Dayum Jam owner Andy Waller was able to fund their own top surgery through jam sales. Now they’re working with Side By Side to offer similar help to a local transgender youth with similar needs.
Andy Waller’s gender-affirming top surgery was funded by a homegrown business selling lots and lots of jars of mango jam. Now, on the one-year anniversary of the day they started testosterone treatments, they want to pay it forward.
Dayum Jam, named for the phrase, “damn, this is my jam!” describes itself as a queer and trans-owned business. Founder Andy Waller, who identifies as transgender and nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, started the business in 2015. It was born from a conversation between Waller and their best friend, Lindsay Larkin. Waller, bored and frustrated with their job at a nonprofit, jokingly suggested to Larkin that they start a business.
“She was kind of receptive,” Waller said. “She said ‘I’m good at canning.’ So my wife, me, my best friend, and her husband all hung out one night. And a bottle or two of wine later, Dayum Jam was born.”
In addition to fruit jams, the company also makes pickles and salsas. All the products have names inspired by popular songs. The company’s logo is, appropriately, an excited strawberry wearing a pair of headphones.
The produce that they use is what Waller calls “hyper-local,” sourced from farmers’ markets in the area. Lakeside Farmers Market in Henrico is of particular importance, as that’s where the Dayum Jam kitchen is located.
“We buy fruit there, we cook there, and we practically live there,” Waller said.
The company sells their jams at Lakeside Farmers Market, as well as in a few local grocery stores such as Little House Green Grocery and online at their website.
Waller says that they’ve learned some lessons about making jam over the years.
“Strawberries are our most popular, but they’re temperamental,” Waller said. “They have a lot of water, so we don’t want to use too much of an additive that adds liquid.”
After a failed attempt at creating a strawberry champagne jam, Waller and their chef switched to a strawberry balsamic, named “Strawberry Zeal Forever,” which worked better. Some of their other flavors are “Baby Got Blackberry,” which is blackberry lime, and “Bohemian Raspberry,” which is raspberry mint.
When Waller wanted to raise money for their own top surgery back in 2019, they created a limited-edition mango chutney called “Wake me up when they mango-go,” which earned them all the money they needed and more. Waller will be receiving the surgery in mid-September.
“We hit my goal very quickly, and all the proceeds after that went to pay my staff and keep our business from imploding,” Waller said.
Dayum Jam currently has two employees besides Waller and their wife — a jam chef and an events coordinator. Only because they are so small, Waller said, were they able to stay afloat during the pandemic.
When the coronavirus hit Richmond, Dayum Jam moved almost entirely online. Waller found themselves stuck inside and unable to engage in their usual activism efforts. That’s when they reached out to local LGBTQ organization Side By Side and learned about Kai.
Kai is a local transgender youth who started a GoFundMe to raise money for his top surgery after losing his job due to COVID-19. “It’s my par(T)ea” is the name of the sweet tea and lemon flavored jelly created for Kai’s fundraiser. It costs $8.55 a jar, and all proceeds will go towards Kai’s top surgery fund. It’s also the first jelly the company has ever made, which Waller said was a difficult process to perfect.
“With the tea jelly, it’s black tea — which is literally liquid. We added some lemon zest and lemon juice, with sugar and pectin to make it set,” Waller said. “We didn’t have a ton of success at first, because our company uses less sugar than the average jam company.”
The Dayum Jams website also links to another page of merchandise for Kai’s fund, including buttons that say “protect trans lives” and “proud to be their friend.”
The company has been giving to other causes as well. After the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement across the country, Waller created a blueberry jam called “I see your blue colors,” and donated all the proceeds, first to RVA Bail Fund, and then to MAD RVA after RVA Bail Fund put out a statement saying that they had gained enough donations.
“We are not shy about saying we believe in reforming — or honestly, abolishing — police,” Waller said.
Waller says that the pandemic has made them rethink the way they run their business. They are currently taking online orders, with Waller’s wife as the sole delivery person.
Waller will be hosting a virtual “It’s my Par(T)ea” event in support of Kai, along with Blue Bee Cider and Side By Side. Items purchased during the event on October 11 can be delivered to purchasers or picked up at Blue Bee Cider. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Kai’s fund.
Though Waller has never met Kai in person, they say they want to get to know him better in the future.
“Right now I only know his name. I want to know just a little more about him and his hobbies.” Waller said. “But even if I never get to meet him, that’s totally fine. It’s all about paying it forward.”
Top Photo via Dayum (This Is My) Jam/Facebook