If you aren’t aware, let me inform and assure you: Being a small business owner is daunting. No matter what dream you are chasing, there are bills to pay, questions to answer, and hurdles to overcome. Yet, people still walk boldly down the path of entrepreneurship – and they do it with flair and determination. DC is no exception to the rule. Hidden in back alleys, tucked in spots where you least expect it, and proudly flaunted in broad daylight next to the big guns, this is a town where dreams can and do come true (with a healthy dose of hard work, of course). For this post, I want to shine the small business spotlight on a DC staple…Ice Cream Jubilee.
If you haven’t gotten a heaping scoop of flavor from these ice cream gods, stop reading this and get your priorities straight (read: pay them a visit and STAT). If you have swept your tongue over a scoop and escaped the blistering heat with help from one of their creamy creations, you already know that there is truth behind this statement: these people know how to do ice cream. If you don’t believe me, let’s first take a peak at their rotating list of flavors, which currently features jaw dropping options such as Banana Bourbon Caramel, Basil Goat Cheese, Blueberry Pie, Coffee & doughnuts, Cookies & Cookie Dough, Honey Lemon, Snickerdoodle, and Thai Iced Tea.
As a local business, through and through, Ice Cream Jubilee even goes so far to support other businesses with their own success, using only all-natural cream and milk from a local creamery located about 50 miles from their shop in the District. Aside from flavors that can bring the drooler out of the best of us, Ice Cream Jubilee has a DC cult following thanks to some serious dedication and impressive business savvy. Since its start, Ice Cream Jubilee has grown to include two storefronts – and the ice cream doesn’t come to a halt there. Beyond the stores, they ship nationwide and supply frozen goodies to nine grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
The mastermind behind the scoops, Victoria Lai, is a mother, wife, and admirable boss. For her, ice cream started out as a hobby – Lai would experiment with flavors for fun at home and occasionally treat her friends to ice cream parties. It wasn’t long into her casual ‘cream days when Lai realized that she could actually do this, like for real. To pursue the business full time, Lai left a law career and a position at the Department of Homeland Security.
Lai recently talked to USA Today about the details of the exhausting day in and day out of being an entrepreneur. Her days can start as early as 6 a.m. and last as late as midnight (not to mention the middle of the night wake-up call to feed her kid). A master juggler traveling between storefronts and kitchens, monitoring her staff, keeping up with the face of her business, and making sure that there are new flavors for fans to test, she is certainly busy. But, she credits “luck and people” for the way her shops have thrived so far. Lai says:
“My mother was a small business owner as well. She designed and built houses in Texas. So she was a Chinese woman in Texas in construction. I’d like to think she paved the way and showed me that no obstacle is too big to overcome.”
Yes, yes, and more yes. Let this be a reminder – if you’re going for ice cream, shop small – and I’m certainly not talking about scoop size. Local is where it’s at, folks.