The Debut

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I didn’t have a date set to launch. All that self-discipline and hustle to get to a near-ready state and I could feel myself grinding to a halt just before the finish line instead of pushing myself over it. I guess this is why even just one cheerleader by your side can make all the difference. 

My friend and roommate peeked her head into my room one day and said “the non-profit I’m volunteering for is hosting an event in a couple weeks, there will be thousands of attendees… you should be a vendor and I’ll help you.” I probably started stammering about its feasibility or lack thereof, I can’t exactly remember my response. But she chimed in “just email them now and see if they can squeeze you in… do it.”

So I did. And they immediately welcomed me on board. From that point on, I moved on autopilot. I didn’t stop to dwell on whether I thought I could do it. I just focussed on how, creating to-do lists and checking items off one by one. At any point leading up to the event I don’t recall feeling any emotions towards finally getting my product in front of people. Sure, I was concerned about the flavors fitting the audience but I mainly thought to myself that the most important thing I’d gain from doing this event, is simply learning how to do it in the first place, you know, figuring out the logistical stuff. I wasn’t going to worry about people visiting my booth, not trying my ice cream, or even not liking it. First and foremost, I needed the experience of transporting frozen, perishable goods from point A to point B, keeping them frozen for the duration of the event, and maybe throwing some decent presentation into the mix. This kept the pressure of the crowd’s opinions off my shoulders- one hurdle at a time, please.

As advised, I made 1500 units of mochi ice cream. Oh, did I mention? This is a mochi ice cream company! Alternative mochi ice cream, if you will. Larger than the traditional sizes and filled with the adventurous, rich, full-textured ice creams akin to that of Ben & Jerry’s. There’s chunks, chips, and swirls in every bite of just about every flavor. Plus, each mochi ice cream is sized as a full scoop. 

So anywho. I spent a week in the kitchen prepping vats of ice cream bases with an industrial immersion blender, pouring gallons of base into a batch freezer until I had about 40-50 gallons of ice cream, making about 120 pounds of sticky mochi dough, and funneling everything into our mochi-making machine with the help of kitchen managers who’ve been here with me from the beginning learning how to create it all in the first place. I moved tall racks of my product into the freezers one after the other which felt rewarding in and of itself. I spent my evenings searching for and ordering serving supplies, marketing materials, decorations, and designing the banner and menu to be printed out. And then I had to figure out transportation. A new dipping cabinet and one cargo van rental later, I felt like things were really coming together. 

My friend who offered to help me with the event? She came through tenfold. We began the day moving my supplies into a Lyft to take us to the van rental lot, took the van to a dry ice shop to grab about 10-15 pounds, then to my kitchen in Huntington Beach, walked into the tundra that is the walk-in freezer, carried and situated what felt like tons of ice cream into the van, then drove to the FedEx Print shop to pick up my banner and laminated menus, and finally made our way into the Paramount Studios lot. 

The movie lot was magical. The organization putting together this event was very… well, organized. As soon as we drove in, the staff arrived to haul our belongings to my booth’s location and I knew the hardest part was behind me. We made it! 

Another friend of ours who was volunteering at the event came by. Her headspace seemed much clearer than ours which had become muddled from the first half of the day. She spurred a second wind into us and we set up our booth, making it as cute as could be. Nearing go-time, I changed into a nicer (AKA clean) ensemble and perused the venue for things to eat from the other vendors. I felt relaxed now. There were many other booths hosted by large, well-known companies that had much flashier signage and overall presence on the lot. I accepted the fact that my smaller, albeit charming, booth would likely not gain as much attention or visitors. 

I was wrong about that. As lines formed, they didn’t stop and all three of us were in a (controlled) frenzy the whole time handing out one mochi ice cream scoop after another. I didn’t think this crowd would be the right fit for Japanese-inspired ice cream but people were either incredibly excited or very curious. For the excited visitors, we gave them a surprise. They knew what mochi ice cream was but hadn’t had it in this way before (bigger with flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake and Mexican Hot Cocoa as options). For the curious visitors, we had the honor of teaching them what mochi is and being their first experience with mochi ice cream. It was actually creating buzz around the lot. People came up to us saying “We were told we had to come here.” We saw many repeat customers. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a food market where I had to stop somewhere more than once. Here, people were returning for seconds and thirds. It was surreal- so much so, that I couldn’t process it at the time. We were busy… and then we ran out! To be honest, the disappointed faces were as sad a sight as they were flattering. 

All these months of thinking...hoping I was onto something and then this event validated that maybe, just maybe, I was. 

The exhaustion hit me the next day. I woke up with my body completely aching- oh, and this large van/truck parked on my street with a freezer I couldn’t carry off of it. The stress and fatigue had gotten to me and I felt unable to problem-solve my way out of the last leg of what had felt like a mini odyssey. I still wasn’t sensing any particular emotions and yet suddenly, I broke into sobs. 

My roommate came into my room and gave me a big hug. “You’re overwhelmed! I would be too! I mean, I’m still wondering what and how it all happened.” Overwhelmed I was indeed- in the most rewarding way. I had been working diligently, but was bracing for a letdown or the witness of a needed learning curve. Instead, I had been given the green light to share what I had been working on for the last six months and dreaming up for years. It was ready for the world.

I drove the truck back to the kitchen where Arturo had been patiently waiting for me, alone in his large commercial kitchen when he should have probably been taking the day off. He helped unload the freezer and thankfully, my leftover ice cream was still frozen and ready to be made into more mochi ice cream. He left and I stayed behind to do some cleaning up and reflecting. I drove the truck back to the rental lot and called for my Lyft ride home. 

I did it. I started telling my Lyft driver about how I had just debuted my mochi ice cream and was feeling so blissful.