Updated: Dec 11, 2019
This little business was conceived at the beginning of August 2019. I returned to the states after a trip abroad that was intended to help me “find myself” feeling more lost than before I had left. We both felt antsy, like we were stuck standing still while the rest of the world sprinted off ahead of us. If we didn’t create something new, we would wither away into nothingness (or so I felt).
For over a year we had been obsessed with the mystical properties of dates. How could a fruit have the flavor-profile and texture of a caramel candy??? We ordered cases of dates online, trying all different varieties and putting them in everything we could think of: brownies, donuts, smoothies, and finally… ice cream.
We’re people that like to eat dessert after every meal-- and I mean every meal-- so to have a decadent dessert option that we can eat as much as we want without feeling that icky, sugar-overdose-feeling was a serious game changer. We had been tossing around the idea of selling date-sweetened ice cream at grocery stores, but the concept hibernated in the back of our minds until this past August. And at that point it was the end of summer-- would anyone even want ice cream after the season changed?
What better way to launch a business from scratch than to sign up to vend at a major festival that’s <4 weeks away, right? Equipped with nothing but a name and a basic, vanilla recipe, we said, “F*ck it” and committed to the Columbus Vegan Festival looming ahead on August 24th.
Now that a fire was lit under our asses, we got to work. I wrote out a semi-daunting checklist of all the tasks we would have to take care of, as well as a deadline for each one. It was 3.5 weeks devoted to an idea; we were developing recipes, getting licensed, sourcing all of our ingredients and supplies-- not to mention making >600 servings of ice cream by hand.
It took over a week of correspondence, dozens of phone calls and emails with the departments of agriculture and food safety, just to get connected to the right people. The fact that two kids with a cooler full of dry ice were able to get a mobile food license is beyond me, but by some grace, we just kept getting sh*t done by our deadlines.
We didn’t have much money, so we borrowed everything. We found that someone we knew had whatever it was we needed, and was also willing to lend it to us. With everything ready and the car packed, we were among the first to arrive to the festival to begin setting up.
Our plan had been to set up our stand, and then leave to buy 50 pounds of dry ice + fill our coolers with ice cream, all before the festival started. Our set-up took longer than anticipated, and long story short, we returned underprepared, disorganized, and 20 minutes late to the festival with me having a panic attack in the passenger’s seat.
Despite our last minute shortcomings, the festival was wildly successful, providing us with the fuel (+ funds) to continue building our business. But the most important thing we got from the festival was the certainty that our product, WFPB ice cream, is something other people want to have in their lives.
Now it’s the end of the year, and we’ve sold ice cream at several events and established a retail presence at the Bexley Natural Market. We are so relieved that we didn’t let the voice in our heads telling us that no one would want ice cream once the temperatures cooled down deter us from starting Mana when we did.
The moral of the story is that a lot of the time you, your presuppositions, and your self-imposed limitations are your biggest obstacles. This is a lesson I have to relearn every single day. But if you have a goal, divide it up into smaller steps and put in the effort to cross off those tasks. You’ll be surprised at how effective you are at getting sh*t done.
If you’re reading this, thank you-- here’s to a new year of getting sh*t done.