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Inspiring Conversations with LaKesha Veney of DeVine Wine Jelly

Today we’d like to introduce you to LaKesha Veney.

Hi LaKesha, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.

I am a native of Washington DC. Guided and inspired by my southern parents, I began experimenting with cooking at age four. My philosophy is that the best cooking begins with having passion and respect for quality ingredients and ends with imagination and a desire to delight the palate. I favor an experimental approach to culinary education. A career changer, I left the field of physical therapy after a decade and decided to step behind the stove to put my heart and skills to work. I began preparing family meals for relatives and friends who had been asking me to do so for many years. In 2009, I decided to pursue my natural passion and start my own small catering business. During the same year, an opportunity was presented to cater a year-long series of events for a major organization. At that time, I was described as “fresh contemporary edge” word of mouth and “good tasting food” has been the catalyst for DeVine Handz. Word spread about the unique blending of flavors at tastings and events that potential clients lined up fast. I catered events for wineries, weddings, corporate events, and repasts, wherever good food was requested! I have had the pleasure of delighting a diverse clientele with my passion for cooking.

My Story
In September 2014, as I was catering a 40th birthday celebration, I was asked to be a vendor in a bridal expo to prepare appetizers for their upcoming cocktail wedding reception. I intended to “WOW” 30 brides with my selections and keep their palates dazzled with a trendy, sophisticated, and edible favor to remember me. Ambitiously I was hoping I would be their selected caterer. I combined my passion for food and admiration for wine to create DeVine Wine Jelly. At the time, I was doing wine tastings for a local winery and thought it was a unique idea. I began experimenting with jelly ingredients, replacing the fruit with premium fruit wine. Instantly, the perfect recipe and consistency were created. Unfortunately, the event was canceled, so the jellies were given to family, friends, and customers at local spirit stores. It was well received by those who sampled for the first time. Many insisted I present this to markets, wineries, and retailers. My entrepreneurial juices started to flow, and the DeVine Wine Jelly journey began. I am extremely proud to have created a unique product enjoyed year-round among family and friends. A true blessing in disguise.

DeVine Wine Jelly was created and launched in 2014.  Six fabulous flavors: Blackberry Merlot, Peach Chardonnay, Cranberry Shiraz, Jalapeno Green Apple Riesling, Coconut-Lime Riesling, and Sangria. A Rainbow jelly was created in April 2022 to represent sunrise to sunset. The flavors are Peach Chardonnay and Blackberry Merlot to remember the passing of my good friend and her beautiful spirit. These gourmet jellies are fragrant, with a delightful aroma and sweet pungent flavor that maintains its wine appeal. DVWJ is an introduction to a new way of entertaining with jelly. Great on pancakes, charcuterie, glaze grilled salmon, shrimp skewers, Thanksgiving panini, cornbread, croissants, over cream cheese, and an adult PBJ! A few accessories have been added for an ultimate DeVine Wine Jelly experience. A slanted wine glass (which allows you to smell and sip simultaneously without hitting your nose …smile) bamboo appetizer wine plate with a glass holder, and a portable bamboo wine table for you + 1 to enjoy on all your outdoor adventures!

I am grateful for my collaborations and support with Calvin Epps, Misfit Winery, St. Michaels Winery, Star Bright Farm (Lavender Wine Jelly using organic lavender), Robin Hill Farm & Vineyard, Jamaica’s Finest Cocktails (Rum Punch Jelly), Ambrosia Wine Studio and Stone House Winery to name a few. DeVine Wine Jelly has now been sold in 17 states, including Alaska! In March 2018, for National Women’s History Month, Cuisine Noir Magazine reviewed DeVine Wine Jelly Blackberry Merlot as a food, wine, and travel must-have. In 2020 BigCommerce recognized DVWJ (African- American business owners) for Black History Month. Since June 2022, DeVine Wine Jelly is available at Capers and Lemons Italian restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the delightful conversations I have at events as I travel from state to state. One of my favorite parts is shipping! I still touch every jar several times. My product is made with 100% love. I feel I meet everyone as they open their order and enjoy the jelly. Good food is the essence of any social gathering. The joyful expressions from consumers after the first taste are a constant motivation for DeVine Wine Jelly to become a household favorite, creating priceless memories. I am looking forward to continuous growth and many more retail opportunities soon. This little jar is wine caviar. Taste it, Love it, Want it!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not sure I always acknowledge mishaps as struggles. I have a very determined personality. Sometimes when things are not as smooth, I truly treat it as a learning process. I know I will surely learn something to connect another piece to the puzzle of  the process that will make more sense later. However, like many, businesses, the pandemic became challenging. With the uncertainties of one of my ingredients not being available. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going anywhere; God gave me this assignment, and I had to figure it out quick. It pushed me to dig deep. Some days I would be on the phone for hours, on hold, and nothing was accomplished. As my online business continued to grow, I was motivated to push harder every day.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
My DVWJ journey brings me so much joy. I feel it represents me enjoying life and being grateful for what I have. I have built my business from the ground up. I can keep a balanced family life because of my patience and organizational skills. I feel you must be your authentic self and stay humbled to be most successful and NEVER EVER GIVE UP! Don’t let your only focus be money, it will come when you have a great product. I am proud to have created a happy product that people enjoy and that gives me versatility in my life. I have established a great client base of repeat customers that keeps my heart smiling. 

FunFact: I keep a journal of how many wines I sample each year, with who and what tasty foods were prepared. In 2021, I conquered 196. I feel wine is a drinkable art that I well respect. I only sip when in peaceful and pleasant moods (which can be most days…smile) It starts with the glass for me. I would never sip wine in a cup. I want my jelly to be a welcomed gift in a hotel, on a ship, or plane… stay tuned. I want my brand to keep a professional and sophisticated vibe that is well enjoyed and talked about well after it is consumed.

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