When I first heard of Juka’s Organic, I wasn’t sure what it was. I was like “which one is Juka again?” Notwithstanding, I gave them the audience and I have to tell you it was one of the most pleasant audience I had ever granted. Juka’s Organic is a company that sells African products and one of my favorite things, the African organic Palm oil.
Receiving the palm oil in the mail, the box smelled like sweet plantain chips. On opening it, it was a box of palm oil, coconut oil and palm oil sauce. Although the oils smelled so sweet on opening them, I didn’t rush to taste them as I wanted to take my time to relish in each bottle.
The first of the oils I tried was the palm oil sauce. It was not salty and it tasted freshly made. I had it with some boiled white yam and some corned beef sauce. It was so good I had to start adding it in everything we ate. Even with beans and African bread it was tickety boo!
The coconut oil wasn’t any different. It tasted coconutty and wholesome. I used it for my oil pulling and I made some noodle stir fry. Freshness guaranteed!
My favorite was the Red Palm oil. Juka’s Organic palm oil is the truth! The whole truth and nothing less. I’m a cook/chef and I am someone who cooks for people so I use a lot of palm oil in my soups and sauces. I know people who do not like palm oil. They would eat anything but palm oil until Dr. Oz and even Oprah endorsed it as a superfood.
I think as Africans, we don’t understand the value and wholeness of our foods. And I digress.
In my first attempt using Juka’s Organic red palm oil, I made some yam pottage with it. The oil smelled sweet and the color was the most brilliant shade of red I had ever seen. The yam pottage tasted differently from the others I had ever made. The taste was deliciously inexplicable. Sweet spot confirmed! I thought I was enjoying palm oil until I tasted Juka’s Organic palm oil. Now I hide my Juka’s oils in my pantry make story no enter abeg.
After tasting these oils, I knew I had to talk to Juka and not only is she a beautiful human being, but her story is one every woman has to listen to.
Nlc: Who and what is Juka?
Juka: “My name is Juka and I am from Gambia. I am an entrepreneur and a former activist but once an activist, always an activist”
Nlc: You said you’re an activist. What area of activism do you have a passion for?
Juka: “I’m an activist against injustice, I was part of a movement that brought an end to 22 years of dictatorship in the Gambia”
Nlc: Are your parents Gambians?
Juka: “Yes but they both lived in Sierra Leone, my father was a businessman. They later moved back to Gambia and my father had a very successful business as the sole importer of Sunoco motor oil. With no formal education, my dad started that business and did very well by opening franchise stores across the country. My mom also had a poultry and few other business and did well for herself”
Nlc: How many siblings do you have?
Juka: “It was nine of us and with my brother’s passing, we are now 8.”
Nlc: What made you start Juka’s Organic?
Juka: “At a young age, I moved from New York to California and I opened an African store in Inglewood. After few years of running the store, I decided to close it and liquidate everything and ended up with only two thousand dollars. I invested and lost a lot in that store but even with that loss I knew I had to do more with our red palm oil because a lot of the palm oil that was sold across the country weren’t that authentic. But I still had to close my store. After closing the store, that was when I decided to go to the villages in Africa to get the real thing and work particularly with women farmers. Dr. Oz had also endorsed red palm oil as a super food, I started selling more of it to non-Africans as well; then I decided to add more natural, healthy food and beauty products from African villages to our catalog”
Nlc: what states and stores can we find your products?
Juka: “Texas, New York (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, New Jersey), Arizona, Las Vegas, California (Los Angeles & San Diego), Canada, Singapore or they can get it from Walmart.com or Amazon.com You can also visit us on our website for partner store locations www.jukasorganic.com Or on all social media platforms with the handle, Juka’s Organic Co.
Nlc: Are all your oils in glass bottles?
Juka: “We have both glass jars and high grade plastic bottles which are BPA free and are easier to transport. But a lot of our customers are very health conscious and they like the glass containers hence we still have the glass jars for those who prefer them.”
Nlc: what did you study in university?
Juka: “Accounting and business. I also worked as a model with Wilhelmina models in NYC for three years and went back to California. I was very lucky I must say, as a model and TV commercial actress, I did around 20 national commercials. My first national was booked with Virgin mobile in NYC and after that it just took off. I did American Express, T-Mobile, MasterCard, Dell, Saab car commercials, Axe deodorant AT&T and so many more that I still can’t believe it when I look back.
Nlc: Are you still in the industry?
Juka: “No. I don’t have the time to stay in the industry at this moment as I have to focus on growing Juka’s Organic Co. I remember I had to always put a sign up my store to let customers know I was coming back so I could go to my auditions. I was very attached to the store, it was my baby and closing it was one of the hardest things I had to do. I worked so hard, with getting all my permits and all the investments but I believe closing it was a blessing in disguise. It certainly opened a new door.
Nlc: Where do you see yourself in the future?
Juka: “I see myself working with more countries in Africa. I would like to see an expansion into more states and more stores in the U.S.A. Africa is one of the biggest continent in the world yet our food is not noticed by many. My goal is to bring Africa to mainstream through our healthy foods and beauty products.
Nlc: Is there anything you’d want people to know about you?
Juka: “I’m a fighter, I don’t give up easily. I want to inspire every young mind especially girls. I want every young girl to know that they can be the best in whatever they want to be as long as they are willing to work hard, smart and with great intentions behind their ideas”