“We’re not going to survive for 20 more years if we don’t do this [move to a bigger space].”
Fine, the title of this post is somewhat misleading. Because when I interviewed Josh Lewin, who is a co-proprietor of Juliet + Company with Katrina Jazayeri, on Sunday afternoon, they had only reached the halfway mark toward their $100,000 goal on Kickstarter. While things were looking solid at the time, Lewin is a rare star chef who isn’t pompous, and really didn’t know how far it could go. Their ask:
Juliet is raising money to purchase the equipment and fixtures necessary to reinvent our restaurant. The old Juliet space, the size of a small shoe store (literally, it used to be one), is being retired. Juliet is commencing a new way of working, with bigger impact, for our community and especially for our team.
Funds raised through Kickstarter will specifically fund the necessary purchase of equipment to introduce our new programs and menus that will make the evolution of Juliet possible. We first funded Juliet, in 2016, with Kickstarter as a primary method for bringing our ideas to life. Juliet, the original, was an experiment. That experiment succeeded and will remain the baseline of what we do next. But Juliet is ready to grow up, and we need your help to make this new project as successful as the first one.
You can read the rest (and kick in, if you like) on their campaign page here. But I reached out to the Juliet crew because of something that was of particular interest to me in the wording of their solicitation: “The Kickstarter portion of our funding is an incredibly important part of our larger business model, as well as our response to growth through COVID-19.”
With articles by Haley Hamilton, Eric Twardzik, and other reporters, we have focused on solutions in the restaurant industry in particular through the pandemic. Josh and Katrina have always been inventive, from their unique business plan to an online content channel they launched at the beginning of COVID. All of those efforts, it seems, helped them sail past their Kickstarter goal in a matter of days.
“We got a little bit more creative,” Lewin said about the crowdfund menu items. “We’re giving people experiences, like with this whole murder mystery theater that we do online.”
Lewin said that Juliet raised money from the public for two main reasons—the benefit of having that real community connection, and the mix of financing that their team believes will be helpful down the road. For their launch five years ago, they crowdfunded $30,000, which Lewin said was “eye-opening,” especially after they “got the final estimate for the buildout.” “We were beginners,” he recalled. “We were like, Oh shit!”
This time around, the money from Kickstarter will specifically help cover the costs of new equipment they need: “We wanted to be able to point to something specific,” Lewin said. Beyond that, they’ll still need much more, as such a move could run in the high six-figure range. So if the funders keep on coming, the more the merrier. “Having money in this manner up front,” he said, “that means there is equity we don’t have to sell off.”
“We’re not going to survive for 20 more years if we don’t do this [move to a bigger space],” Lewin added. “Now we can have some exciting conversations about what is possible.”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.