Meet the PA Maker: Ginja Snap

Ginger root is proven to have a whole host of benefits. According to Cleveland Clinic it’s high in antioxidants, improves digestion and gut health, can help ease nausea and boosts immunity. But when Shaakira DeLoatch, founder of Ginja Snap first encountered ginger root as a college student, all she knew about it is that a homemade batch of ginger tea helped calm the sore throat she’d been dealing with for days.

“Within literal seconds, I noticed a difference in my throat,” she remembers. “From that point on, I was hooked.”

For years after that DeLoatch would make a special ginger tonic that she’d drink every morning, marveling at how good it made her feel. It wasn’t until 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, that she began considering packaging and marketing her ginger drink. Thus her brand was born. In the years since, she’s steadily grown its presence with one signature product, Ginja Snap ginger water, a light, zesty, not-too sweet hydrating beverage made from water, ginger, raw honey, lemon and lime in small batches.

Ginja Snap

We enjoyed a great chat with this Philadelphia-based entrepreneur about how she got Ginja Snap off the ground and her plans for scaling it up in the future. Get to know Shaakira DeLoatch and Ginja Snap in this Meet the PA Maker feature:

PA Eats: What inspired you to turn your homemade ginger drink into a commercial product?

Shaakira DeLoatch: To be honest, I didn’t love the taste of ginger at first. Eventually, it grew on me. But I really loved the health benefits and how I felt after consuming ginger in the morning. I tried to find a similar drink to what I’d made in stores, but everything was either carbonated, overly sugary or didn’t actually list ginger in the ingredients. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t much on the market. In a Jamaican restaurant they’d have all of these different ginger beverages that actually taste like ginger, and I was inspired to bring that to an American market.

My brother has a vintage shop in Brewerytown, Search + Rescue Dry Goods, and their old space at the time had this gorgeous double garage doors, so we’d have these pop-ups during the summer of 2020. At the time, I was between jobs and figuring things out. When the pandemic hit, everyone became about wellness and immunity boosting, so I thought, What if I sold my ginger drink to his customers? I did some quick branding and started during August of 2020. It went really well, and I started brewing bigger batches for all of our weekend pop-ups. Things started to snowball and other businesses doing pop-ups would reach out to see if I would be part of their vendor lineup. Going into 2021, I decided to get the LLC and do more branding and see what this could be.

Ginja Snap

Shaakira DeLoatch of Ginja Snap

There are so many “health” drinks on the market. How did you approach your branding to stand out?

I worked with a local designer, Isabella Akhtarshenas, and Marleisse Stephens, who owns a branding and marketing company, Belmont Creative. I met Marleisse through Down North Pizza, who are family friends, because she was running their Instagram. She was more than happy to help me establish the feel, story and vibe of Ginja Snap. Then I commissioned Isabella to design the label, and we all worked together. We decided the vibe of it should be about being functional and something that makes you feel good. It’s good for you, it tastes good, it’s unapologetic, with real authentic ginger, no sugar, no frills. It’s authenticity in a bottle. And we wanted it to have a summer feeling all year round.

I tell people it’s like the ginger version of coconut water. It’s not ginger tea or ginger juice. You can mix it with a bunch of things, put it in smoothies or warm it up. It’s very functional. A lot of people say they like it because the spice level isn’t overbearing. You can sip and enjoy, you don’t want to shoot it like a shot.

Ginja Snap

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

I think I have. One of the reasons I moved back to Philly after going to college in Maryland is that I wanted to be closer to my brother. He’s always been an entrepreneur. I think it’s so cool that he’s been able to have this career in fashion and it’s all through networking, grit and hard work. That’s always been appealing. My brother and I are 13 years apart. Because I’m the baby of the family, I was really influenced by parents wanting me to go to college and do the whole 9-to-5 thing. I’ve tried to do it so many times, but something always pushes me out.

For instance, between 2021 and 2023, I was working as a project manager. At the time I was also doing a lot of markets to get the city familiar with Ginja Snap. But because I had a full-time job, managing those two of those was very difficult. I was doing everything I could to get the name out there, but didn’t have enough brain space for the strategy and long-term planning. I was getting very antsy toward the end of 2022, feeling unfulfilled in my job but scared to be unstable.

In January 2023, I went to Jamaica and met Marleisse in real life. She splits her time in LA and Jamaica. For me, Jamaica is such a special, medicinal place, and meeting her and being on the island was like Wow, feeling like this is how I want people to feel when they drink Ginja Snap. When I got back home to Philly, I was laid off from my job the very next day. I could feel the weight literally lift off my shoulders. I had a severance package and unemployment and figured that had to be the sign to focus 100% on Ginja Snap.

Ginja Snap

What has the past year looked like for Ginja Snap?

So 2023 was a whirlwind. At first, I wanted to start by working with the Drexel Food Lab to get the pH of my product dialed in, which is important for certain bottling processes. But I couldn’t afford to do it, so it went on the back burner.

Then, in the summer, I was accepted into Fab Business Workshop, a business conference for women held in South Carolina and received a scholarship. There, I did a tremendous amount of networking and was so inspired by all of the women in food that I met. It reinforced that everything I want to do can be done because the women there had already done it.

Right after that, I realized I needed to work as hard as I could to the best of my abilities and that things would naturally go to the next stage. Instead of focusing on the Drexel thing, I asked: What can I do now? I realized I can produce out of a commissary kitchen instead of my home kitchen, and made that the new priority. That meant Ginja Snap could be sold in stores, and that opened more visibility, which opened more opportunity. I got press coverage on Fox 29’s Good Day Philly and The Philadelphia Business Journal. I applied for and was accepted into a 12-week entrepreneurship program, Santander Cultivate Small Business, specifically for food businesses. That was an amazing experience and the grant money from that is what I used to fund the Drexel process. So it all came full circle, and showed me that sometimes what you want you may not be ready for, because there are other things that need to happen first.

Ginja Snap

What do you dream of when you look to 2024 and the future?

Right now, we’re working on scaling the recipes with the Rutgers University Food Innovation Center. The pH was Step 1; Step 2 is actually scaling the recipe, because when you scale up, things taste different. I’m also getting into understanding the market and the nitty gritty of the competitive analysis, and all of the things that go into the R&D phase. I kind of started Ginja Snap backwards. Most people do all of these steps first, then test the market, but I did all of that on my own and now I’m trying to fine-tune in order to scale. I would love to be in big stores like Target and in more shops and boutiques. And I’d love to be more markets where people are really obsessed with being healthy, like LA, New York and Miami.

Ginja Snap

For more information on Ginja Snap, including a list of stockists in the Philadelphia area, check out its website. To keep up with events, pop-ups and more, follow along on Instagram.

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