“Here’s to strong women – may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”
As Women’s History Month 2022 continues, it’s worth noting that there’s a distinct difference between a business that happens to be owned by a woman and a woman-owned business. Being a woman-owned business means that the owner has followed her dreams, passions, and experiences as a woman to thrive in a male-dominated world. Few business owners embody that spirit more than Nicole Frankel.
Nicole is a mother in New York City, and, like most parents, struggled to get her four-year-old daughter to eat her fruits and vegetables. Like most kids, her daughter would shove aside healthy foods when she saw them on her plate, and Frankel began to worry that her daughter wasn’t getting the vitamins and nutrients that she needed. That’s when Frankel decided to combine her maternal instincts and business acumen that she learned from working at several startups in the past.
Frankel would begin sneaking fruits and vegetables into the family’s homemade ice cream, and after two years of successfully getting her daughter to eat her fruits and veggies this way, Frankel decided to attend the Hudson Kitchen’s Food Business Bootcamp. Afterwards, Frankel launched Yum Actually, LLC, which specializes in crafting ice cream with nutritional foods as their main ingredients – Yummy Mango, Caramel Sweet Potato, Creamy Honey Banana, and Butternut Squash Butterscotch. The brand is now sold in 18 different food stores in Manhattan.
Daughter Knows Best
Frankel said that it was her daughter who came up with the name and the idea for Yum Actually when she first sampled ice cream with sweet potatoes in it.
“I came up with the business idea about 3 years ago when I struggled to get my young daughter to eat sufficient fruits and vegetables,” said Frankel. “I resorted to turning them into something I knew she wouldn’t refuse, and that would be ice cream, of course! When she took her first bite, she yelled ‘it’s yum, actually!’ And the business name and concept were subsequently developed. Each snack cup of our ice cream contains a full serving of fruits & veggies and is loaded with nutrients. We launched the ice cream to market in early 2020 and are now sold in the majority of grocery stores in New York City.
“Yum Actually makes a one-of-a-kind healthy ice cream for kids. In the crowded ice cream category, there are still very few healthy ice creams for kids, and we have changed that.”
Success Despite Bad Timing
Frankel officially became a “mom-preneur” in 2019, the challenges were numerous, as the launch occurred right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Shortly after coming up with the idea for the business, Frankel was working part-time, but had no experience in the foodservice industry – most of her experience was in data analytics for financial investment firms. She worked hard at researching the food business and ice cream food science (yes, there is such a field), as well as carefully crafting a business plan and obtaining a license and trademark for her business.
“There were too many challenges to mention them all!” she said. “But I’ll name a few: we launched right ahead of the Covid19 pandemic and therefore had to stop all in-store demos, deliveries, and meetings. I had to meet with grocery store managers over zoom, which was a sight to behold. We did however manage to get into 40 retailers in 2020. We’ve had significant manufacturing issues, which have included lost ingredients, packaging typos, broken equipment, and double-booked production runs as well.”
Like most small businesses, Frankel has had struggles pertaining to the pandemic, but has found success, nonetheless. “We have had to book our production runs well in advance of when we had to previously, and we have had to raise our prices, unfortunately,” she said. “Everyone has. Our suppliers have raised our wholesale prices by about 30% and we’ve in effect had to raise ours by about 8%.”
Overall, Frankel is happy with her decision to go out on her own. “Ice cream is so much more fun than financial technology,” she said.
Combining Creativity and Drive
Frankel said she started the business not only because she wanted to introduce a way to get children to eat healthier, but also to explore her creative side.
“I’ve always been very independent as well as creative. And I believe that these are critical traits to have to launch a business. My background prior to founding Yum Actually included working at various tech startups and I think that experience helped thicken my skin and helped prepare me for starting my own.”
Frankel advises aspiring small business owners to dive head first into launching their business, and not to get bogged down in honing their products or services.
“Most entrepreneurs spend all their time trying to perfect their product, and what ends up happening is that they get so bogged down in those details that they just never launch,” she said. “I say, launch it! Even if it’s not perfect, get into the deep end. Start getting feedback from buyers and consumers, because, ultimately, that’s what matters. Your product will evolve once you get that feedback.”