Written by Hanna Lee
Seven years ago, Alexis Miesen had one complaint when she moved to her Brooklyn, NY neighborhood: it lacked a decent ice cream establishment. Frustrated with the grind of her 9-5 job, Miesen started to ponder a career change. âIt occurred to me that no one else was opening an ice cream shop, and that maybe I should do it,â remembers Miesen. âI was too timid to embark on this crazy journey myself, I announced my plans at a party to rope someone into doing it with me.â Miesen found her partner with actress, Jennie Dundas, Â looking for a way to supplement her income with a creative project during her downtime, Dundas was immediately taken with the idea and the two friends became a team.
Despite zero knowledge of how to make ice cream, the pair opened their first Blue Marble ice cream shop in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn in October 2007 and found immediate success. By Spring 2008, they opened a second location in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Five years later, the team has rocketed the Blue Marble brand to expand into many shops, seasonal outposts and even a wholesale distributions arm that services grocery stores and restaurants.
From its inception, it was integral for Miesen and Dundas to run an eco-friendly business. âWhen we opened the first store, the eco-friendly and organic trends everyone claims to use today werenât very prevalent,â Miesen explains. Blue Marble uses strictly organic ingredients and green energy to produce all of its products. The brand name itself is a nickname for planet earth, and the owners are devoted to protecting and respecting the world around us.
âKnowing that our chief clientele would be children, we couldnât fathom the thought of a product with artificial flavors or anything like that,â says Miesen. âWe wanted a honest, wholesome product we could be proud of.â Although she acknowledges that their commitment to eco-friendly values have eaten into the companyâs bottom line, Miesen says she would never compromise on running their business any other way.
Miesen hypothesizes that the key to the companyâs success is itâs ability to not only offer an organic product, but also a delicious one. âWeâre thrilled people keep coming back because the more ice cream we sell, the more dairy we need and the more farmers we can support,â Miesen explains. âWeâre proud of our commitment to local farmers and communicate to customers that when they choose [Blue Marble], their purchase goes beyond one scoop of ice cream.â Blue Marble uses only USDA certified organic ingredients and works with manufacturing companies that verify their organic recipe.
Shortly after Miesen and Dundas conceived Blue Marble, they developed Blue Marble Dreams, the nonprofit arm of the company. The pair knew they wanted to formalize their commitment to the world in some way, but were unsure of where to begin beyond its business practices. In the summer of 2009, Dundas met Rwandian native, Odile Gakire Katese or Kiki (as she prefers to be called), at the Sundance Institute.Â Both had been invited to take part in a Theater Lab and formed an instant connection.
After learning about Blue Marble, Kiki approached Dundas with an idea to boost peoplesâ spirits and economy in her native Rwanda. Kiki asked Blue Marble to visit her small town and educate a group of women on how to open their own ice cream shop. âKiki truly is a visionary, she felt an ice cream shop would be a great thing for the women in this community still reeling from the effects of war and genocide,â Miesen explains.
Miesen says that Kiki recognized the importance of healing the spirit and saw ice cream as reminder that life is good, sweet and can be savored together. Additionally, many Rwandan women donât have a formal education and lack access to capital of any significant sum. Kiki felt an ice cream business would equip women with an identity and a source of income.
The Blue Marble team also saw the venture as an opportunity to support the local agriculture, dairy farmers, fruit growers and carpenters in a modest but powerful way to boost the local economy. Rwandaâs first ice cream shop, Inzozi Nziza (âSweet Dreamsâ), opened in June 2010 and experienced significant success in the area.
âInzozi Nziza is going well beyond our wildest hopes,â exclaims Miesen. âSince we trained and helped open the location the women are managing the store incredibly on their own. We own the store in partnership with them so I think they feel a sense of genuine investment and pride in the store.â
Miesen and Dundas use Kikiâs wise words as a source of inspiration for their business and daily lives back here in the US.Â Â âKiki talks a lot about the power of saying âyesâ to ourselves and to the opportunities that come our way,â Miesen reflects.Â âPeople can tend to internalize ânoâ to a lot of the possibilities in life, and she really is someone who always says yes. âÂ Miesen credits Kiki for saying âyesâ to ice cream in Rwanda and thereby creating transformative success for women in her country.
Miesen and Dundas are firmly enchanted by the idea of urban renewal here in the United States and abroad. Miesen says, âBlue Marble is committed to supporting the joy of communities through the joy of ice cream. Weâre all about the power of ice cream, entrepreneurship, and bringing happiness and prosperity to people around the world.â
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