Shop at Petaling Jaya handing out ice cream for events

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The main difference between ice cream and ice cream is that the former is very milk-based, while the latter is cream-based. Marie and Tracey were walking the cobbled streets of Rome, trying different ice cream stalls until one stood out from the rest.

Its texture, flavor, clean aftertaste and huge spoons left the sisters feeling better described as “I need to take it home!”

They wrote on their website: “I was still studying at the time, a student had capital … of savings and really, not so much. So our method of madness was content with what we could, therefore, a mobile shop! ”

Advanced 6 years later, the sisters have opened a small brick and mortar store in PJ and have made over 80 different flavors of ice cream. Your brand, Waka Waka Gelato (Waka) has even been booked at events by some prominent clients including Topshop, PWC, Isetan, CIMB, DIOR, L’oreal and the list goes on.

Angpau money gave life to the idea

Marie and Tracey were fed up with a single mission: to spread their enthusiasm for Italian ice cream to Malaysians. Both business students had no culinary experience, so the desserts they made were mostly trial and error.

While she finally got the right taste and texture they were happy with, Marie was aware that just because they liked her product didn’t mean they all did.

They once went viral for their White Rabbit and Haw Flakes flavors / Image Credit: Waka Waka Gelato

When Vulcan Post reached out to them, Marie confessed that she was terrified at the thought of opening a retail store, especially when the company was just an idea. Hosting overhead and costly rent commitments were not viable at the time.

“The concept of a mobile store was to have something small that could be installed wherever the public was and see what they would say. Initially, I thought of installing it at street vendor stalls because there were usually a lot of people there, ”explained Marie. “It had to be a cost saver, a rental saver and a low-commitment way to test the product and get feedback.”

Therefore, with a capital of 4,000 RMS angpao with the money they saved, the duo started selling their ice cream from a small cart at a private event with 3-4 flavors.

“Pity feedback” was not enough

Running from your ice cream cart at events / Image Credit: Waka Waka Gelato

This was the first private event in which they performed the necessary market validation for Waka. By asking questions, receiving feedback, and studying the facial expressions of customers tasting their ice cream, they gained confidence in the potential of their product.

“I read somewhere that friends and family could give pity comments, so it’s important to get comments from strangers and that bazaars were the best place for that,” Marie said.

Awareness of Waka grew slowly through word of mouth, and began to appear in universities, bazaars, and small events. The significant turning point for them was at a Jaya One bazaar. Although many clients consisted of supportive relatives, it was the event that opened them up to greater public exposure.

The brothers made sure much of their success was thanks to friends and family who helped connect Waka with interested clients for both private and corporate events.

So they attracted reputable clients like Isetan, DIOR, Marc Jacobs and a couple of Big 4 firms.

Some of his highlights were provided at events / Image credit: Waka Waka Gelato

But the sisters remain humble and share: “Even now we would not say that our scope is very wide, most people still do not really know about us. We still get people to come into our store asking if we’ve just started, ”they told Vulcan Post.

The MCO put the brakes on the truck

With more companies and people booking private events, the Waka sisters needed a central kitchen to prepare larger amounts of their ice cream.

In December 2019, they opened a physical store in PJ —inverting the proceeds of the events— to serve as a place to spend time with customers and a central kitchen. But the MCO hit shortly after, which put Waka in a tight spot.

“The events had been the most important, so you could say we were 100% affected by the blockade,” Marie and Tracey said. “You can’t call us retail either, because we never had any storefronts, so we didn’t have a lot of retailers.”

Keep the team lean only by hiring part-time staff / Image Credit: Waka Waka Gelato

Waka immediately boosted their operations to take advantage of deliveries, where offering daily menus and delivery promotions helped them ride the waves.

As for event bookings that could not be physically held, the sisters allowed their customers the option of redirecting their booking expenses to in-store purchases or deliveries to attendees. However, most customers simply decided to wait until the physical events were safe again.

It is an ongoing process for it to work. There is not enough point for us, even after achieving a goal, there is always the following. We are open to opportunities, but for now, we want to maximize what we have in the retail segment. It would be great to have Waka Waka Gelato as a novelty, a place [where] we hope you want to take everyone to try it or for tourists to come by.

Marie and Tracey, co-founders of Waka Waka Gelato

  • You can find more information about Waka Waka Gelato here.
  • You can read other F&B articles we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Marie and Tracey, co-founders of Waka Waka Gelato





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