It was yoga, a food co-op, and fashion that ultimately led me to ice cream. They may all seem disconnected, but as owner and proprietor of Churn Urban Creamery, those were the critical steps that led me to me entrepreneurial endeavor. Churn is a small batch ice cream pop-up company based in San Francisco, where we partner with local businesses who host our weekend pop-ups. Our ice cream is sourced, made, and served by myself with help from my husband, Chris, and we utilize local organic ingredients that support urban farming in SF, as well as the more traditional farms in Central and Northern California. We’ve made great strides since launching this past April, but it was an enlightening journey to get to that point.
It all started back in 2014. I was working a job designing men’s and boys’ activewear for a small company in New York City, where Chris and I lived with our two dogs. I loved my job, our family was financially stable, and we were relatively happy. Yet, there was a sense of complacency that hung over me. Like a true Millennial, I was pretty content, but I wanted much more. I felt like I had nothing interesting to contribute to conversations and I was actually boring myself. So my New Year’s resolution that year was to push myself out of my comfort zone. This ultimately helped me gain the knowledge and values to launch my own business.
Experience #1: I enrolled as an “energy exchange” student at Modo Yoga NYC. In exchange for unlimited free hot yoga, I washed stinky, sweat-soaked towels, cleaned the changing rooms, and turned over the studios after classes. Through this disgusting job, I developed strong relationships with a lot of wonderful and interesting people (who gave the best hugs ever by the way). Modo Yoga NYC taught me the importance of community in a business and I made this a key foundational aspect for Churn. Being a pop-up concept, we rely highly on existing local businesses to help host our events, and we strive to be an active and positive member of the SF community.
Experience #2: I joined the Park Slope Food Co-op. It was a large facility that lacked that community found at Modo, but the co-op did teach me something valuable. After working shifts with the produce team, I began appreciating the fine details of the fruits and veggies being handled. Their fragrant smells and vibrant colors motivated me to learn more about the process of growing produce and creative ways of utilizing them in my cooking. This connection to food carried forward to Churn, with the care and creativity in regards to ingredients that make up our ice cream. Even making an effort to grow them in our own urban farms.
Experience #3: Even if it made me a bit complacent, my fashion background was very important. Though I always seem to downplay my experiences in the industry, Churn wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for fashion. Being an apparel designer for 10 years, I developed an acumen for marketing and creating products that resonated with people. When developing a business around my passion for food, I wanted to focus on a product with longevity. I knew that you couldn’t build a lasting business around a trend, especially with food. I saw it happen with frozen yogurt, cupcakes, and even that weird hybrid of Ramen Burger. Don’t get me wrong I stood in line for the Ramen Burger and enjoyed it, but in my own business, I’m looking for staying power. It would be only a matter of time before people jumped to the next trendiest/most Instagram-able thing. Ice cream, however, is a classic staple and after starting my business, I was excited to learn how passionate people are about this product.
Ultimately, these three rewarding experiences helped me launch Churn Urban Creamery. We believe in community, focus on great ingredients, and strive to share memorable and delicious moments. Most importantly, I built fire to pursue my personal goals. Many of us Millennials have dreams and ideas that we’re so quick to give up on. The media and Baby Boomers describe us negatively and characterize us as the laziest generation in history, saying we’re addicted to technology and lack basic manners. But Millennials have proved to be the most self-aware, environmentally accountable, and value is driven of all the generations before us. My experiences have led me up to this point, as the small shifts in my lifestyle have resulted in big shifts in daily life. I encourage every Millennial to use their unique experiences in order to shape the life that they want. Change is never easy, but shaking up your comfort level leads to growth. You know what they say, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Piece by Rica Sunga-Kwan, founder of Churn Urban Creamery in San Francisco.
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