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Jayesh Vekariya

Dark haired man with thin facial hair in dark-framed glasses smiling and wearing a checkered jacket with grey t-shirt.
  • Category: Emerging Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Master of Business Administration, 2019
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: Surat, India

About Jayesh

Hailing from an impoverished township in India, Jayesh Vekariya's journey to company CEO is a testament to his grit and determination. Jayesh's entrepreneurial spirit was evident from the age of 12, when he sold products from the side of a road to fund his education. His passion for social impact propelled him into the world of start-ups and he helped launch businesses in nine countries before launching his own company, joni. Joni’s mission is to revolutionize the menstrual-care industry through an innovative, holistic, sustainable and community-driven approach. Jayesh and joni co-founder, Linda Biggs, have adopted a triple bottom line approach—people, the planet and prosperity—to create a self-sustaining social enterprise. Innovation is at the heart of Jayesh’s entrepreneurship, which is evident in joni’s award-winning period-care dispensers that take sustainable and accessible period care to industrial levels.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are?

Before coming to Canada, I’d been to so many countries, trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I studied pharmacy and was working in the pharmaceutical industry for few years. And until I came to Canada to do my MBA, I was still looking for something to click. UVic was the first organization where the values or the pillars of being socially responsible spoke to me. Whatever I do has to have purpose or impact. Those values [at UVic] resonated with everything that I do.

What’s a characteristic in people that is underappreciated?

In entrepreneurship, a lot of people think it’s about being cut-throat and competitive, but in my experience it's been the other way around—being sympathetic and empathetic and thinking about the impact.

What’s one accomplishment that you are proud of?

I come from a community where going to high school is a big privilege. I'm the first one in my family to go to high school, to go to college and get three master’s degrees and launch a business in a different country. This is a massive thing that wouldn't be possible if the community that I was part of hadn’t all chipped in for my education. Many people paid for my books, and some organizations gave me scholarships. All those things made it possible. And this is the first year I was able to create a scholarship for someone at UVic. I've always felt education is something that should be accessible for to everyone. So creating this small scholarship in partnership with four other local businesses is something I’m really proud of.

What is something that always makes you laugh?

The poor jokes that we have in my circle of friends. When I was at UVic, we had a group of four students, and we still have that group on WhatsApp, where we make the stupidest jokes that don’t make any sense, but we love it so much.

What is one food that you cannot resist?

This might sound weird for a [Canadian] audience, but we have fried yogurt with masala, which I love so much. That's my everyday breakfast with some bread.

Do you have a secret talent that might surprise people?

Turning a problem into an impact statement and bringing people together to work on it.

Who plays you in the movie of your life?

Dev Patel. He’s a good guy. I think we are in the same age group, and he's the brown guy who’s done so much amazing work in showcasing so much of India and even the Western world and has played some amazing roles. I see him doing it maybe. But I don't think I'm that big of a celebrity. 

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.