It’s been said that the phrase “working mother” is redundant, but so-called “mompreneurs” who balance the roles of mother and entrepreneur are succeeding in small business today like never before.
“It takes all kinds of moms to create and sustain brilliant businesses,” says Linsey Knerl of Investopedia. “And with the future continually revealing new markets, there’s room for many more mompreneurs. After all, few things are better than those made with love by a mom.”
For Cathy Brown, the ultimate modern momprenueur, small business success has been particularly delicious.
Brown is the owner of Valpo Velvet ice cream, a quaint shoppe of sweetness in Valparaiso, Indiana with a big reputation as one of the country’s finest makers of gourmet ice cream. As her devoted patrons confess, Brown and her family “scooped” their way to the top of a homegrown Hoosier ice cream empire by showing the same love and maternal care that she provides her family to Valpo Velvet’s unique, far-from-generic ice cream creations.
A Family Affair
“I include my kids in the business,” Brown says, speaking to the challenging responsibilities born of balancing dual roles of motherhood of entrepreneurship. “I have awesome employees. I also teach my kids how to do everything at home and here at the business so I get some help. So that’s really the key. I train my kids to be self-sufficient,” Brown adds with a smile.
For longtime customer Katie Seibel and her two-year old son Max, Valpo Velvet is a local institution that relegates all big brand sweet treat vendors to the back of the freezer.
“I love that it’s locally made with fresh ingredients,” Seibel says. “And you can find it at the local grocery stores. I used to come here with my grandma when I was a little girl. We’d walk here to get ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches — all kinds of good stuff,” she recalls in fond reflection of memories of the colorful landmark shop itself, not just the goodies contained within.
A Recipe for Small Business Success
So how has Cathy Brown and her dedicated family of employees managed to beat Ben and Jerry’s and decimate Dairy Queen in the friendly confines of Northwest Indiana?
“We don’t cut corners on ingredients,” Brown says, who acknowledges that prices may go up as a result of more expensive, higher quality ingredients. “We’re known as a higher priced ice cream, but we’re not willing to use a cheaper vanilla. And the product kind of speaks for itself.”
The community agrees.
“Valpo Velvet is part of the tradition of being in town,” says Chris Mahlmann, a Valparaiso business owner and founder of ValpoLife.com. “If you’re here in the summertime, you know you’re going to Valpo Velvet. The Brown family is part of the fabric that makes up this community. It’s one of the most instantly recognizable places you see here.”
“People like the Browns take advantage of being a small business,” Mahlmann adds. “They don’t view the limitations of being a small business. They’re among the few people connecting to customers via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. They have events here all the time, they get involved with the schools, and they use the fact that they’re a small business to turn on a dime where a larger business just can’t.”
For more on Valpo Velvet, check out our video interview: