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Fiasco Gelato’s ingredients for small business success

Posted on:  ,  | Author: Michelle Stead

In a lot of ways James Boettcher is what you might call an “accidental entrepreneur”. James’s marketing work and passion for the Fiasco Gelato brand lead to the company’s owner offering to sell it to him, insisting James loved it more than he did. From that unconventional beginning, James has worked hard to grow the brand, curate an amazing team, and maintain his standards for a high quality product his customers love.

Here are a few of the principles that have helped James grow Fiasco Gelato:
  1. Prioritize the employee experience.

    No small business owner would deny the importance of the customers, but James looks at things a bit differently. “I used to get very excited about the customer experience, but now for me the employee experience is the most important,” he says.

    “My shift has come from realizing that the customer experience can be looked after by the employees, if THEY have a great experience.”

    Satisfied employees equals satisfied customers.

  2. Build your brand.

    James is passionate about providing an authentic product, but he realized not all his customers would share his gusto for genuine gelato. That’s why he put so much effort into developing his brand. “People are more willing to take a chance on a product they might not know a lot about because they appreciate and trust our brand,” James says.

    The recipe seems to be working, with unexpected flavour blends like blueberry basil catching on with customers, and new concoctions always in the works.

    “Our team just brainstorms together and comes up with the craziest ideas possible and we always say, if you can dream it, we can do it.”

  3. Embrace the unexpected.

    “Having my own business means that every single day I have a very distinct challenge ahead of me,” says James. “I think the invigoration that comes with not knowing what’s going to happen each and every day is pretty exciting, and you really only get out of it what you put in. I always say to our team, you know, nothing worth having comes easily. So we put a lot of hard work into what we do.”

  4. Get the knowledge you need.

    “The first three months I owned Fiasco I had no clue how to make gelato,” recalls James. “I realized very quickly how much care and attention had to be put into the product. At that point it really became important for me to understand the whole process.”

    That meant it was off to Italy where James earned Maestro Gelatiere status from Carpigiani Gelato University, a rewarding experience that earned James a new level of trust from his team.

  5. Bigger isn’t always better.

    For a while it seemed like Fiasco had to get smaller in order to grow. “When I took over Fiasco we actually had three cafes and I realized that the model wasn’t sustainable for us,” remembers James. “So we closed those down and we partnered with great cafes and restaurants, realizing that we had to innovate in a seasonal market like Calgary.”

    What may have looked like downsizing to some was actually a business model shift that ultimately allowed the company to expand.

  6. Consider what your product says about your brand.

    “I appreciate when brands are able to showcase their true message through either their packaging or through visual,” says James. “For me, Fiasco is a very grassroots company. Everything we do is very transparent.”

    “We showcase that through our clear packaging.”

  7. Find a way to give back.

    Seeing the Calgary Zoo devastated by the 2013 flood sparked a plan to raise funds to help get things back to normal. Two new products were created—Bananimal Cracker Gelato and High Water Hippo Sorbetto—with a portion of sales going back to the zoo.

    “When we presented the cheque to the zoo, it was made out of gelato of course,” says James. “There were a lot of tears shed and I really got to see how excited our team was for what we accomplished.”

    “I definitely cried. I’m a crier.”

    Hear more from James in his We Grow Alberta video

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