The owner, Leesa Reize, graduated in 1989, first in her Economics Class from Pace University, New York. Her memorable takeaway from Business School: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Upon graduating, Leesa spent almost twenty-three years in Banking and Finance at institutions such as Bankers Trust, CIBC, Scotiabank and SAGICOR and others. She became a respected Treasury Trader, specializing in currency trading. She is married to David Angeron, himself a former Corporate and Merchant Banker, and she has one son, Kyle. In the kitchen, she says she is still learning to cook. And, she likes to remind you that she is also a proud alumni of St. Joseph Convent, Port-of- Spain.
Recently, I received a call from a Trini, now resident in Washington State, USA. The lady called to say how much she “enjoyed eating Perfect Peppers Pepper Jelly”. Her sister and family had visited her from Trinidad and had included the jelly amongst their Trini gifts. She so enjoyed her gift, she had to call me to share her happiness and to indicate that on her next visit to Trinidad, she wants to meet Perfect Peppers. Things have certainly changed in the years since my first crafty Christmas 2010 gifts to my friends and family. Shoppers can now choose from a line of condiments, pepper jellies, infused salts, infused vodka cocktails, fruity vinaigrettes and cheese dips. And now we are launching On-Line shopping!
Perfect Peppers can currently be found on the shelves of most gourmet and specialty stores in Trinidad and Tobago including Adams, Malabar Farms, Blooms, Linda’s, Peppercorns, Happy Gourmet and Vanilla Bean. We are also in Baked by Chow (at the Piarco Mall) and Kari’s Kraft (in the Piarco Departure Hall). In Tobago, you can find the product at Romike’s Meat Shop, Moorshead’s and Penny Savers.
The Perfect Peppers gourmet line has also travelled by suitcase to homes in Ireland, England, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia and not to mention Atlanta, Houston, Montana, Miami, Boston, Wisconsin, New York, Toronto and London, to name a few places. We always laugh at where things started, now we have serious dreams of where we want to go with Perfect Peppers.
As I plan for the future, the immediate priority is to secure a manufacturing home (including HAACP readiness), so I can formally export to the Caribbean and the wider world, and expand the lines with new fruity flavors. I have three more infused salts (really meat rubs) in mind, and two more pepper jellies.
I wish to enter a few competitions too, as my appetite has been whetted by winning Category and Overall in the 2015 CARIRI Indigenous Innovative Fiery Foods Festival. Our winning entry was Fire Vinaigrette.
And I cannot forget to mention the indefatigable Joel Villafana, and his persevering wife Mirella, for memorable episodes of Cup of Joe and the Cookbook.
I look back to July 2010, when my retirement gift of pepper trees to my husband David, resulted in an ever increasing bounty of beautiful, sun-kissed, hot and flavorful peppers being harvested from our garden, leading to an experiment that is today Perfect Peppers. Harvesting led to bottling. And bottling led to craft packaging. Then, the complete package became unique Christmas gifts to my friends for Christmas 2010. My friends holiday surprise and joy, was followed by requests for repeats. Given the excitement of these initial sales, I began to respond with more recipes. Thus the Perfect Peppers vision to create a range of gourmet products which features Trinidad & Tobago fruits and tastes was forged – as I was driven to create more gourmet products that would capture the imagination of foodies worldwide. The condiment line was the first to emerge, and then I began to turn out infused salts, followed by pepper jellies, infused alcoholic cocktails, and now vinaigrettes.
Along the way, my cousin invited me to a craft fair one weekend, and this become an eye opener as customers reacted enthusiastically to my products. Vendors at the fair introduced me to Upmarket – a monthly food fair held at the Woodbrook Youth Facility. This fair became an incubator – as I was able to taste-test our products and packaging concepts, and to build that initial loyal customer following.
Then stores began to approach and place orders. So I was in business, and for the first time in my life, I realized I could achieve my lifelong wish – to be self-employed. So I am eternally grateful to my cousin and friends for the accidental kick-start, and to all my customers and suppliers – especially farmers, whom I have come to know since.
Also, I will always be extremely grateful for all the exposure and incentives provided by exporTT, as we have been show-cased to Inbound Buyers, the Fancy Food Fair 2014 at The Javits Centre in New York City and the Trade & Investment Convention 2014 in Trinidad. Plus, they have provided so many invaluable training courses and advice.
The greatest success to date has been the overwhelming response to the products and to my packaging concepts. My future goal – to have a Perfect Peppers world of tremendously enthusiastic and satisfied customers. To achieve that requires exponentially growing my customer base – platforming via formal manufacturing processes and aggressive exporting. I would like the brand to be known world-wide, for excellence and uniqueness. In that way, I will do Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean proud.
Finally, I have also created Leave it to Leesa Gifts, my hamper and gift packaging business, as a compliment to Perfect Peppers. It started from the need to gift package the products, upon request by customers. This business has been generating its own level of excitement. Just as with Perfect Peppers, I have a lot of ideas and enthusiasm here for my dear customers.
Leesa Reize – Owner