Turning a converted horse trailer into a New Zealand-style ice cream shop has proven to be a winning recipe for Welly’s Real Fruit Ice Cream, a Port Angeles, Washington-based business that has been awarded $5000 in Nav’s quarterly Small Business Grant Contest.
Cofounders Lillie and Jacob Phillips started planning their business at the end of 2020 after years of saving and brainstorming business ideas. Lillie had spent a year living in New Zealand where she first tasted New Zealand-style real fruit ice cream, which blends a scoop of fruit and a scoop of ice cream, and had even worked briefly in a small ice cream shop in Tairua. The idea of bringing that ice cream to Washington State eventually proved irresistible and they loved that this business would enable them to connect with the community.
What was just a concept a little over a year ago has proven to be a great business. Not only is their business growing rapidly, but they are able to support their local small business community as well. Though their blender comes from New Zealand, they use as many local Washington products as possible including fruit from Graysmarsh Farm and ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery for the base.
The couple moved to Port Angeles just a few months before opening their business and they already have felt welcomed by the local community. “Everybody is incredibly supportive and wants to see everyone succeed as well,” they marvel.
Funds from the Nav grant will be used toward building out their storefront location, a must-have both to keep up with demand as well as to continue serving customers during their region’s rainy season. Specifically, they plan to purchase serving freezers, ice cream scoops and storage containers for the two serving stations they will create. They hope to stretch the funds far enough to also purchase a large upright storage freezer.
Lillie and Jacob still plan to use the trailer (nicknamed “Welly” – short for Wellington, New Zealand) during the summer months, and their ultimate goal is to create a community destination. “We want customers to be able to spend time at the shop rather than just be quick service style,” they explain. “We’ll have a board game shelf so people can hang out if they want to, and we’re thinking of making a kid’s corner as well.”
Funding Rapid Growth
Like many new businesses, growth has been both exciting and challenging. In their first summer in business they were able to recoup the costs of the trailer buildout, but continuing to grow requires even more money. “Cash flow is difficult when we’re trying to expand sooner than expected,” Lillie commented in her interview for the grant.
Most of their funding came from savings, though they were able to access some funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund which proved to be essential when their opening was delayed and the business faced inventory issues.
The couple is also a fan of their small business credit card for the sign-up bonus and cash back they’ve earned. They purchase everything they can with their credit card and pay the balance in full from their business checking account to avoid interest.
They’ve relied heavily on their business plan to navigate their first year in business. “There are of course unforeseen challenges,” they warn, “but a solid plan is where to start and it also makes you address what the challenges may be.”
One of their challenges was the trailer build out. They went with a less expensive, newer company to do the work, and that ultimately required more time and money to get right. Going forward they will prioritize purchasing good equipment, even if it costs a little more.
Searching for small business grants, they found the Nav Small Business Grant. In addition to applying for the grant, they have been using Nav to learn about business credit and financing. “We really like how user friendly it is,” they commented. “The platform is built out well and provides a lot of personalized recommendations for your business.”
For Lillie and Jacob, launching Welly’s Real Fruit Ice Cream is about much more than creating a delicious product and successful business. “Ice cream allows people to connect and to make memories together,” says Lillie. “Our mission at Welly’s is to create special moments and memories for those we serve and it’s very rewarding to see this come to life,” they add.
When told they were winners of the $5000 Nav Small Business Grant, one of their first questions was when they could tell their customers who were rooting for them to win. Now, they can share the good news, along with even more delicious ice cream.
This article was originally written on December 15, 2021 and updated on December 16, 2021.