Who doesn’t love ice cream? Chi Ndika loves it, and is now spreading the joy of vegan, avocado-based ice cream through her company Luv Fats.
When did you start your company?
I started Luv Fats Ice cream in November of 2017. I started booking gigs and vending at pop-up events in January of 2018.
Where is your company based?
Why did you start the company?
From a young age, I’ve always loved being around ice cream, eating it and it’s always been something that I’ve shared with family and close friends. There’s a picture of me at two years old eating a bowl of ice cream on the kitchen floor that forever embodies my passion for sweet, frozen cream. It’s something that makes me happy when I think about it, make it, eat it; to this day the sense of joy it brings me and people around me is overwhelming. I wanted to offer a dairy free alternative that was creamy, indulgent and could be enjoyed by anyone, not just vegans. I’ve always been the type of person that wants to create something better and different than anything else out there and that’s the main reason I started Luv Fats. I wanted to show people that vegan ice cream can be delicious, creamy and even healthy-ish.
Running the Business
How many employees do you have?
I have one employee right now but my family helps me out a lot. My mom helps me in the commercial kitchen and my sister provides her SUV to transport my freezer to the farmers markets.
Are you a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
Yes, I founded the business myself in 2017.
Does your business have any certifications?
No, not yet.
What makes your business unique/different?
Luv Fats is different from your average ice cream business in many ways. We are a satellite location, we sell our ice cream at Farmer’s markets in town, seasonal festivals, and pop-up markets like Melanated Marketplace, Frida Friday ATX, and Bose Babes events, to name a few.
Our ice cream base is made with avocados and is dairy free. The avocados act as an egg replacer and make our ice cream super creamy and rich. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them it’s vegan because often times people associate the word vegan with bland, or too healthy, and they automatically think it’s going to be gross. So I come up with interesting flavors to encourage people to try something they have never had or didn’t think could be good in ice cream like beet & lemongrass ice cream or caramel rosemary ice cream. Finally, I do everything with luv. I never make ice cream when in a space of negativity because I want people to taste the luv that went into making my ice cream.
Have you used any form of financing (credit card, line of credit, business loan, etc.) for your business?
I started the business with very little money and that’s also what makes my business so unique. I want Luv Fats to be an example for young entrepreneurs like me who are misled into thinking they need a lot of money to start their business. You don’t have to have investors or thousands of dollars in the bank to start doing what you love. I just decided one day that with every paycheck I would buy as much as I could for my business. I started slowly raising the money and bought the necessities first, such as containers for the ice cream and an immersion blender. Once I started to do pop up events I was able to save up and get the money to rent out a commercial kitchen and apply for the Farmer’s market.
I didn’t and still don’t use a business credit card or bank loans to fund my operations. I’m lucky enough to have family members like my mom and my boyfriend who have loaned me money for permits and a portable freezer. I also ran a Bonfire campaign to get some start up money, where we designed shirts with our logo for people to purchase or donate, which all went to application fees and equipment to set up at the Farmer’s Market.
What do you love most about your business/having your own business?
I love that I don’t have to report to a boss, so when I make a mistake in my business it’s no ones fault but my own. With full autonomy I encounter many opportunities to learn through my successes and my mistakes. I enjoy being creative in my business especially in the kitchen where I get to come up with interesting flavors, combinations, and toppings. There’s no limit with ice cream and there’s always a flavor that hasn’t been done yet. I also love getting to work with other small businesses in town and I find it really inspiring to work with creatives who are just as focused on their craft as I am. It reminds me that I’m not the only one working hard to achieve something I believe in and I’ve enjoyed building my community around this relatable passion and desire to share what I love.
How do you manage cash flow in the company?
Even though I’m a satellite business I accept most major credit cards and cash. I have a business account where I take the cash from the markets. I do my own books right now and my own inventory. I try to buy things like labels and containers in bulk so I can get a cheaper rate. For now I have to be very mindful of what I’m spending money on as a new, small business and it’s important to keep records of all purchases in an organized system. I wish I could buy everything I want when I want it, but honestly I think it’s best that I can’t do that right now it because it gives me time to think about whether I really needed that piece of equipment/product/ingredient or not.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the company?
