Most commonly asked questions, answered
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
You aren’t the first person to wonder why we came to Utila, how we first started our juice bar, what our biggest challenges have been, how we met, if we ever argue, how we know so much stuff about healthy food practices, what we plan on doing next, etc. etc. etc. So, here is a little read-through of some of our most frequently asked questions.
Jess had visited Utila the year before, in 2015, and had become friends with some people opening up a restaurant. She had very casually pitched the idea of her coming back and opening up a juice bar inside of their restaurant. For this reason, Pucker Up was only ever going to be on Utila, because she was going to have the help and support of people who cared about her, and her success. Even though it didn’t work out at that location, we realized that we did have a good concept + business model, and people did like what we were doing, we just had to find a different location. This is how we ended up at Freedive Utila.
Have you ever run a business before?
Nope, this was our first time, but hopefully not our last.
Are you two related?
We are sisters, who used to fight all the time. We started to get along in our early twenties, but only realized how similar we were, and how much we actually loved each other’s company, once we began living together just the two of us, only 5 months before moving to Utila and opening Pucker Up.
Why don’t you hire someone to help you?
We have had had a few girls help us in the past. Our first helper was also our roommate and friend. Turned out she was a great baker, and made some delicious vegan deserts to sell alongside our salads. She turned out to also be a great helper, and set the bar very high for those after her. Her name was Jazzy Jess and we first met her because she was a loyal, juice loving, customer.
Next, we had another awesome girl, named Sincere Lee, who helped us with general food prep and the lunchtime rush. She was so fast and efficient, sometimes we even ran out of stuff for her to do, which felt awesome, since we were generally always running behind. “Omg it’s almost 11:00 and the salad dressing isn’t ready, lettuce isn’t chopped, and a big group of people are walking in...Let’s go!”
Our third helper was a friend from back home who came to visit for a month, and would help out during the day. This was a lesson to us that friends as staff probably aren’t the best idea, and could make for an awkward environment. If someone isn’t as passionate as we are about what we are offering, then we would rather not have the help and would prefer to do it ourselves.
How do you come up with all your recipes?
It is the perfect combination between googling and experimentation. We have each been experimenting with food items and food genres over the last ten years. This solid base of experience serves us very well when thinking up new and yummy food and drink ideas. More often than not, we just wing it, and heavily rely on our own creative know-how to give us the confidence that we need in order to believe that what we are offering is equally healthy, delicious, wholesome, and affordable.
How do you come up with all your other ideas?
Each idea has come from our own interest in creating as many food items as possible from scratch, or has come from our customers specifically asking for something. For example, we now make our own Dijon mustard because it is cheaper and healthier than buying it. We started making chocolates to satisfy our own sweet teeth but, but wanted to create something that also wouldn’t hurt our stomachs. The whole reason we started making salads was because so many people would watch us prepare salads as our own personal lunch, and then would offer to pay us if we made them the same thing.
How do you get all the stuff you need?
It has taken us a lot of time and energy to find the right vendors for the right price. This is something we are always working on. Sometimes we just happen to meet people who have something we need or could use, and voila!, new partnerships are made. Since opening, we have been able to find almost all of our fruit organically, well priced local coconut oil, free range eggs, cacao, honey, hydroponically-grown leafy lettuce, peanuts, herbs, wild greens, unpasteurized milk, and turmeric!
How do you know all this stuff?
Jess knows more than Vicky, because she has been interested in alternative lifestyles as a means to help her better handle her Type I diabetes. We didn’t learn this stuff overnight either. We’ve been building on our knowledge for years, trying to soak up as much as we can. It helps that we are also interested in this stuff, and can easily spend hours researching anything food / health-related, such as what is the difference between grains, and why GMO is bad. We then happily share this information with anyone else we discover is interested.
Do you freedive?
We did the beginner course right when we opened our juice bar at Freedive Utila, so that we could more confidently talk about the basics with people. We would like to do it again, but we just haven’t made the time.
When did you open Pucker Up?
We opened Pucker Up in March 2016. We first opened up inside of another restaurant, but that arrangement fell through. A few weeks later, we met Tex and pitched our juice bar concept to him, selling it as a great spot for where all his freedivers could get their daily dose of health. We worked out of his kitchen until October 2018.
Why did you start Pucker Up?
