Meeting with Gabrielle Carbone of The Bent Spoon was an invaluable and essential component of my research project learning experience. Her mind and way of looking at the creative side of an entrepreneurial endeavor is exactly what I am trying to model, and the ideas that she posed to me I hadn’t thought of myself.
Gabrielle, or Gabby, is the founder of a little ice cream store in Princeton, NJ that has aggrandized in popularity among frozen dessert connoisseurs of all ages. With over 550 rotating flavors at their brick and mortar which began nearly 12 years ago, it goes to show how much a little creativity and a lot of passion can grow to be something bigger than a pipe dream. Gabby’s business truly began when she was about 13 years old and she was introduced to the world of ice cream making with her first ice cream maker. She told me that this was what really “planted a seed in her head (…) and lead her to the place [where she is today].”
This reminds me a lot of myself. I began making my product when I was roughly the same age, just substitute in a different kitchen appliance (a food processor) and a different “cooking” process. Though our two products are slightly different, I think we both had the same sweet end product in mind.
Gabby reinforced the importance of creativity and curiosity in entrepreneurship. This curiosity is necessary for sparking inspiration, so you can collect more information which will help to form new ideas.
There is a psychological component involved when you create a product for consumers. Gabby and I both want to know “why do people choose certain flavors?” when we’re busy brainstorming the next theme, taste, or texture for our respective dessert products.
I look forward to going down to The Bent Spoon one afternoon and surveying customers about that very question. They might be choosing plain old vanilla because it brings them back to their childhood, or maybe they intrinsically just enjoy the combination of all the chemical compounds of that specific flavor. They might even be choosing it because their parent(s) swayed them to… Gabby told me that this is a prevalent issue at her ice cream store. A child might be excited to get a quirky scoop of Basil or Ricotta ice cream, but an adult will dissuade them from their choice. It makes me think about how consumers tend to limit themselves from branching out and trying something left-of-center. It is this sticking to the status-quo that could be a huge barrier for me in trying to get people to try my product. When I tell people what goes in to making my dessert (weird ingredients…!) they might turn up their nose!
On Sustainability and Health:
Right down to the metal spoons that Gabby is trying to use for sample tastes of ice cream at her scoop shop, The Bent Spoon is a business that is truly all about sustainability. They receive their milk, eggs, honey, and flavors from local and organic places and people. They know each and every person and every step involved in their ice cream creating process.
This is one of my own core values—something that I want to honor right from the beginning in creation of my custard. It can be a challenge to always meet these criteria. It’s far too easy to buy conventionally farmed eggs, dairy from cows living in close quarters being fed off of sub-optimal feed and administered inhumane doses of growth hormones and antibiotics. It’s really easy to rely on artificial flavors and sweeteners. I’m “guilty” of using conventional ingredients and ingredients that were made in a lab. It weighs on my conscience, but in this early and experimental phase of my product development, I know that it’s a good idea to put all my focus into mastering the processing of my dessert. I know I can always fine-tune the steps along the way.
Gabby told me a few things that made me feel even better about how I am approaching the creation of my dessert. For starters, she can see the value in balancing out the natural ingredients with the unnatural ingredients. As an example, she explained to me that diacetyl, a natural flavoring found in butter which can be extracted naturally or synthesized artificially, can be looked at as either good or bad. It can be used in exorbitant amounts in junk foods to get people “hooked” on them, but they can also maybe be used to entice an older adult to eat a food product that will give them nutrition. The compound, regardless of where it comes from, can impart a flavor on a dessert that can bring someone back to a moment or experience, or create balance for the other flavors within the product.
Gabby also told me that there is a huge difference between buzzwords like “local,” and “organic,” and it’s really a very sneaky thing. Apparently, there is a huge industry for products labeled as organic, but they are conventional just like any other run of the mill, un-organic grocery store product. They may be sprayed with chemicals, may be harvested unsustainably, or may otherwise have something going on behind the scenes that consumers may not be too happy about knowing about.
Having met Gabby, I feel invigorated to continue my quest and stay creative and inspired, and always remain questioning. Hopefully this meeting was a promising beginning for good things to follow 🙂