The LGBTQ-owned organic jam company is looking to make their business full-time with the purchase of a food trailer. They've faced plenty of struggles along the way.
Sarah Honosky | July 25, 2018
A queer-owned Richmond business, “Dayum this is my Jam,” is taking a big step in the direction of something tiny: a 6×6 food trailer that will take them closer to making their local, organic jam company a full time gig.
“It’s a huge step for us,” said co-founder Abby Waller. “It’s a tiny, tiny trailer that we’re trying to buy, but for us it’s ginormous.”
Though Dayum this is my Jam (Dayum Jam for short) got its start in the Richmond farmers market circuit, the trailer offers a chance for something a little more permanent. They have their eye on a tiny, blue food cart named “Tink,” where they plan to sell waffles topped with fruit, whipped cream, and their own “original recipe” squeezable jam.
Last week marked the three-year jamiversary of Dayum Jam, founded in 2015 by Waller and her childhood best friend, Lindsay Larkin. Dayum Jam is a family affair, with recipes pulled from Larkin’s grandmother’s cookbook, and the support of spouses and community.
When Waller and her wife had their first baby three months ago, it inspired her to take the next step with the business. Waller said it is also an opportunity to be the leader that she has always wanted to see in the workforce, and to set an example for her newborn child. “I’m a new mom and I think it makes you really take a look at your life.”
Part of this reflection was brought on by Waller’s fraught experiences at previous jobs. She has been a victim of workplace sexual harassment, as well as explicit homophobia and discrimination. This narrative is nothing new, but in a generation that preaches greater inclusion and diversity, actions in workplace environments often aren’t as pure as their highly-lauded diversity claims would suggest.
“I’ve had such traumatic experiences in my work life with some jobs I’ve held, I’m at a point where I can’t go through that again,” said Waller. “I want to be the kind of leader who gives a shit.”
There is currently no nationwide law to protect LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination in the private sector or under state employment. In a majority of states, including Virginia, being fired due to sexual orientation or gender orientation is a reality. This is the same country in which 1 in 3 women has been sexually harassed in the workplace, according to a Cosmopolitan study.
It happens even in the places you don’t expect, like one of Waller’s previous jobs at a ultra-hip start-up company. “It was a one-room space where you can reach out and touch the other person,” said Waller. “The CEO was younger than I was.”
“One day, completely out of the blue, [a coworker] just straight up sent the most inappropriate thing to me,” said Waller. “He legitimately sexually harassed me… I was super scared to say anything or make a big deal.”
When she finally did report it, she was a laid off a few weeks later.
At another job, bringing up her girlfriend in casual conversation with another female coworker led to a meeting with the higher-ups.
“Because of this super innocent conversation, I was sat down in this super intimidating, stuffy boardroom with the HR director and the highest ranking three folks at the company and had this crazy, terrifying conversation.”
They said they were concerned about her judgement, and worried “she was trying to recruit people.” Meanwhile, Waller was worried she was going to lose her job.
“I’m sure to this day those people have no clue how atrocious and discriminatory that was,” said Waller.
Especially after having a child, Waller wants to work at a job where she is respected and comfortable. “I want to come home from work and not be beaten down,” said Waller. “I want to be fulfilled by the work that I do.”
Part of that is using her own leadership position to combat those experiences and statistics. She emphasizes her appreciation of her employees, and runs an openly queer and women-owned business without apology.
Juggling a full-time job, a budding business, and a newborn isn’t easy for anyone, but couple that with a history of workplace trauma, and it’s enough to make Waller ready to be her own boss. “I want to operate my business living my truth, and being exactly who I am.”
“I’m queer as fuck. I’m open about that,” said Waller. “If you have a problem with it, you can go buy some Smuckers off the shelf.”
Dayum Jam started a GoFundMe to make their next business venture possible. You can donate here.
Find everything from their bestselling jam, “Baby Got Blackberries,” to the their hit pickles and salsas at their online store. And find Dayum Jam itself at Lakeside Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and Carytown Farmer’s Market on Sundays.