Prior to launching Dolci Peccati Gelato, Natalie Yepes worked in Graphics Design and also owned a sandwich shop in Colombia, her native country. While working as a Graphics Designer, she grew tired of her day job. She was on a computer all day and it wasn't something she loved to do. She was ready for a change. She wanted to commit to something she was passionate about. Yepes shared the story behind her entrepreneurial journey and how her love of ice cream took her down a completely unexpected path.
"When I lived in Argentina, pursuing a Masters Degree in Marketing, I learned how to make ice cream," she said. "I love ice cream and the whole process of making it. I remember thinking that one day I would own an ice cream shop. During that time, I also owned a sandwich shop in Colombia. Not long after I moved back to South Florida and started working in Miramar, I wasn't happy anymore doing Graphic Design work. After a year, I decided to quit and went full-time on building an ice cream business."
Dolci Peccati Gelato was born on November 16th, 2010, just one day after Yepes' 26th birthday. She wrote a business plan, took some classes at Gelato University in Greensboro, NC, started experimenting with different flavors, found a "location" and put together a plan to bring her delicious desserts to South Florida and beyond.
"We initially looked at having a shop, but that was going to be a lot of money," she said. "That's when the idea came up to start with a food truck. We had a small kitchen where we made the ice cream, but the food truck would be our primary method for getting our Gelato in the hands of our customers. We started doing events and deliveries to offices and, slowly but surely, the business started to grow."
Yepes shared that when she first launched the business, Dolci Peccati Gelato was the only dessert food truck in South Florida. She was invited to every event where she experienced little to no competition. Business was booming. As Yepes put it, "Those were the golden years." Her challenges came after more dessert trucks came on the scene and the fascination with food trucks began to subside.
"I had to get creative," she said. "That's when I looked at wholesale. If I could work with caterers and restaurants, I could sell more Gelato without having to compete with other food trucks and I wouldn't need a storefront. I never did much advertising, but through word-of-mouth and by delivering a quality product, more people learned about us and business picked back up again."
Since moving into the wholesale market, Yepes continues to add new and unique flavors of Gelato. They even have sorbet, Vegan Gelato made from coconut milk, Gelato sandwiches and popsicles. The food truck is still used for special events and a push cart was added for use at small parties and gatherings.
Yepes shared what she enjoys most about her business. "It's a very dynamic business," she said. "The days are never the same. I'm not sitting on a computer all day. I'm always on the go and meeting new people. Plus, we get to brighten people's days with our products. It's a lot of fun."
Looking ahead, Yepes is excited about the opening of her first retail shop. She's even open to the possibility of having multiple locations. In the mean time, she'll remain focused on maintaining a tradition of producing delicious Gelato made from quality ingredients. After five years, she'll consider an exit and the possibility of starting a new project.
What advice does Yepes have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "If you have an idea, make sure it's something you can scale," she said. "Also, make sure you actually enjoy it. There will be times where you want to close the door and declare bankruptcy, but don't give up. Business takes time. If you do decided to start a business, be the best at what you do. Know all you can about your industry and produce the best possible product. Lastly, don't wait. Start as soon as possible."