Lubbock Fine client, Ruby Violet, makes and sells delicious and original handmade ice creams and sorbets from two outlets. The first opened in Tufnell Park four years ago and the newest opening is in the Kings Cross new development.
Conceived by Julie Fisher, who owns the business, Ruby Violet is fast making a name for itself in the areas where it operates and beyond. The company is named after Julie’s beloved grandmother, a woman who loved ice cream. “There are lots of childhood memories tied up in the business,” Julie explains. “When we visited my grandma as children, she always had a choc ice for her and those basic blocks of ‘plain’ ice cream for us children – we were never allowed the exotic ones with the chocolate. Far too fancy for us.”
With a background in photography, Julie became increasingly disillusioned with her work when the world went digital. Finding herself increasingly isolated and endlessly sitting at a computer screen, it all felt very solitary when what she wanted was to feel a real part of something. She’d always loved food and cooking, especially puddings and desserts, and ultimately came to a decision to get involved in ice cream with the original intention of having a little café within a community. After painstaking research, she had her light-bulb moment. “Why should I sell someone else’s ice cream when I felt I could make a better, higher quality product myself?”
For one, long year, Julie made ice cream from home where large industrial machines took over her kitchen and half of her living room. She tested and played with flavours and inclusions, such as salted caramel sauce and nut brittle, before she started selling at a new farmers’ market outside of the Tufnell Park Tavern, who were initially very dubious about her. Through that channel, she developed a really loyal local following and has retained many of those customers from those early days.
“It was exhausting,” explained Julie, “we made ice cream and inclusions all week and sold it for four hours on one day a week. It just wasn’t a workable business model.” Julie knew that she needed to step things up.
“What’s been critical for us along the way has been having the right professional advice. I was truly fed up with using unimaginative accountants based somewhere off the A1 with three year old copies of Country Life in their reception. We looked around, narrowing our choice down to four firms. We visited all four and the first three were just so dreary. Lubbock Fine was a real breath of fresh air and Jeff (Gitter) has been brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It was really impressive that he met us himself and didn’t palm us off onto an underling because we were a small business. He’d taken the trouble to do some research and, unlike the other three, had actually looked at our website before we came in. What’s more, he has a particular expertise dealing with clients in food based businesses and he loves ice cream. So, he was already ahead of the game and then, when we met, I saw the view of St Paul’s from Lubbock Fine’s office! I was sold!”
Lubbock Fine senior partner, Jeff Gitter, added,“With Tufnell Park already operating well, Julie still had to work very hard to persuade the Kings Cross developers, Argent, that Ruby Violet was a suitable tenant. She put an excellent, creative presentation together and we helped hone the financial side. One of the very clever things Julie did, in her efforts to persuade Argent to see her, was that she started delivering ice cream to them until they agreed to speak to her. That’s the sort of creative entrepreneur that we love to work with.”
What the early Tufnell Park farmers’ market days had provided was invaluable feedback from customers of likes and dislikes and ideas as to what they really wanted. When Julie opened her first shop down the road from the pub, she already had a customer base. Her new Kings Cross parlour, which opened earlier this year, has started from scratch in a great location. Ruby Violet’s ice cream is also stocked by a number of up-market local food shops in the area.
At Kings Cross, Julie feels that Argent have done a really good job in bringing a community feel to the development with lovely planting and grassy areas for relaxing in better weather. They’ve made it feel airy and spacious and not tried to use every square millimetre of space for buildings.
Whilst the ice cream business is fairly seasonal, Julie has found that in summer, people tend to buy more single scoops in cones or tubs but in winter, she sells more of the larger tubs. So, even though there may be fewer customers, the spend per customer increases in winter.
Ruby Violet also makes a range of high-end items – ice cream cakes, beautiful but simple bombes, celebration cakes, sorbet filled fresh fruit … the list goes on. Currently, all the ice cream and many inclusions are all made in Ruby Violet’s Tufnell Park premises which customers love. But the time is coming when production will need to be stepped up and a move into a bigger, commercial kitchen space is on the cards. Larger premises will also give Julie the opportunity to run ice-cream workshops, courses, corporate days out and her dream is to create a sort of Apple store for ice cream.
Please contact Jeff Gitter if you need an accountant who will take the time to understand your business.