Toa Green is the daughter of Thai immigrants who came to Kentucky as students. Her parents, both Master's degree holders, eventually decided to open their own Thai restaurant. Green recalls growing up in the restaurant and helping her parents run the establishment while balancing responsibilities as a student -- and swore that she would never work in a restaurant again.
After graduating from college, Green moved in with her sister and fell back into the rhythm of family dinners and home. After landing a marketing position at a nonprofit, she started to think about how she might help people in her own way: through making food and by giving her time. She had organized food-related events and enjoyed the work so much that restaurant work again crossed her mind.
Though her family had sold their Thai restaurant, Green began to plan what it might look like to start a new concept. On her Crank & Boom podcast, she recognized that her early experiences working in her family's business taught her valuable lessons that she later tapped into as an entrepreneur. "It was hard work -- it was extremely hard work," she recalled of the early days of starting her new endeavor, Thai Orchid Cafe.
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The Evolution Of An Idea
Thai Orchid Cafe brought back many of the favorite dishes from Toa Green's parents' Thai restaurant, but the menu also featured modern twists. Green wanted to add a fun dessert option to the menu and had her heart set on a coconut ice cream she remembered eating in Thailand. The Thai dessert was served in a hot dog bun and topped with sweetened condensed milk and peanuts.
Not sure where to find such an item, she began making her own coconut ice cream using a Cuisinart and was able to replicate the taste nearly perfectly. Green could only make one batch a day, however, and would often have to post a sold-out sign at the restaurant. But the success of the dessert encouraged her to continue her ice cream-making efforts, and she teamed up with a local farm to make sweet potato pie ice cream with caramelized pecans. This flavor was also a hit, and Green kept dreaming.
Next, she used local strawberries to make strawberry ice cream. She recognized that quality ingredients could make a huge difference in the taste and texture of her products. It was a turning point for Green, who observed that customers would visit the restaurant specifically for ice cream orders. Social media engagement with the restaurant's ice cream-related posts also surpassed that of other dishes, and one customer even drove during a snowstorm specifically for ice cream pints -- which, at the time, were packaged in soup containers.
Finding Nationwide Success
Much to Toa Green's surprise, customers kept asking for her ice cream. Since the restaurant wasn't as busy in the summer, she started selling her homemade products at local farmer's markets. She purchased a larger commercial machine -- a $10,000 investment -- and began cranking out pints under the label of Crank & Boom, "crank" referring to the old-fashioned way of making ice cream and "boom" to the burst of flavor offered in each bite. Green and her husband also began branding shirts and got an event cart as momentum continued to build.
On her Crank & Boom podcast, she recalled saying "yes" to everything and showing up to every event and festival that she could, regardless of the number of participants present. In time, the ice cream became associated with festivals, and fans of the brand demanded an actual storefront. Now, with two brick-and-mortar locations and products shipping throughout the United States, Green and her team's hard work and commitment have paid off: Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream is a recognized nationwide ice cream brand.
"I don't know of anything that is easy when you are trying to build something," Green admits on her podcast. She encourages entrepreneurs to have a clear mission to help keep them going through the hard moments common at the beginning of such an endeavor. "The regret of not trying is much more deeply hurting to me," she says, adding, "It's okay to be scared if you're going take the big leap into something." Ice cream lovers across America are certainly glad she did.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.