Jess Salamanca talks to us about her business, Banana Scoops, a healthy-ice cream brand that was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is the background to your business?
I initially came up with the idea of Banana Scoops about 5 or 6 years ago when I discovered the trend for nice cream on Instagram. I made it myself and was enamoured by how delicious yet healthy it was, but I was surprised that there was no way to purchase it ready-made in the UK. I wanted to change that.
Therefore, 2 years ago I decided to take the plunge and quit my job so that I could focus on founding and building Banana Scoops – Both our company and our manufacturer are based in the UK. I haven’t looked back since!
I have over 7 years of experience helping small businesses to achieve their goals and turn their dreams into a profitable business. Therefore, it felt very natural for me to start my own. I am the solo-founder of Banana Scoops and wear many, many hats. I’m lucky enough to have a small team in charge of PR and marketing, but all of the other roles in the business are fulfilled by me.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I had the idea years before launching the business! Growing up in Spain, a lovely hot country, ice cream was a big part of my diet! However I noticed that supermarkets were filled with ice creams full of sweeteners, sugars and fat so I wanted to create an alternative, healthy ice cream free from nasties, and one that was good for you.
What is your point of difference?
What sets our nice cream apart is that bananas are the base of our nice creams rather than dairy or dairy alternatives (i.e vegan options). It’s made from mostly fruit, with no refined sugar or additives. Our ice cream is so healthy that you can even have it for breakfast!
We’re the only nice cream company in the whole of Europe and we also produce the only ice cream product that hits all three key gaps in the ice cream industry, based on consumer demand – natural ingredients, healthy, dairy-free. There is quite literally no other company in Europe who is doing what we do – we are our sole competitor in this field.
How do you spread the word about your business?
As a small business with small budgets, we rely on digital marketing and word of mouth. We’re very lucky to have 5000 loyal customers on social media who are always tagging us on their delicious creations made using our ice cream. This word-of-mouth marketing is absolutely priceless and goes to show that having an amazing product and a loyal customer base can have a huge impact on any business.
How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We actually launched during the first Covid lockdown in the UK!
As every business in the country, Covid has had a big impact on us. We were meant to launch into Ocado in March 2019 but due to Covid our launch that was delayed by two months – a period in which we had no idea whether we would even launch at all as there was so much uncertainty.
It’s also had a huge impact on our marketing; our main campaign was in Summer 2020 where we were going to revamp a classic ice cream truck and convert it into a Banana Scoops truck and attend lots of events in the UK sampling and selling our ice cream. Of course, this couldn’t happen so we had to focus our efforts on digital marketing instead.
What’s the hardest thing about running a business?
Being a solo founder is incredibly difficult. There’s no one to bounce ideas off and there’s a lot of pressure on one person. However, I’ve absolutely loved every minute of it and I wouldn’t change anything.
Have you received any financial support for your business?
We are completely self-funded and haven’t had any external investment. We have been very lucky, however, to receive two grants in the past few months – one from our local council and one as a prize for the David Walsh scholarship for up-and-coming startups.
We’ve also been awarded two Kickstarters to join our team as part of the government’s Kickstart Scheme.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Having a very innovative product is definitely amazing and our biggest USP. However, we have faced logistical issues with our nice cream. Due to our product being frozen, it doesn’t make economic sense for our business to sell directly to customers which is challenging.
Nice cream has a very different texture to normal ice cream and also freezes differently, so we’re having to constantly work on improving and updating our recipe also.
As I am a solo-founder these issues can sometimes be overwhelming, as I am solely responsible for my brand, all decisions are on me.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
Starting my business! It’s so hard to take the first step and doing it alone makes it all the more difficult. However, I am so glad I did, being able to do something I love for work and being my own boss is very rewarding.
Not starting sooner! If only we had planned to launch a year earlier, before Covid, our lives would’ve been a lot easier and the potential impact of our business would’ve been a lot greater.
What is one thing that would make running your business a lot easier?
Having a bigger team! I’m very lucky that we have a growing team including two amazing young talented Kickstarters who are helping them grow the business. However, having a board of advisors and a growing team would really help take the business forward so it’s not mostly run by one person.
What’s next for your business?
World domination and bananas everywhere – hopefully! We’re in the process of refining our recipes, launching new flavours and formats as well as looking into new distribution channels and markets. We want Banana Scoops to be stocked in all major UK supermarkets as well as internationally, and it’s something we’re working on.