Two brothers from South London have taken a Caribbean cuisine business from 500 to a national distribution network - and done it all during the pandemic.
Troy and Jarrell Johnson, who were born and raised in Tooting, are the founders of Juici Jerk, a food business that has managed to thrive during the challenging times of the pandemic.
The brothers have stumbled upon a successful system of bringing the restaurant experience into the homes of the UK public.
But it's not always been easy.
"Starting with 500 seems like a lifetime ago," said Troy. "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.
"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 cold be onto something here'."
Once the company took off, Juici Jerk were mainly catering to corporate kitchen events, snagging their first big contract with Halfords.
"At this point we were still at my mum's house in Tooting cooking all the food," said Troy. "She was trying to kick out telling us 'it's getting a bit silly now boys!'" Troy joked. "But we still didn't really know what we were doing."
The Johnson's moved the operation to a shared kitchen in Streatham five days a week and focused on events when the pandemic struck.
"Almost overnight they all got cancelled," said Troy. "Deliveroo took 35 per cent of every order and it became impossible top keep our head above water. That's when we came up with the idea of meal kits.
The initiative that's helped Juici Jerk to expand are its meal kits, which provide a restaurant experience at home.
They are pre-cooked meals delivered to an address with a step by step booklet on how to prepare it.
"Someone even ordered one from Edinburgh!" said Troy.
Troy also spoke out about the difficulty of being black men in the food industry and how there is not enough representation of black cuisines.
"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.
"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.
"If Caribbean food is not in your face on Deliveroo, no one seems to be able to order it."
This, among other things emanating from the Black Lives Matter movement, inspired the Johnson brothers to help other black-owned businesses by raising money to offer them 1,000 grants.
"Black Lives Matter was strong," said Troy. "Businesses and corporations saw the need to update their practices so we launched a GoFundMe and are working with some big names to raise 10,000 so we can help elevate black businesses and help them grow.
"Sometimes it's like 'how have we got here without any investment?'
Everything we do, we do ourselves. It's good to give back and help someone on their way.
"Our parents are proud, they are waiting for us to buy them a house!"
Troy said that once the pandemic calms down and life returns to normal they will try to release a new range of products including sauces.
"I know it sounds cliche but to anyone out there starting a company - don't give up.
"We've hit so many barriers and the reason we're seeing success now is because we persevered."
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