How would you like to create a beverage that people are raving about? And, how would you like to get media interviews about your beverage invention? Well, that’s exactly what happened to todays guest.
Mike: Today I’m speaking with Charmaine DaCosta, the Founder of Limation. Charmaine, thank you for being here.
Charmaine DaCosta: Thank you so much for having me.
Mike: Charmaine, how would you describe Limation?
Charmaine: Limation limeade is Jamaican-inspired limeade beverage that’s all natural, made with a lot of love, inspired from loving something that’s from my childhood, and a desire to make a better beverage than I was able to get in the stores. When I first came to America I asked for lemonade, which is what I thought it was because that’s what I know it to be, and when I got my lemonade it didn’t taste anything like I was expecting. So needless to say I was very disappointed. However I decided I would make it by myself. So I started to do that. I love people and I love food, and I entertain a lot, so when my friends would come over I would give them this beverage and they all loved it, didn’t understand what it was, so I told them and they were like, “wow, we would actually buy this. Would you make us some?” Of course I never did that, but a couple years ago I was working in a nonprofit that downsized, and I just didn’t really want my fate left up to anybody else anymore, and decided that I was just going to take the plunge and do something that would bring me joy and that I loved, and decided I was going to start this catering business called Crude Food, and then out of the catering business I decided I was going to do a beverage, something to put on the market. Limation limeade is what it is.
Mike: Now, it sounds like this is a passion project of yours.
Mike: What is it about lemonade that you love so much?
Charmaine: Well, it’s not even lemon. Limes are a phenomenal super food, and people don’t recognize that. Limes, apart from the fact that they’re delicious, I call them lemon’s tastier cousin. Besides being just a medicinal powerhouse, it is the thing that just makes everything taste better to me. It has all these beneficial properties that one doesn’t think about. Yes, it’s a great source of vitamin C, but it’s also an anti-inflammatory, it’s an immune system booster, it is good to help reduce inflammation, it’s just a really awesome fruit or citrus. I mean, you can’t really eat it by itself.
Charmaine: But it’s a great additive to other things.
Mike: Now, I keep calling it lemonade, but is it referred to as lemonade in Jamaica or limeade?
Charmaine: In Jamaica they call it lemonade, but in America they give it the proper name, since it’s not made with lemons, but with limes. So here I have to call it limeade.
Mike: Okay. Now, you grew up in Jamaica. Did you make lemonade growing up?
Charmaine: Not with lemons because in Jamaica lemons are not abundant. In my younger years I grew up with my grandmother in a more rural community, and my grandmother had what we called a gully. It turns out it was a farm, but we just call it “down the gully” right? You know what a gully is. It’s basically a valley and it’s full of all sorts of vegetation. My grandmother was a “higgler.” Now I realize that she had a farmer’s market. But in Jamaica we call those people “higglers” and they’re not really the great society people, it’s just people with common lives and who work with the soil. I developed a real love for food of the ground. I’m not really into all of the prepackaged synthetic type foods, and even though I came to America many, many years ago, my palate is still informed by what I know from a child.
Mike: Is your recipe similar to what your grandmother made when you were a child?
Charmaine: Absolutely. I just add half the sugar. It’s absolutely what my grandmother would make except with half the sugar. Even with half the sugar, in America they’re like, “oh my god, it’s too much sugar.” But it’s absolutely delicious and it goes well with so many different things.
Mike: Can you give us an idea of what kind of ingredients you use?
Charmaine: Organic sugar, lime, water. For passion fruit, passion fruit, and for lavender, lavender. Very simple, and I don’t pasteurize by heating. For shelf life extension I use the HPP process because I do believe that the beneficial properties of a product are much more important than long shelf life and shelf stabilization.
Mike: Absolutely. That’s so good to hear that you don’t have high fructose corn syrup or any of those ingredients that we can’t pronounce.
Charmaine: No. No white sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no Splenda or anything like that. Just organic evaporated cane sugar. I’m moving to organic limes rather than commercially available limes.
Mike: Oh, okay.
