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Powells coming for launch of Govt’s mentoring project

Published: 
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Former US Secretary of State General Colin L Powell (retired) and his wife Alma.

BOBIE-LEE DIXON

(bobie-lee.dixon@guardian.com)

The “Redd Swagg” brand is something you might want to get familiar with. Not only does it carry an assortment of condiments and dried foods, but it's all 100 per cent locally made by the hands of Candace Boissiere.

The 39-year-old estate constable was first introduced to the home-made craft by her grandmother who would turn her kitchen upside down each Christmas, making condiments for friends, neighbours, and family.

Boissiere's first try at it came when she was 13 years old, but she only became inclined to continue the tradition after her grandmother passed in 2013.

“I started making sauces on my own in 2014 for family and friends until I sold them for Christmas in 2015. I have been selling ever since,” she says.

The Redd Swagg line includes pepper sauces, green seasonings, pureed garlic, ginger, pimiento, and chandon beni. If you're a fan of some good “Trini” 'mudd n law,” Redd Swagg makes that too, along with pepper nuts, fruit and nut, and minced saffron. All products come in litre and gallon-size, the latter specifically made for restaurants.

But we had to ask, “What's up with the name “Redd Swagg?” Sort of odd for a food product line, don't you think?

The story behind it is quite simple actually, as Boissiere says, “The name Redd Swagg is a combination of my favourite colour and the extra love and spices I add to create that special flavour you will experience in every product.”

Speaking of red, this 'red-skinned' woman, originally from Maraval, now residing in Chaguanas, obtains all produce to make her products from her uncles who are farmers in her native residence. In her very own kitchen it takes Boissiere, her eldest son, and fiance, a full 24 hours to prepare a batch of anyone of the products. The work includes washing, peeling, prepping, mincing, heating, bottling, and labelling.

“Many times we are up all night peeling garlic,” she says through a chuckle.

The condiment business is no 'side hustle' for Boissiere as she takes it very seriously and plans to expand the brand in the future. But she explained to the Sunday Guardian that there are some challenges as a 'newcomer' on the market that can make someone who does not have a strong sense of self and the courage of conviction, to give up.

After throwing sou-sous and subsequently receiving $6,000 in financial assistance from Nedco, Boissiere said there was little or next to no support from supermarkets when she took her products to their establishments.

“Most supermarkets told us they are not accepting new items because they're overstocked. Some took the samples and the price list and never called,” she recalls.

The sweet humility of success

With a vision on the horizon and the will to keep going, amidst the disappointment, for many days Boissiere would pound the pavements, walking all over Port-of-Spain and Ariapita Avenue, going from food place to food place giving out samples and contact information in the hope someone would call with an order.

One day she walked into Scotiabank in San Juan and asked the manager if she could be permitted to sell her products in front the car park area of the bank on Saturdays. The manager gave her blessing and Boissiere began to operate her business each Saturday for five months and could have gone longer if she was not stopped by the bank security one Saturday morning as she was about to routinely set up.

“The security guard came out and told me I could not sell there. I told him I got permission from the manager but he said that manager resigned last week and the new manager said I could not sell there.”

With goods on her hand and not knowing where to turn, Boissiere had to think fast. She took out her phone and posted to her Facebook page, “free delivery today for all the customers who have pick-up orders,” and immediately customers kept messaging her. As fate would have had it, she sold out all her products that day. Needless to say, delivery is now a part of her service and she delivers to her customers anywhere in Trinidad.

Boissiere said being an entrepreneur was most times a labour of love as there is more input than output and it really takes drive and confidence in your product or business, whatever it is, to keep trying until a breakthrough occurs. She called on those who have the power to help entrepreneurs to be a bit more encouraging and helpful so that a constructive society can be rebuilt in T&T.

She leaves a few words of advice for young entrepreneurs who might be feeling the pinch of 'sweet humility' before their success, “Follow your dreams, advertise and market your product wisely, promote great customer service, and be ready to take good advice. Keep in mind customers are who make you and your business becomes, so regardless of what they spend, show them appreciation and love. Be very proud of your product and remember to add some love and 'swagg' in everything.”

For more information on the Redd Swagg brand visit Facebook @ Boissiere redd swagg pepper sauce and seasonings. You can also email candaceboissiere@gmail.com

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