How one couple are bringing the magic back to ice cream

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

PROFILE 5: Baboo Gelato

As the Small Business Saturday campaign prepares to mark its ten-year anniversary on December 3, SME Magazine is profiling some of the 100 small businesses in this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up.  As Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK, says: “The fantastic small businesses featured in this year’s SmallBiz100 sum up the extraordinary contribution that small firms make to our economy and local areas.”

Annie and Sam Hanbury set up Baboo Gelato in 2016 to make ice cream using ingredients surrounding them in rural West Dorset. Here, they tell SME their story

Baboo Gelato is a rapidly growing ice cream manufacturer and retailer based in the West Country.  We have sales nearing £2m from our own outlets, and from 200 restaurants and farm shops in Dorset, Devon, Somerset and beyond. Our single guiding principle is ‘ingredients, ingredients, ingredients’. We scour the West Country for the very best ingredients we can find, not only rich organic milk but seasonal fruit, salt, malt, vodka and gin.  When we can’t find it in the UK we buy directly from farms in Italy, so our pistachios and citrus fruits come from Sicily, our hazelnuts from Piedmont and our walnuts from Veneto.

We have just completed construction of a new state-of-the-art kitchen, and so are no longer capacity constrained, and can take on new customers for the first time this year. We have been a multiple award winner over the years, including being Champion Ice Cream from Taste of the West in 2016 and 2020, and one of three finalists in every other year since 2017. We have 27 Great Taste stars. We were awarded Best British Specialty product in the Great British Food Awards 2020. Even our dog ice cream Doggy Doggy Yum Yum has garnered awards including Best Newcomer from Pedigree Wholesale in 2021.

What is your background?

Annie trained as a gelatiere (artisanal ice cream maker) in Bologna, and returned to the UK convinced that there was a huge gap in the market for seasonal, fresh ice cream using local ingredients. We really take the seasonality seriously: during the first two weeks of June, Sam can be found buried in the hedgerows around us picking buckets of elderflower. All summer and autumn long, Land Rovers and vans pull up to our kitchen with fresh fruit. 

We also operate six of our own outlets. We want to bring the magic back to ice cream, as it is a powerfully emotional product. How many older people’s reminisces begin ‘I remember when my granny took me for an ice cream at the beach…’?  So our kiosks are bright and happy, and we try to expand the range beyond just a scoop by offering milkshakes, alcoholic granitas, hot chocolate with ice cream in it, sundaes, and affogatos.

We think that the sky is the limit for good ice cream, either sold directly by us to the customer from one of our outlets, or through our lovely retailers and chefs. We are expanding further this winter into Hampshire and Surrey, and will be looking to London in late 2023.

What do you produce? 

We have 55 flavours of ice cream, not including bespoke flavours for chefs. We are continually innovating and adding flavours as we come across interesting ideas and ingredients. Blue Peter recently visited us to do a show about making ice cream, and we created a raspberry ice cream with chocolate strands for them. It is fabulous and we’ll be bringing it onto the menu shortly. We sell our ice cream in 125 and 500ml tubs to consumers, and 2.5 and 5 litre tubs to restaurants and scooping parlours.

What do you enjoy the most about being your own boss? 

Annie and I enjoy working together. Many people would think that working with your spouse would be a fast track to divorce but we have complementary skills and respect each other, but find it invaluable and enjoyable to bounce ideas off each other, and thrash through problems together. We have big plans for Baboo Gelato and want to turn it into the most respected ice cream brand in the UK. It is incredibly exciting to have one’s own vision and be able to build towards it. We are like a snowball rolling forward and gathering every more like minded people to help us to achieve our vision. 

What advice would you give someone thinking about setting up their own business?

We were given a lot of advice when we started. Two things that stuck were ‘have a fixed price, and don’t discount’; and ‘if you budget that things will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you budgeted you’ll survive the early years’. These are both excellent pieces of advice. The idea of never discounting is controversial but if you have a product you’re proud of, and that other people want, stick to your guns. The moment you discount you’re on a slippery slope, and it is much more complicated to keep track of what you’ve promised to who. Not discounting shows you know the value of your product.

The second piece of advice about things taking twice as long and costing twice as much is well worth heeding. In the early days even the smallest thing can create delays, and if you are running with very limited cash, it’ll bury you. Better to be cautious and pleasantly surprised when things go right.

What do you think about Small Business Saturday and how does it help you?

Small Business Saturday is an inspired idea and we are delighted to be selected as one of their SmallBiz100 this year. As small business owners, we often find limited support elsewhere, but the Small Business Saturday campaign offers a range of resources, as well as practical advice that we find extremely useful. We also love to be able network with other entrepreneurs and be part of the small business community the campaign has created.

Sum up your business in three words

Authentic, excellent, delicious.

Baboo Gelato

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024