Childhood friends scoop out success in craft gelato business
Decadence never tasted oh so good. And for three friends who went into business together to create Honeysuckle Gelato, a craft gelato business based in Atlanta, 2015 has turned out to be the sweetest year yet.
The trio, Khatera Ballard, Wes Jones, and Jackson Smith, founded the company in 2011 and sold the gelato — an Italian-style ice cream — via a food truck and through direct small-batch manufacturing sales to local Atlanta chefs and restaurateurs.
“From the beginning, we have had a very specific goal of being the Southeast’s major regional gelato brand,” said Ballard, who met Jones and Smith when she married one of their friends. That goal includes creating more than 250 flavor combinations and sourcing most of its ingredients, including all of its dairy, from Georgia farmers.
Honeysuckle Gelato’s focused strategy appears to have paid off for the three business partners, who are the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (GaMEP) December Faces of Manufacturing.
Georgia’s manufacturing industry is a critical component of the state’s economy. The Faces of Manufacturing series shows how the 365,000 Georgians who work in the industry — including more than 53,000 in food manufacturing — help their communities stay economically strong and viable.
Honeysuckle Gelato’s products are now found in more than 100 restaurants and 85 retail outlets across the Southeast, including a regional deal with Whole Foods. Just this year, the company inked a deal with Delta Air Lines, which now offers Honeysuckle Gelato to first class passengers on some cross-country flights.
“On July 7, on an Atlanta to Los Angeles flight, Honeysuckle Gelato made its debut,” Smith explained.
Starting a business was a longtime dream for Smith and Jones, who have been friends since the second grade. After college, Smith spent two years teaching in China but then moved to New York City in 2010 and began working as a tutor under the No Child Left Behind program. He searched for a permanent job, eventually landing an ice cream production manager position under Jon Snyder, a local gelato legend in New York.
Eventually, he moved back to Atlanta and began experimenting with making gelato in his parents’ kitchen. That led to discussions with Jones, and eventually Ballard, who relocated to Atlanta from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to found the company.
In coming up with the company’s name, Smith, the creator behind the flavors, said the idea was to highlight a sweet and fresh sense of nostalgia and give a nod to its roots as a business based in the South.
The Delta agreement, plus the company’s opening of a retail shop in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, doubled their manufacturing output this year. Additionally, Jones said, “These two opportunities allowed us to add two new full-time jobs to our team and several new hourly-based employees.” The company has a total staff of 18.
About Honeysuckle Gelato
Founded in 2011, Honeysuckle Gelato is a craft dessert manufacturer headquartered in Atlanta. Today, the company has 18 employees and its products can be found in retail locations across the Southeast. Additionally, Honeysuckle Gelato is served in restaurants across Atlanta and the company recently opened its first retail location in Ponce City Market. Since its launch, the company has created more than 250 flavor combinations, its top seller being Sea-Salted Caramel. Visit www.honeysucklegelato.com?
About the Faces of Manufacturing
Each month, GaMEP will highlight a different person as the Face of Manufacturing. Those chosen as the Face of Manufacturing will be selected by a 12-member committee composed of representatives from Georgia Tech, economic development groups, manufacturing companies, and related associations.