeat customers because of relationships we have developed.
What sets Just Jammin’ apart from our competitors is that all of our artisanal jams are made in small batches with no preservatives or artificial flavors. We listen to our customers’ wants and needs and strive to provide nothing but the best, We try to give our customers what they can do with jam, other than the traditional jam on toast. Some examples might be using our Pineapple Thai Chili jam on chicken wings or using jam in various baked goods.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Let’s start with our very own Sunshine Market! Just Jammin’ doesn’t just make jam; We also help organize a farmer’s market, held every Sunday. Vendors include vegan food, hand made jewelry, baked goods, and array of other local businesses.
There’s so much to do and see! Miami is famous for South Beach and Wynwood areas. We can go to Little Havana and drink Cuban coffee while eating authentic Cuban food and then take an air boat ride in the Everglades. Bayside Marketplace offers boutique shopping and sightseeing tours aboard various boats. Continue your shopping at Dolphin Mall, boasting over 240 retail outlets and live music.
For specific restaurants, I would recommend Hate Mondays Tavern in Kendall and ordering the Pulled Pork Croqueta Preparada. I also recommend Tacos & Tatoos and Kyu. We can hang out at one of the local breweries like Lincoln’s Beard or Beat Culture.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I already mentioned family members that were influential.
My first mentor, Chef Mike, was a huge influence, helping me embrace my creativity. He taught me to never settle for mediocrity. If I made a dish or plated something, he would question if it was my personal best, and let me decide if I could do it better. Another one of my mentors, Chef Levi, is always available when I have new ideas to try out or when I need advice. Both Chef Mike and Chef Levi were great role models, teaching me leadership skills.
My husband, Hugo, is the one who gave me the confidence to start my own business. I was unsure and questioning if I could do it. He is the true backbone of Just Jammin’, from helping me find new wholesales, cutting fruit, loading the car and attending farmer’s markets with me, setting up Just Jammin’s website, and constantly persuades me to create new flavors and grow the business.