Jess first came up with the idea of opening a juice bar because we were both unable to find meaningful, sustainable, and reasonably well paid work back in Ottawa, Canada. At th time, we had been living together for five months, and soon discovered we basically liked doing all the same things and liked all the same people. We began doing everything together. Soon we started juicing together, and inventing creative recipe ideas. Jess already made many of her own products, and shared these with Vicky. The idea to open a business kind of all fell into place once we were able to wrap our heads around telling our friends and family, “We are quitting our jobs, moving to Utila, and opening up a juice bar”. The more we said it, the less it started to sound insane.
Do you ever fight?
We could count on one hand (maybe two) the amount of times, whilst being on Utila, one of us truly hurt the other’s feelings. We never really fight, one of us just gets awkwardly silent with the other until one of us decides to be the better person and break that silence. More often, we just tell each other exactly how we feel, listen to one another, and then come to a reasonable conclusion. It definitely helps that we think very much alike, work in a similar fashion and usually want the same things.
Is this juice bar a lot of work?
Yes. Monday to Friday we usually worked 8am-8pm. Between groceries, food prep for the day, lunchtime rush, the tornado of clean-up, and food prep for the next day, we arrived at Freedive by 8am and left by 6pm. We then went home and chose one of the products we needed to made, and did that for a couple of hours before bed. On Saturdays we cleaned the house, did laundry, and tried to get a dive in. Sundays were reserved for general prep we had to do for the week, and we utilized this day to try and minimize some of the more tedious tasks we would rather not have been stuck doing during the week, such as preparing all the fermented foods.
Our fourth helper was a nice quiet girl named Maja, who had messaged us asking if we would need any help for a few months. Sadly, business was super slow while she was on Utila, and we ended up not needing her help very much.
When Vicky left in Oct 2017, Jess knew she was going to have to find someone to help. She ended up meeting more than just the best helper ever, she also met her first student and a real friend. Amber became an important part of Jess’s life at home and work, and was a big time life saver at Pucker Up. The two would continue their friendship into future life endeavours.
Did you go to school for nutrition?
Nope, we jus love food and healthy living practices. Jess has been into DIY beauty projects, food fermenting, herbalism, and tincture-making for years. Vicky just likes to cook and learn from Jess. Occasionally she googles things, but mostly she relies on Jess’s knowledge for answers.
We love to experiment with how different foods make us feel, and how different foods taste when combined together. We also have a great customer base of people who are always willing to try our concoctions, and to give us honest feedback.
Why aren’t you more active on social media?
Well, this website is a big leap. Taking photos and updating social media is tedious, and neither one of us is particularly good at it. During the week, we try to take a few good pictures and to stay somewhat up-to-date on social media, but this is something that often slips through the cracks. Because of this, it means so much to us when people post photos of themselves eating our food or using our products. We know we need a stronger on-line presence, but we often just can’t seem to find the motivation to be posting more than a few times a week, if that.
How did you come up with the products?
It first started with the BootyBalm and DirtDetox, which we planned to sell even before coming to Utila. Jess wanted to create a clay paste that would help her deal with her own butt bumps. And the DirtDetox was a cheap and stress-free way to clean out one’s system of the invisible lurking critters. BlackAttack came next, as our friends started asking us if we could make some of our charcoal + clay toothpaste for them, after they had tried it at our house. Every subsequent product was made and added to the product line as a solution to one of our own ailments.
What has your biggest challenge been?
Aside from making enough money to live comfortably, believing that what we are offering is worth what we are charging – taking into consideration our time spent creating recipes, sourcing quality ingredients, and making the final products - has been the biggest challenge. Believing in ourselves, that we can be successful business owners with a solid backbone, has been the biggest learning curve. Because we first started Pucker Up to help people live healthier lives, sharing our passion is what we do. Putting a price tag on that has oftentimes been uncomfortable. Learning to be okay with making a living by doing what we love has been the biggest challenge, but also our biggest achievement.
How long are you going to stay on Utila?
If your reading this blog, then you know we have already left. Jess left permanently in October 2018, and moved on to a nanny position in Australia, after having created a line of botanically-based body products, known as the brand NEAT, in Ottawa over the winter of 2018. Vicky ran Pucker Up until January 2018, at which point she and new husband moved to Roatan, where she has continued Pucker Up as a delivery service and individualized meal prep service.
How old are you?
Jess was born Nov 1990 and Vicky June 1987.