Well, the time has come. The sun is setting earlier and earlier; kids are filtering back into school; summer is ending. And while many of us are looking forward to finding our flannels and getting ourselves to an apple orchard, the end of summer is always bittersweet.
But! Before September 21st rolls around, there is still plenty of time to get one last good, summer day in. And plenty of time to indulge in arguably the best part of summer: frozen treats.
If you happen to live in Ottawa, Ontario, then listen up. This week’s small business spotlight is Gelatini Gelato. The shop specializes in making the traditional Italian dessert with fresh ingredients from local sources. And with flavors like chocolate coconut, peach rhubarb, and champagne grapefruit… well, it might be time for me to make a migration north for a little bit.
Chris talks some more below about the gelato business:
How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?
We produce and sell gelato, which is a traditional Italian variation of what we all know as ice cream. We use fresh ingredients. Real fruit, real nuts, and fresh cream. The end result is delicious, and we just love seeing other people enjoy our products
What are some industry specific challenges you faced?
Sourcing the right ingredients, for the right price is a big one. We need fresh, preferably local. Our requirements fluxuate with the weather, and I am very much a cost focused individual. We have reviewed what is available from multiple vendors, but we still prefer to source the ingredients ourselves. Regulars want very specific flavors sometimes, and we make them when we can. This creates a fair amount of overhead, but we have not yet gotten to the point where we cannot shop around for the ingredients we require. Right now, figuring out which vendors (banking, point of sale, marketing, etc) work for us, and which to change is becoming more important on a daily basis.
What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?
When we first started, and to this day – we have had some people tell us that using fresh ingredients is too costly to do on a small scale. Powders and flavorings can be obtained at a percentage of the cost and is less labor intensive. Even if the taste difference is marginal, I personally feel better offering a product packed with nutritional value. Every time I hear from a customer that our product tastes fresh and is more flavorful, it reminds me that regardless of the margins, quality is important.
What was your biggest learning curve/experience?
This is a hard one. We have learned so much since starting out on our journey of opening our own business. I would have to say that our biggest learning experience has been around supply and demand. We have been very careful not to launch too many products at once, and as a result we have been gradually expanding our business hours to meet demand, while adding relevant products at the same time. We hope to open for breakfast hours soon (offering baked goods and espresso), and if all goes well we will start planning other initiatives.
What made you use crowdSPRING?
I am sure this is a very common response. I work with computers. I dabble in just about everything and like to keep up with the latest technologies. But when it comes to working on a side project such as creating a logo – I just have a hard time putting aside the necessary time.
After a few attempts of my own, I quickly realized that using a crowdsourced solution (such as the one that crowdSPRING offers) was going to provide me with the best “bang for my buck”. Running a business, and especially planning to start a business, is very time consuming. CrowdSPRING really helped me here, as I stopped focusing so much of my time in one area, and more things on my list were completed as a direct result. I will crowdSPRING again in the future when the need arises, and will also continue recommending it to others going forward.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?
I over-analyze everything, so it would be a bad idea for me to go back. Different equipment? If I had a little more money at the start… sure I would have purchased the next model up in some cases, to ensure I could keep up with demand. I think for the most part we have made the decisions that fit our needs and I continue to look forward, even when I do sometimes recognize I could have made a different decision.
How do you see your company growing in the future?
We want to continue to grow our primary gelato business. We want more repeat business, and want to grow our relationship with the local community. We want more focus on social marketing streams. At the same time, we want to continue adding new products that we feel our customers will appreciate, outside of our primary frozen treat product offerings. In the end, our goal is to build upon our initial summer-time successes. Maybe a second location is on the horizon?
Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.
Expect to work more than expected.
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