Charmaine: Yeah, I’m moving to organic limes, and my next labels’ going to, I needed to be able to get it to the point where I could actually afford to purchase the limes because I already engage in a very expensive process. My limes are actually hand squeezed with a squeezing mechanism, but I do half a lime at a time. Very time consuming process, and it’s because I have a specific way of doing it so that the lime juice is the best tasting that it can be. A lot of people at first are like, “oh, limes. I don’t like limes,” but they don’t realize that they actually love it, they just don’t know it. It’s because most people do the lazy thing with limes, which is they just crush it and just let the lime juice go wherever it will and they don’t contain the juice in such a way as to preserve the taste of the lime itself. That’s what I do. Then of course, because I’m not boiling the product, a whole separate process happens after I have bottled it in order to extend the shelf life. That, in effect, adds almost a dollar. It’s just that important to me to do it this way.
Mike: Okay. What flavors do you have?
Charmaine: Right now I only have three flavors, and I’m going to be expanding the line once I get enough traction in the marketplace, but my flavors now are original, which is lime, passion fruit, and lavender.
Mike: Very good. So this is kind of a taste of the Caribbean.
Charmaine: Yeah, and a little bit of France.
Mike: Very good.
Charmaine: Yeah, the lavender is an acquired taste, I must say, because some people just can’t equate the fragrance of lavender with something that one eats, but culinary lavender has been used and is developing a much more robust demand in the marketplace, and so now people are more familiar with it, but it still has a long way to go, so I think that there is much that can be gained over the next few years in the development of the market for lavender.
Mike: Of course your business is doing well right now, but was there a time where maybe you experienced business struggles like many other business owners experience?
Charmaine: I am experiencing different struggles as we speak because my business, the perception is that my business is doing well because I’m growing in different stores now, and when I support the product with demos and stuff like that, it flies off the shelves. The problem is getting the demos done and having enough bodies to do the work. So now it’s much easier, but when I first began three years ago, the greatest thing I had going for me was my desire to do what I’m doing and the passion to bring a superior product to the market that I just knew people would love because I loved it. It wasn’t because I made it; I just think that I don’t have taste buds that are just so extraordinary that I will like things that only a few people will like. Everybody from a kid all the way up to a great great grandma loves this product, and that’s because it’s so appealing. It has a really broad appeal, and I wanted to do something with a broad appeal but I didn’t want to make a 99 cent drink. If I can get it to that price point, I would certainly do it, but in order to do that there are so many compromises that companies make, and so the struggle, one of the struggles really was deciding to make a good product and not cave into the bottom line. Having given up a job, another struggle was, “how am I going to sustain my life while I built a brand?” Even now at the volume that I’m producing, this is not sustainable. This is not a business that’s sustainable yet. However, I’ve made the conscious decision that even though I’m not making money that I could actually pay myself; I have to engage in all those things that one would engage in if we were doing a million bottles a year. So to me it was a conscious decision to do what I’m doing. Yes, there are those days when I complain and go, “oh my god, when am I going get some help?” or whatever, but at the end of the day for me it was so important to do this because I realized that my whole legacy is tied up with this, both for myself and for my girls, and for women in general who are pretty much bucking a system, because there aren’t too many female beverage entrepreneurs, right? We have the woman who has the Chia line, and then we have the beer lady from Harlem who does Sugar Hill Beer, but really there aren’t a lot of women in this sphere. I wasn’t trying to be a trendsetter or a pioneer. I was just trying to do something that I believed in. It turned out that I choose a really hard field, but I’m still encouraged and happy every day that I made this choice.
Mike: Absolutely. I’m sure you’re encouraged by all the feedback that you’re getting from your customers, all the positive feedback.
Mike: I’ve got to say that you’ve done an excellent job of promoting Limation. You’ve been interviewed by cnnmoney.com, and I was wondering what advice do you have for business owners that would like to get media interviews like you’ve done?
