Khatera Ballard & Wes Jones & Jackson Smith
Tell us about your business.Honeysuckle Gelato is co-owned by Khatera Ballard, Wes Jones & Jackson Smith. Jackson, our “gelato guy” oversees production. With no culinary background, he talked his way into working for Jon Snyder, a legend in the business and owner of NYC based Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Jackson soon began experimenting with his own flavor concepts aimed at honoring his southern roots. His friends then quit their jobs to join him on the journey of starting a gelato business. Our story is unique because we entered the scene with a food truck. This gave us an opportunity to establish our brand & develop our product. Fast forward 3 years, and we have distribution in all the Whole Foods and Fresh Market locations in Atlanta, our products are in select Kroger locations and we are set to open our 1st retail location in 2015. With wholesale distribution to over 100 stores and restaurants in the Atlanta area, we hope to continue to gain a larger presence and eventually take our line on the national scene.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.Certified for production by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, our kitchen space is a white and sterile environment with large freezers, stainless steel work counters and our Carpigiani gelato maker filling much of the kitchen space. While the space does not visually reflect the "Southern Inspired" look and feel of our brand the sights and smells of the production process are all things southern. Our fresh and local dairy arrives weekly by our dairy farmer Jimmy Franks of Southern Swiss Dairy based out of Waynesboro, GA. At any given time the smells of freshly chopped and roasted nuts, melted chocolate or fresh fruit fills the air and you can always guarantee that a batch of our house made caramel sauce is slowly simmering on the stove. Our small batch production process is what transforms our white and sterile kitchen into a southern kitchen and the difference can be tasted in each of our hand scooped pints.
What inspires you?As a kid, there was no better feeling than coming across a trove of honeysuckle blossoms while playing outside on a summer day. Our inspiration, and the inspiration behind our name, is that feeling of finding a sweet and all natural treat. We are also inspired by our dining experiences. The South is known for its rich culinary tradition, and like many chefs, we get our inspiration by polishing off classic Southern recipes and making it our own. Take the classic marshmallow sandwich known as a “moon pie” as an example, and in our gelato version, “lunar pastry” we layer chocolate fudge and crunchy nilla wafers into our rich and smooth marshmallow based gelato. Each spoonful serves as a nostalgic reminder to savor the moment and the experience of good food. We also get our inspiration from the customers we serve- be it the local chef who wants to collaborate on a flavor or a customer who shares a new flavor concept. We love food and we love people- and both inspire us!
What makes your business stand out?Our mission at Honeysuckle Gelato is to combine the rich and smooth texture of gelato with the decadent flavors and desserts of the South. With a sincere dedication to using only natural ingredients and delivering the highest quality dessert on the market, we bring our “Southern-inspired” and uniquely crafted flavors to all generations of frozen dessert lovers. The features that set Honeysuckle Gelato apart are the line of southern flavors, use of local and natural ingredients and a unique “small batch” production process. The benefits of these features include the health benefits of the natural ingredients as compared to certain ice cream and sugary pop brands, supporting local economies and a unique flavor line. Additionally, Honeysuckle Gelato provides a truly unique alternative to what is currently available in the frozen dessert market. Our hand scooped pints come in a variety of flavors and will surely surpass your expectations.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Launching a small business is not easy by any means. The risks associated with such endeavors aside, the intense hours of work and the financial sacrifices alone present the biggest challenges. While growth can be slow and victories small the setbacks and sacrifices are countless. What gets you over each and every bump along the road is a true passion and love for your product. Truly believing in the integrity and quality of your product is essential for success. It is important for you to love your product and to see it as something that the market needs and deserves to have. Once you have identified the perfect product never cut corners on the quality of what you have to offer. Always view your product from the customer’s standpoint and only deliver the best of what you have to offer. Passionate people offering quality products is another way we define “American Made,” and so our advice to aspiring creative entrepreneurs is to do the same.
What does American Made mean to you?America is and always has been a reflection of many cultural identities coming together. As proud Americans we like to think that we have taken the best of what the world has to offer and made it our own. Nowhere is this more evident then in the rich culinary traditions of our nation. Hence, American Made isn’t about recreating the wheel but rather making the best version of something that already exists. We set out to be the first high-end gelato company in the South, but soon realized that many Southerners were not familiar with gelato. Our goal was to combine the precision-based artisanship of Italian gelaterias with the passion and culture of traditional southern flavors. We felt that the best way to introduce gelato was to use flavors that people were already passionate about. That meant using lots of bourbon, honey, local fruit, as well as offering flavors inspired by decadent Southern desserts. We now proudly offer the South an ice cream worthy of its decadent culinary roots.
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