From weekend hobby to full-time career: How this Camberwell based couple cooked up a fast-growing business

  • Only Jerkin’ has expanded to three London locations, employing a team of 10
  • Upgraded financial tools and increased card payments now encouraging the couple to go completely cashless
  • Next stop, Dubai as the business makes international moves

Luke Dawes and Jess Olson are co-owners of Only Jerkin’, a street food business that puts a tasty twist on dishes with traditional jerk flavours.

The business, which came to life after Luke was experimenting in his kitchen at home, has grown rapidly since being founded 18 months ago.

Luke says, “I love cooking with different flavours. I was playing around with my mum’s traditional jerk recipe when I came up with Only Jerkin’s famous dish – our  jerk chicken nuggets triple dipped in a ginger beer batter.”

“They went down so well with my girlfriend Jess and my friends that we continued developing different recipes. Eventually, we got to the point where we thought we’d give a street food business a go and see if others liked what we’d been cooking up.”

In the weekdays, Luke and Jess continued working their full-time jobs – Luke as a psychiatric nurse and Jess as a set designer – and at the weekend the couple hit the markets to bring their street food to the masses.

“Our first market was at Rupert Street in Soho. It all took off really quickly and within six months Jess and I knew that we needed to dedicate 100% of our time to Only Jerkin’.”

Keen to expand rapidly they started upgrading their equipment and rolling out to new locations.

“We now operate in three locations in London and have a team of ten,” says Luke.

“Expanding quickly to multiple locations meant it was essential we put the right systems in place. When Only Jerkin’ was a hobby that Jess and I worked on alone we just accepted cash at our stalls,” says Luke.

“But, I knew we were missing out on sales and wanted to centralise all of our finances.”

Now, Only Jerkin’ uses iZettle to manage its transactions. Since accepting card payments the couple has noticed an increase in sales. 80% of transactions are card payments at their Kerb Market sites.

“Fewer people are carrying cash these days so going cashless is definitely appealing to us,” says Luke. “It would be more hygienic, safer and easier for me to manage.”

Luke and Jess have cooked up a storm over the past 18 months and show no signs of slowing down. Only Jerkin’ is about to launch its very own monthly events featuring street food, music, and cocktails. And, it’s already dipping its toes in international waters with a promising franchise opportunity in Dubai.