Meet Troy and Jarrell Johnson, two brothers born and raised in Tooting. They are the founders of Juici Jerk, a food business that sells home-cooked food. The two brothers started their Caribbean cuisine business in 2017 with just £500 (now $700).
With their shoestring budget, the brothers started small by buying few fryers and capitalized on the social media platform, Snapchat, to market their business popular. Their food business has grown to become a national success, after winning customers throughout Britain. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the brothers changed plans in order to sustain interest and keep their core customers.
The plan was to bring their successful experience in the food industry into the homes of the UK public. They began selling meal kits so that people could cook restaurant-quality Caribbean food at home. Despite the business ingenuity of the two brothers, none of them has a business background. They simply come from a Caribbean family that was always cooking in the kitchen.
Troy told MyLondon: “Starting with £500 seems like a lifetime ago. Neither of us had any business experience. We grew up in a traditional Caribbean household with a big family and something was always cooking in the kitchen.
“We got the £500 to cook chicken in a jerk van, we bought a few fryers and some other things and it really took off from there.” He continued: “We used Snapchat and managed to put our name out there and then people started calling us asking if they could get some chicken. That’s when we thought ‘hold on, we could be onto something here.”
Juici jerk was mainly catering for corporate events when it took off, including winning a major contract with Halfords. At the time, they were still cooking from their mom’s kitchen. Troy and Jarrell later moved to Streatham’s shared kitchen, but the pandemic then forced them to change to a meal kit.
The meal kits are pre-cooked meals delivered to customers with a step-by-step booklet on how to prepare them. And according to Troy, they have been getting orders from all over Britain.
Despite the relative success of the hustle, the brothers said it has been difficult for Black men in the food industry to succeed. “We had done a few street food residencies in food markets but they never allow two Caribbean food stalls or black food stall in the market at the same time,” Troy said.
“They say they want to increase diversity but have four burger spots in the same market. I know of Black-owned businesses who have tried and failed to get places at markets because of this.”
The brothers have been helping to promote other Black-owned businesses through various initiatives. In July 2020, the brothers launched a fundraising effort to set up an accelerator program in support of Black-owned food businesses.