When Sandi Huish canned her first batch of award-winning zucchini relish back in 1994 she had no way of knowing the impact it would have on the rest of her life.
“I didn’t think I would be doing this as long as I have,” said Huish. “This was just going to be my little bit of added income. I do listen to my intuition and it seems when I am at that proverbial fork in the road there is always a sign to tell me where I should be going.”
Huish has been a fixture at the Guelph Farmers’ Market for 23 years where she sells custom jewellery, pepper plants and gourmet preserves through her business Sandi’s Kitchen.
“I travel all over southern Ontario to craft shows,” she said. “I do this market and another one in Kincardine and I have a loyal following wherever I go. I have relish, jams and a no-salt seasoning that was actually made for my mom when she got off of salt for the last five years of her life.”
Huish was born in St Catharines, the middle child of five siblings. She moved to Guelph in 1994 to study horticulture at the University of Guelph.
“My first summer of my program the first jar of zucchini relish I ever made in my life was born,” she said. “It went into a contest with CFRB and Mark Cullen and it snowballed. I took the product and started selling it at the market.”
She attributes much of her success to intuition and a colourful studying technique she learned from a professor in university.
“I remembered information for exams with colour,” said Huish. “I won all kinds of scholarships and graduated one of the top people in my program just with intuition. It played a very big role – very big.”
She developed a strong entrepreneurial spirit long before she started Sandi’s Kitchen.
“I have been self-employed for almost my entire life,” said Huish. “I was a professional illustrator for almost 30 years but the passion to paint pictures just left me.”
She sells a line of earrings called Colours that contain fragments of her paintings.
“They came to me through a dream,” she said. “I listen to all the stuff that speaks to the heart. They won in a fashion competition back in the early 90s in Edmonton and I still do them.”
Colours influenced the development of her food line as well.
“My second product was a red pepper jelly,” said Huish. “It went with the green Christmas zucchini relish. So, my product line expanded based on colour. It is something I have learned over the years. So, if it is not broke don’t fix it. That has been my motto in life.”
Huish counted a number of Canadian media personalities such as Shelagh Rogers and Jeff Goodes from the CBC and David Emery from CKCO-TV among her early regular customers and they helped get the word out.
“One morning I was on my way to a craft show at the Arboretum,” said Huish. “I turned on CBC radio and heard them talking about my zucchini relish on the national airwaves. I thought I was dreaming. I thought oh my God what an incredible dream.”
She could barely keep up with the demand that followed.
“I was selling out of my stuff at the market,” said Huish. “People I didn’t even know were calling me on the phone. The newspapers did stories about me and my life changed forever.”
She likes to share what she has learned from her experiences with her customers.“Always go with what speaks to your heart because it is never the wrong answer,” said Huish. “You will come back to that and say I am so glad I listened to that. The more you do that the more it just becomes part of your lifestyle.”