I do a lot of the work by myself, I’m a very resourceful and independent person but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming when there’s a lot on your plate. I work more than 45 hours a week, I’m usually extremely tired, so I would say I find it hard to socialize with family members and friends because I’m so tired. That has put a strain on some of my relationships and it’s tough to have to choose between working on your business or spending time with your family. Those are the kind of decisions that are challenging for me. I find it hard to let some responsibilities go especially in the kitchen. My whole family knows how controlling I am in the kitchen and it’s no different when I’m in the commercial kitchen. I’m constantly hovering over my mom when we’re in the kitchen and making sure she’s doing everything right. However, we work pretty well together so that’s allowed me to loosen up the reigns and I’m able to relinquish some of my responsibilities in the kitchen over to her.
What’s the biggest challenge your business is currently facing?
I would like to be in a couple small grocery stores right now but I’d say the lack of equipment like a bigger freezer, a refrigerated delivery vehicle are keeping us from producing the volume of ice cream I’d like to be making. Being a satellite business, always on the go making deliveries, it’s important to have a freezer big enough to hold inventory and a refrigerated delivery vehicle to transport the product. Cashflow is part of the problem too since I don’t have a credit card or any other line of credit, thus I have to wait for the cash before I can make big purchases like a bigger, portable freezer.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the company?
Watching new customers enjoy my product is really the best feeling. I work so hard and it’s tough but I forget all the hours I’ve worked to make the ice cream, to start the business, to keep it running when I see someone enjoying the ice cream I make. It’s also one of the few things that I’ve started, nurtured, and fueled by myself from the ground up. It makes me happy when I think about the fact that I started something by myself and that feeling is something no one can take from me.
What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting the company?
Paying my sales tax late and other small fees that could have been avoided. It may not seem like a big deal but as a small business you realize that it’s the little fees here and there that can be avoided, that can set the business back. Another mistake was thinking I needed a bunch of money to start a business. If you really want to start a business the money will come, you have to just do it and put in the work.
What personality traits or skills do you feel women/men have that make them good business owners?
Faith in what they have to offer, patience with yourself, allowing yourself to make mistakes then finding solutions, and you have to believe in what you’re selling or no one else will. That’s why I do everything with luv so people enjoy it and feel the luv that went into our ice cream. People can sense your bad energy, your disbelief in yourself and your product, having thick skin and not taking no for an answer is what makes a good business owner.
What are some of your best business savvy traits?
I’m persistent, innovative, and I have good, positive energy. I feel that’s important to note especially if you sell your own product like I do. When I’m in a bad mood or desperate for sales I notice I don’t make a lot of money. When I stay positive and content the customers too feel that positive presence and are drawn to what Luv Fats has to offer! The energy we give off is contagious. No one wants to by ice cream from a mad, desperate person. Also being humble and knowing when to ask for help from others is the only way your business will continue to grow, because we can’t do everything on our own.
Do you have any professional skills that made launching your business easier?
I’ve been in the kitchen since I was born. My dad used to hold me in one hand while he was cooking, as early as I can remember he has shown me how to cook and bake. Food is very important to our family. My experience in the kitchen has helped me alot, although I’m not formally trained.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were first starting out?
The smartest thing I did was becoming a satellite pop up ice cream shop instead of waiting until I could afford my own brick and mortar. If I had waited I wouldn’t be where I am today. Someone else might have taken my idea if I didn’t go for it. The right time is now and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can be satisfied improving someone else’s business or you can start your own business. Starting the business is the hardest part in my opinion because of fear and other people around me advising me to wait or think it through. Once you move past that fear it’s amazing to watch your dreams come to fruition.
What advice would you give to other folks who want to start their own business?
To young people especially, don’t rely on anyone else to do it for you or to wait for the perfect time. Empower yourself and start doing research and perfecting your craft. Their are so many resources out! Take advantage of those free entrepreneur meetups and mixers for small business owners. It gives you a chance to practice telling others about your business. That’s the time to educate potential customers and partners about about what makes your business so special. You can have your own business if you are willing to work on it 24/7. You don’t need a bunch of money, or an overanalyzed business plan, you just need to do the work. Don’t be afraid of a little paperwork or fees. “You gotta spend money to make money.” Start with the small things like getting your permits, testing your product, and finding your audience. You may not make money at first but believe in your ideas, products, tools, and others will too.
What’s next for your business?
I’m looking to partner with a local vegan ice cream shop so I can rent their equipment and churn my ice cream three times faster than I’m doing right now. That way I will be able to pack our pints quicker and I can get them into some small grocery stores in town that I plan to partner with. We will also be working on some small video clips so people can get a behind the scenes view of how we make our ice cream. The goal is to let everyone know about Luv Fats Ice cream and I won’t stop until that becomes a reality.