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May 2013

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COB Alumni Combine Their Taste Buds with Their Entrepreneurial Dream

By Taylor Deer, College of Business Public Relations Intern

No matter what time of the year it is, ice cream always makes a great treat for dessert, social occasions, study breaks, stress relievers, breakups and so much more. From young children to the elderly, ice cream gets everyone in a good mood.

Discovering Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

JMU CoB alumni Sandra Tran and Gilbert Welsford both share a love for ice cream. Gil and Sandra discovered liquid nitrogen ice cream after hearing about Gil’s friend who started a liquid nitrogen ice cream business. After actually trying liquid nitrogen ice cream for the first time in Chicago, Sandra was blown away by how delicious and creamy it was. As two people who love sweet and savory tastes as well as a deep seated passion in the life of entrepreneurship, Sandra and Gil decided to combine their passions to create a business using liquid nitrogen and local ingredients to make ice cream. Sandra and Gil set up their new business in Washington, D.C., and named it Nicecream Factory.

Gil, a Pennsylvania native, explains that Nicecream Factory’s base ingredient is a sweet cream from an animal-friendly local farm in Pennsylvania.  The sweet cream is sent to them a day after the cow is milked to make their fresh treat. Once the cream is measured out and placed in a stand mixer, fresh ingredients from local farms are carefully added to the cream. Then their special ingredient is added and liquid nitrogen is poured in, freezing everything together. Since the liquid nitrogen is minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit when added, it begins evaporating with a cloud of vapor to make creamy and delicious ice cream. From liquid cream to wonderful dessert takes about 25-40 seconds. Tasting is one of Gil’s passions. “Sandra and I create unique flavors for our liquid nitrogen ice cream such as bacon-maple and strawberry cheesecake,” he describes.

The Creation of Pop-Up Shops

The three-month-old business has grown tremendously. Gil explains that Nicecream Factory started its own pop-up shops. Instead of people traveling to get Nicecream, Gil and Sandra load up all of their equipment into the back of a truck and travel to different communities in D.C. to serve fresh scoops of liquid nitrogen ice cream. The use of pop-up shops makes the business mobile and convenient for customers. A few places where Nicecream Factory regularly sets up its pop-up shops are at the Science Club, Georgetown Farmers Market, Glover Park Farmers Market, and the Palisades Farmers Market. Nicecream Factory also serves at parties, restaurants, fundraising events, weddings, and wherever else people would like to be served liquid nitrogen ice cream in D.C.

Expanding the Scoop

Gil explains that their goal is to capitalize the business. He and Sandra eventually want more pop-up shops while exploring the possibility of creating a retail shop. Since Nicecream is fairly new, the growth opportunities are endless. The pop-up shops are helping Nicecream Factory bolster awareness within the D.C. community while raising capital through Kickstarter and their shops. Both Gil and Sandra would like to continue the pop-up shops to establish more credibility. They also wish to turn the business into a franchise in three years. This will allow other entrepreneurs to bring innovative desserts to their communities. “Since liquid nitrogen ice cream is popular on the West Coast, it is our goal to make it popular on the East Coast,” says Gil.

Gil graduated JMU with a job lined up, but he realized that his interests lie within the entrepreneurial life. Gil and Sandra started Nicecream Factory about two months ago. Gil explains that Nicecream Factory continues to grow with an increase in pop-up shops. One thing Gil learned since he and Sandra started Nicecream Factory was that their Kickstarter campaign was a great way to build their business. The Kickstarter campaign helped Nicecream Factory raise almost $5,000 in four days.

Follow Your Dreams

Entrepreneurial advice that Gil shares with JMU students is that there is never going to be a right time to start a business. “You come from an excellent university, just go for it. If you fail it is not the end of the world. If anything, employers will be more impressed with you that you gave it a shot,” says Gil. He explains that since starting a business can be time consuming, it is easier to start a business while in college with so much free time and the support you are surrounded by. “It will be a lot harder to start a business when you have a family, car payments, and a mortgage,” explains Gil. It is imperative to make certain that a person is really committed if they are looking to start a business. “If you do have a cool concept that you are set on creating a business with, definitely check out Kickstarter,” explains Gil.

Gil says that with the help of the CoB as well as its professors, he and Sandra would not be where they are today. To receive more helpful advice on starting a business contact Gil at gil@nicecreamfactory.com. “I would love to help JMU students pursue their dreams,” says Gil. Visit http://nicecreamfactory.com/#1 to learn more.

Update: 

Gil and Sandra were recently featured in an article in The Washington Post.