Two brothers who started a Caribbean food business with just £ 500 say they are on the cusp of expanding after gaining customers across Britain.
Troy and Jarrell Johnson, from Tooting, founded Juici Jerk in 2017 to sell their home cooking. But when the pandemic hit, they had to change their plans quickly – and instead started selling meal kits so people could cook restaurant-quality Caribbean food at home.
Now, they’ve moved to a new kitchen to help them meet demand – and the brothers will be relaunching the Juici Jerk brand in June and launching a new line of meal kits.
Troy said: “We have a lot of orders from afar – often over 100 miles south of London. We have orders from Aberdeen and Cornwall. A lot of people say they don’t have Caribbean food where they live.
Meal kits became popular across the UK during lockdown times, with many restaurants and caterers selling kits allowing customers to cook restaurant-quality food at home.
Troy says he and Jarrell spotted a gap in the Caribbean food market.
He said: “We really care about providing quality ingredients, everything is made in-house from scratch.
“I would probably call them intermediate standard kits. It does require a bit of cooking – it’s definitely for people who love to cook.
“We give them a manual that guides them to hopefully prepare a Caribbean meal in, hopefully, a nice and intimate environment.”
The brothers also got a boost when they were featured on BusinessLive’s sister site, MyLondon, where they explained how their business got started.
Troy said: “Starting with £ 500 seems like an eternity.
“None of us had any business experience. We grew up in a traditional Caribbean family with a big family and something was always cooking in the kitchen.
That £ 500 kicked them off and they used Snapchat and social media to grow.
Juici Jerk has started planning for corporate events, including a big contract with Halfords. The company moved from their mother’s house in Tooting to a shared kitchen in Streatham – but the pandemic then struck, forcing them to switch to meal kits.
Troy said that as the business grew, he wanted to promote Caribbean and black cuisines to a wide audience.
He told MyLondon: “We had done a few street food residences in food markets, but they never allow two Caribbean food stalls or one black food stall in the market at the same time.
“They say they want to increase diversity but have four hamburger restaurants in the same market. I know of black-owned businesses that have tried and failed to get places in the markets because of it.
“If Caribbean food isn’t in your face on Deliveroo, no one seems to be able to order it.”
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The Johnson brothers have also made efforts to promote other black-owned businesses by raising funds so that they can offer small grants to other start-ups.
Troy said: “Sometimes it’s like ‘how did we get here without any investment?’
“Everything we do, we do it ourselves. It’s good to give back and help someone on their way.