Always keen to share a great entrepreneurial success story, this week we catch up with Mariyana Mallett of Stefan’s Soft Scoop – the fab new ice cream parlour down by the Tide Mill
How did you get involved in the ice cream business and when?
Our current business, Commercial Finance Brokers UK Ltd, has operated for a number of years from The Salt House on Tide Mill Way in Woodbridge, which is a ground and first floor office. Our offices are idyllic with dual aspects of the river and our famous Woodbridge Tide Mill and all of us feel very privileged to work in such a beautiful setting.
Of course during the pandemic, staff worked from home and our business had to, like so many others, adapt to the new challenges. The changes we had to make to our business and the new way of working, means that staff now work from home some days and in the office on others. This meant that one of the offices on the ground floor, that had been a client file room, was no longer being used. So simply, one morning my husband and business partner Karl said he had an idea that due to its location, we should turn the office into a takeaway ice cream parlour, and it should be called ‘Stefan’s Suffolk Scoop’; our 8-year-old son is Stefan. As a true entrepreneur he wasn’t going to be persuaded that he has enough on his plate already. He roped me and a friend of his, Christian Pawsey, also a local businessman in and six weeks later the business was born. I may have summarised the effort that went into those six weeks, a tad!
Do you make your own ice cream, and if not which local supplier do you use?
When we started, we had no real knowledge of ice cream, but as avid consumers we knew what we liked and what we didn’t. So, we decided that we wanted luxurious local ice cream, to provide both quality to our customers and to limit our carbon footprint. Christian was the one who took on the task of sourcing the product and quickly organised several meetings with manufacturers in East Anglia and wholesalers.
Karl and Christian set off on one day to visit them all, the first meeting being with Suffolk Meadows Ice Cream in Halesworth. They met with Katherine who shared the history of her family business, which had been making luxury Suffolk ice cream for over 30 years. The family were the original founders of Marybelle Dairy and even though they have now sold the diary the cows that provide the milk for all the ice cream are still from E S Burrough & Sons in Beccles. This dairy farm adheres to very high standards of animal welfare with a focus on happy and healthy cows. Katherine’s passion for her artisan ice cream products was contagious and the boys knew they had found the product they were looking for. So, meetings were cancelled with humble apologies, and they returned with tubs of samples for our families to sample. The decision was unanimous from young and old, the ice cream (all flavours) was wow, you could taste the happy cows! Suffolk cows, Suffolk milk and Suffolk fruit (when possible), ideal.
What’s the best bit about being in the ice cream business?
Apart from the obvious, which we all now need to control our desire to eat the profits, the greatest pleasure is the people. First of all, we have been able to give jobs to several amazing young people who, like a lot of others, have had tough times over the last year or so. We have also met some fabulous customers, local and visitors, who have all been so positive about our new business, our staff members, our beautiful little parlour and of course our amazing ice cream. We have all discovered that everyone that buys ice cream has a smile on their face and as we all know smiles are contagious. There is a positive buzz in and around our parlour, we often look out of the window towards Tide Mill and see every riverside bench occupied by a family or group of friends all eating ice cream and many of them shout out “Thank you” and “That was yummy” on the way back. So we have adopted our business moto ‘You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing.’
And being your own boss?
We are fortunate to have run our own business for many years so being our own boss isn’t a new experience and of course it comes with lots of negatives and positives. But one of Karl’s favourite sayings is ‘if you chop your own wood, it warms you twice’ and we are both probably totally unemployable so no choice really.
What happens to an ice cream business when the sun’s not shining?
Well, this is a question we will have to answer next year, but our customers can rest assured if the sun shines, we will endeavour to open, in cold or warm weather.
Which are your customers top three favourite flavours?
Our Belgian chocolate, vanilla and real strawberry are the classic winners, but Woodbridge locals and visitors show a real hankering for our honeycomb, salted caramel and mint choc chip. But our best kept secret and owners’ favourite is the raspberry swirl – a delight of creamy, indulgent vanilla with swirls of delicious raspberry – but we don’t tell many people so there is plenty left for us at the end of the day.
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