This coming season will be a milestone for us - 10 years of making Italian Ice. Although we started out in a very different place (product) 11 years ago, we have evolved into something we feel very proud of.
As much as I'd like to say I enjoyed Italian Ice growing up, as a kid I really only knew one thing, it was sweet, and I liked sweets. I knew nothing of fruit or artificial colors, or corn syrup. After all, who cared? That was something for the "old" people to be concerned about.
Fast forward (what seems like only a year or two!) - to a time of more enlightenment (and grey hairs). I have had the opportunity to see first hand the adverse effects of artificial colors and allergens on people (Interesting article here. ). I have a grandson who is highly allergic to just about everything. I realized that as a manufacturer, although I have chosen to produce a dessert, we can make a positive difference in how we make it.
Our Italian Ice's now have no artificial colors, and very soon, all items will have no artificial flavors. We have incorporated more fruit, still pureeing it from the best sources possible. We do not use juices to fill or sweeten our ices, even though it would be cost saving to do so.
With all this, you may find that we don't have 101 flavors, and are not the least expensive product in the market, but you can be assured, we strive to be the best at what we do. Making real food, from real fruit, that's real creamy. We like to say it's a 'Sweet, creamy taste of Heaven!' But then, don't take our word for it, try it yourself.
Thanks for your kind business and friendships over the years. We look forward to even more!
I'm sure you've heard it a million times. I know I've said it more than I care to admit (only because it shows how long I've been around to even SAY it that many times...) But, I'm going to utter the words again.... Wow, how time flies! There. done. Now that THAT reality has been put out there, I move onto the next.
As with just about everyone else on this earth, I've managed to face the stark reality that I too have allowed time to fly by with too much to still accomplish. As a victim of a way to long to do list and a finite number of hours in the day, somehow the two just never seem to match up. (When will someone invent that cloaning machine that we all need?)
Every winter I have the beautiful opportunity to reflect on how the past season went. I think about the events we did, the customers we have met, the wholesale accounts that we have been blessed with, and the product we make. We've had some great times, and still enjoyed the challenge to continue to work at making our products better each year.
This past year we ventured into adjusting recipes so that we are able to offer a significant portion of our line as natural or no color added flavors! As we have the benefit of chatting with clients, we've been made aware of how many people have sensitivities to artificial coloring, and are thankful that we now have options for them!
On the customer front, we felt blessed to be told that a family drove 60 miles just so their 16 year old son could have his birthday wish of Mita's Italian Ice! How humbling and sweet! I love these customer encounters!
I reminisce on these thoughts and begin to get a renewed sense of excitement as we start this new year. This year will inevitably bring new wholesale clients, new events, and a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness (yes, I really did push the gushy envelope here!) We look forward to continue to grow and help those that want to offer a product which they can feel good about serving.
As always, and even more than ever, thank you for your support!
How in the world did we lose the Mango?
After all, we diligently count the clients order, calculating how many batches need to be prepared. Raw ingredients are checked, and ordered as necessary. Then, on to the process of mixing bases. (This always conjures up the image of "Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble". I think it's from a childhood that spent way too many of my early years in front of the TV...)
As spring time (finally)arrives here in the NW, we've started out our season with very little stock held over the winter months. And when a pallet order comes in, we like to make the product to order, providing the freshest of product available. It usually means spending dedicated days in the process. Weighing, mixing, dicing, chopping, puree-ing (is that a word?), etc., etc. So, all along the way, we are working with an final batch number in mind. We know what was ordered and what needs to go out. Prepare to palatalize, count and check as tubs are loaded. Wait, a minute... we have a missing mango.
Did a peach get mis-marked? No...
It's not in the kitchen...
or the warehouse...
or the mobile freezers... are we going insane?
So, how in the world did we LOSE A MANGO? Can a mango just up and disappear? Well apparently so. But probably more likely will be one of those times when you find it (after the fact )right in plain site. (kinda how your looking for your glasses when they're on your head.)
But for now, the saga of the pesky mango is still unsolved. and the mystery continues...
One of the most difficult things I deal with is pricing. As a small business person, and someone who has been self employed most of her life, I am pretty sensitive to prices. We've spent our lives 'eaking out a living, raising five kids (that's a whole 'nother story), and doing everything it takes to not fall into the category of the 70% of small business that fail within the first five years.
Ours is not a unique story, like so many, we chose to go the road of self employed many years ago when I first learned to bend glass (make neon signs). Since I was not one to sit still long enough for college, I opted to earn my degree in the school of hard knocks. I thought that unless you were going to be a doctor, lawyer or Indian Chief (what seemed like the only options around at the time), that I would make my own path. So I set myself on course of the journey of life, which eventually brought me to the word of being self employed.