Charmaine: All of the interviews I’ve gotten have been by accident. Over the summer I engaged interns from the Harlem Children Zone, and last year my interns happened to be doing demos when the CNN woman was in the neighborhood. She tried the product, she loved it, and they are actual believers, that’s what I love. So here’s the first thing. Get people to work with you, even when they’re giving their time, who actually believe in what you’re doing. I wasn’t even there and they chatted the woman up and said, “Yeah, this is a woman owned business and she’s a minority and she is a foreigner,” so telling the story. That’s the other part, right? So she really, her interest was piqued because they told her the story. So get people on your team or in your friend story who love your story and who love you and are willing to go to bat for you even when they don’t see that it’s going to get them anywhere. So basically they’re there, they’re doing this thing, and the woman happens to come by, and they tell her, and she calls me right away. Then someone else read that CNN Money story, and from that he calls me up and says, “Hey, I just read this article. I want to do a TV thing with you for,” it’s a small business thing, but it’s promotion. I said, “Sure.” And that’s the other thing. Say yes even when you have no idea who they are. Say yes.
Mike: I love it. That’s so true. First of all, you do have a great story. There’s a great story behind your brand, and I can totally see where having people that are passionate just like you are about the brand, how that is helpful, so I get it. Lucky you. That’s great. That’s fantastic. That’s interesting that that first interview turned into other interviews.
Mike: So great for you. I’ve also got to ask, where can people purchase Limation?
Charmaine: We are mostly available in Harlem in a lot of stores, Fine Fair. In many of the Fine Fair stores they have really embraced us, Pioneer, downtown, we’re in Battery Place Market. In the Bronx, I think, it’s the Riverdale Section, we are in Garden Gourmet, and I just got into Brooklyn. I opened seven stores in Brooklyn over the last couple of weeks.
Mike: Oh, congratulations.
Charmaine: Thank you. So in Park Slope, we are in the 7th Avenue Gourmet as well as Mr. Lime, I think is what it’s called. There is a series of Korean high-end delis all over Brooklyn, Mr. Lime, Mr. Coco, Mr. Pina, Mr. Melon, and so we’re in all of those stores. There’s a Key Food in Brooklyn on Fulton Street. We’re there, and we’re in a couple of the buying fairs also. Buying fairs really loved us. And just yesterday, I was told that we’ve been green-lighted to get into Western Beef Stores, which is a market I even have assumed that I would want to go in, but my sales guy went in there, and Western Beef has 23 stores in the New York area, so we’ve been green-lighted as a supplier. What this means, though, is that we have to go into each of the stores and ask to be put on the shelf. I am trying desperately to get into Whole Foods and Fairway, so yeah. Those are the places where you can find us. Or you can go online at mylimation.com. You can always send me an email, and I have bought a refrigerated vehicle, so if you’re in the New York City, so in the Burroughs, I will drive your product to your house in my little van with my logo on it. Yes I will. Yeah, so that’s what we’re doing. We’re actually going to be going eCommerce very soon, and on Sunday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 10, I will be demoing at the International Restaurant and Food Services Show at the Jacob Javits Center in the Food Trends section. We’re very excited about that.
Mike: Very good. So for everybody on the West Coast, they’re going to have to wait until you get the eCommerce side of things working. Is that true?
Charmaine: Yeah, or they can actually go on my website and send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will ship it to you. You have to incur the cost of shipping of course, but I’ll definitely ship.
Mike: Very good. Now, where can people find you online?
Charmaine: mylimation.com, www.mylimation.com.
Mike: Okay, and how about Facebook or Instagram, any of the social media sites?
Charmaine: Yes, absolutely. Facebook, mylimation. Instagram, mylimation. Twitter, mylimation.
Mike: Okay, easy. Very good.
Charmaine: I tried to keep it . . .
Mike: I was going to ask, do you have a favorite social media site?
Charmaine: You know, I’m not very good at social media, so let’s start there, but I think Twitter is my favorite little place.
Mike: Okay. Well Charmaine, I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview, and I wish you continued success.
Charmaine: I thank you so very much for your even thinking to ask me for this interview. I’m really excited about it and I thank you so much.Mike