During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have faced turbulent times with many having to pivot their business model or worse close down. However, the takeaway market has allowed people to try a variety of new foods from home. Two entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of this to bring a new type of cuisine to the U.K. are Jusnah Gadi and Samantha Pascal, founders of Hot ‘N’ Juicy Shrimp London.
Gadi and Pascal, both from London had their first entrepreneurial experiences relatively young. Pascal who studied Forensic Science at university started a beauty business selling hair extensions and offering styling to clients alongside a catalogue of different businesses spanning over the course of 9 years, currently launching Yoni Divinity, a feminine care brand. Gadi who holds an LLB and LPC specialising in music law had her first foray into entrepreneurship starting a record label which preceded starting a company called Young Music Boss which is a resource hub and network building tool for young music entrepreneurs and creatives where they get prepared not only to become musicians but successful professionals in the industry helping them with issues such as setting up trademarks and dealing with copyright issues.
In May 2018 the duo who were good friends traveled to Las Vegas where they tried a Seafood Boil, a Louisianan Cajun seafood dish. They fell in love with the dish and upon returning to the U.K. found restaurants that would serve them but “they were never as good as the meal we had in the U.S.” they recall. Pascal suggested they start their own company bringing the famous dish over to the U.K. in the right way. Initially, Gadi was hesitant but Pascal went about attempting to replicate the authentic taste starting Hot n Juicy Shrimp Ldn, Gadi later agreed to join realising it was a viable business.
Neither of the two ladies had any experience opening a restaurant but started setting up the business, making the food out of their home kitchens, and marketing through social media. They began to see orders trickle in but still thought to themselves “what are we doing”. Within a few months, they were getting so many orders they could not keep up with demand. This was the signal to look into moving to a commercial kitchen and hiring staff. They worked hard to educate themselves on the industry and obtain all the relevant licences to take on this market which was foreign to them.
They soon found a kitchen in Bethnal Green and hired staff in preparation for their first big weekend. However, that weekend turned out to be a disaster. They had not anticipated the challenges that come with transitioning from making small batches of food to large batches such as consistent taste, cooking time or handling industrial equipment. Over 50% of their customers complained and this proved to be an extremely tough time for the duo but also a pivotal turning point in their journey. That weekend they spent hours on the phone and decided the best course of action would be to invite all of the unhappy customers to a focus group so they could try and win them over but more importantly learn from their mistakes.
A Hot ‘N’ Juicy Turnaround
The duo worked tirelessly over the following weeks to implement the changes and shortly after they opened for another big weekend of orders. This weekend turned out to be a huge success and since then Hot ‘N’ Juicy has continued to grow at a rapid pace as customers continue to refer friends. Having amassed a huge following and a loyal customer base, counting the likes of Kojo Funds, Krept and a host of other celebrities amongst their regulars, they now firmly stand as the leading seafood boil company in the UK.
Whilst commercial success is extremely important for the duo and they intend to have many outlets across the U.K. building and supporting communities is equally important. Alongside their Instagram they have recently launched a YouTube channel with the headline show ‘If you can’t take the heat’ where celebrities and influencers participate in an eating challenges as well as answering questions.
Outside of their digital community they “are very proud that they have been able to create jobs in the community” hiring school leavers and offering them their first form of employment in what is a tough economic environment. Additionally they work on various charitable missions such as the ‘It takes a village to raise a child campaign’ where they delivered Christmas hampers to single parent families and delivered essential supplies to orphanages on a recent trip to Tanzania.
Ultimately Jusnah Gadi and Samantha Pascal are very aware that their business would not be a success without the community that has supported them. In the years to come they want these communities and many more to share in their success.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can keep up to date with new releases or contact me on Twitter – @TommyASC91.