I state these things, only in the fact that street learning and textbook learning are two different animals. When the times are tough and the columns don't add up like they taught you in school, it is by shear experience and gut knowledge that one manages to pull through.
This brings me to my thought today, as I am wrestling with pricing. After all, I am very experienced in squeezing that nickle til it cries "ouch". I have to. No pension here, no employer paid vacations, or health care or.... oh,so sorry, I digress. So I hate it when prices get so out of control that I am embarrassed in passing them along. This is the reality of what I experienced this week. So far, I am fortunate that I've been able to keep our product costs in line, but when I went to get quotes on shipping, well, let's just say that it was a good thing I was sitting down. What has happened to the price of shipping is a crime, and it's not the industry's fault. Unfortunately, the weekly fuel surcharges have grown like a pregnant woman's appetite, and there is no immediate retraction in site.
When you buy a loaf of bread, fill up the gas tank, or use any commodity that was made or transported by petro, you'll see the effect, if you haven't already. So how does that play out in the "keeping things in perspective" title?
Life is too short to always color in the lines, play by the rules and stay on your diet (well, at least not EVERY day). We need affordable little indulgences, to help navigate the stress of daily life, to occasionally feel pampered. So I look at Italian Ice as one of those indulges, actually, it really is like medicine for the mind. Yes, I like that... Medicine for the mind, and tummy.
So if your thinking about getting into the Italian Ice business, you can think of your self as a "Provider of De-stressers". A medicine man of sorts. And when you order your product and get that shipping bill, keep in mind that medicine IS a valuable commodity. When penciled out in the retail scheme of things, it may only add a penny or two to the cost of your sale. It does not, however, effect your ability to bring happiness and peace to the land of crazy. You just need to keep it in perspective.
We often talk to people about operations of a "seasonal" business, and the discussion comes around to the real time consumption of the business. It is easy to see on the calender of events when your busy in the summer, but what about the rest of the year?
Most people are surprised to hear that, Yes, this little "seasonal" business ends up running some sort of time cost 8-9 months of the year. Whaaat? You say! Yup! We begin working on the business in the beginning of the year.
This includes reviewing our events from the previous year, analyzing our notes and determining how we can make a better experience for our customers. We begin confirming or denying our return to events, (some events are just not a good fit for us, and we need to open up those dates on the calender), and researching new events.
This is the not so glamorous, strictly boring, paperwork up to your eyeballs kind of work. I have a love / hate relationship with all of it. It is boring as all get -out, filling in the same info, time and time again (hey, maybe there should be a software somewhere that can take care of this task?), frustrating if you have an open spot in prime season, and yet exhilarating when you are able to fill a calendar well.
The fact that this falls into the paperwork nightmare of tax season is a cruel joke. This is the part of the year that I am glued to the computer, and my husband is beginning to worry. :-( But, before you know it, the season starts, we are knee deep in sales events and the paperwork moves to a crawl. Til next year.....
Welcome to a new addition to Mita's Italian Ice. With this blog, I'll be journal-ing our activities as a small producer and seller of Italian Ice. We started this process several years back, buying product from an East Coast producer. It soon became apparent that we needed more control over the product line, so we ventured into testing recipes and creating our own line of Italian Ice.
I guess maybe I can really thank my daughter, Nicole, who pushed me into taking the leap. Not that I was unfamiliar with starting and operating businesses. We have been making neon signs for decades, mostly a self employed. But the neon industry has been changing, thanks to mass produced imports and LED's, so it was time to add to our income stream. With Nicole's persistence, I started researching the Ice industry, and decided to take the leap.
Now to be honest, it wasn't that far of a leap. I love small business, and everything about the people that are willing to put everything on the line to follow a dream. Entrepreneurs, well, we have our own set of genetics. A set that makes us operate just a bubble off center. Some might say that we're foolish. No, just naive. I 'd say that it's just that naivety that creates wonderful opportunities. Just stubborn enough, idealistic enough, and yes, maybe foolish enough to follow our dreams.
I've always said that I'm probably too "ornery" to work for someone else. But the truth be told, I think I'd make the best damn employee anyone could ask for. Once you've run a small business, you can do just about anything set out in front of you. It is an awesome experience. And aside from raising kids, probably the most challenging, frustrating, exhausting, yet rewarding thing you will ever do.
Raised in on the East Coast, living in the Pacific Northwest. My desire is to merge the best of both worlds, love of fresh Italian Ice, made with real fresh fruits and berries.