Gooder Podcast with Thereasa Black
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In this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Thereasa Black, CEO and Founder of Amore Congelato, a start-up gelato brand taking a different approach to treats, community and the definition of success. Thereasa takes us on a journey of being a professionally driven single mom finding a way to develop a dessert that her daughter fell in love with, while Tereasa was deployed overseas, to create a new opportunity for her family and her community. Along the way we explore the hurdles of starting a new food brand with no experience in food or frozen desserts, CPG, or retail.
In this episode we learn:
- The genesis and inspiration of Amore Congelato.
- How Thereasa’s military experience influences her decision making and level-headedness.
- How to stay focused on the mission of a company regardless of challenge.
- To always have a real plan B, ( and C).
- How leaning into other people and resources can help at every level of business.
- How to stay inspired when working through unfamiliar situations.
- That the real key to success is balancing work life with personal life.
She leaves us with a word of advice: “Your drive should be the want to achieve your goals.”
About Thereasa Black:
Thereasa Black is an attorney, Naval Officer, and the CEO and founder of Amore Congelato, a company that makes all-natural, nutritious gelato and sorbet that contains zero cane sugar.
In March 2018, a month after she was sworn into the Maryland Bar and a week before her daughter’s 2nd birthday, Thereasa was deployed to Djibouti for a 13-month deployment. This was Thereasa’s 4th deployment, but her first as a mom. Every day away from her daughter was s struggle because her toddler, who believed that Thereasa had dropped her off and moved to a new home, was suffering greatly.
Thereasa knew immediately that she couldn’t deploy again and that returning home and practicing law working 8o hour weeks was also not an option, so she decided to start her own business. She chose gelato in honor of the last food that she and her daughter shared before their long journey apart. Thereasa had made an ice cream cookie cake to celebrate her daughter’s birthday the night before she deployed. It was the first time that her daughter had ice cream and she fell in love with it.
Thereasa decided to make an ice cream that was nutritious so that she would be happy to allow her daughter to eat it. She removed all of the cane sugar and replaced it with a tasty combination of date syrup, agave nectar, and coconut sugar. It has up to 16 essential vitamins and minerals and 24 grams of protein. Now her daughter can enjoy gelato that has more nutrients than kale and Thereasa will never have to leave her side.
Guests Social Media Links:
Amore Congelato: Gelato sweetened with dates, coconut sugar, and agave nectar. Zero cane sugar.
Stacy’s Rise Project: Created to help bridge the funding gap for female founders, Stacy’s Rise Project™ has been connecting and empowering women business owners for years. That’s why Stacy’s is sharing our resources with other female-founded businesses like those founded by these 30 women. Support them by adding their products and services to your cart.
HelloAlice: Step-by-step guides, expert resources, and collaborative communities of fellow entrepreneurs – all for free.
MassChallenge: MassChallenge was founded in 2009 with a singular purpose – to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to launch and grow new ventures.
Diana Fryc: Hi and welcome to the Gooder Podcast; I’m your host Diana Fryc. As partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency, I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry, food, beverage, wellness, fitness, and as such, I decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertise to help businesses all around the world become gooder. Today, we get to welcome Miss Thereasa Black as she is the founder and CEO of Amore Congelato. She’s super fascinating. Thereasa is a naval officer, a licensed attorney, and CEO but there’s more of Amore Congelato. Amore Congelato is a company that produces an all-natural gelato and sorbet sweetened with dates instead of cane sugar. In March 2018, she left her daughter for a 13 month deployment just before her daughter’s second birthday. And that’s really where the story begins, and she’ll be able to share some more in a little bit. So welcome, Thereasa. How are you?
Thereasa Black: I’m good. How are you?
Diana Fryc: Good. How’s Arlington Virginia?
Thereasa Black: It is rainy.
Diana Fryc: It’s raining. Oh, my goodness. Is it crazy over there right now? Like with all of the things changing over politically or is it pretty quiet?
Thereasa Black; Pretty quiet; I think most of that stuff is happening in DC.
Diana Fryc: Okay. I don’t know how all that stuff spreads out?
Thereasa Black: Usually honestly, everyone goes because it’s so close. If anyone wants to protest anything or anything like that, they literally just go to DC because it’s right there.
Diana Fryc: It’s so close. Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I still sort of laugh about how we connected over kind of a spark virtual event hosted by New Hope. But that’s a story for another day, but just kind of let you know, if you go to these virtual networks, you will meet some pretty amazing people sometimes on accident, and it’s pretty awesome. So why don’t we start with the story of Amore Congelato. Your brand is still a little bit young, but you have such an interesting story. So what’s the history? And why did you start the brand?
Thereasa Black: It’s kind of straightforward I guess. I’m in the military. I was active duty for a time, but I left active duty in order to go to law school and then as soon as I finished law school, like literally the Monday after I took the bar exam, I got a call and it was like, “Hey, guess what, Thereasa, you’re going to Djibouti for a year!” And I started freaking out because of my daughter at the time. She was 18 months old and I’m just like, “Oh, great! What am I going to do?” And so I left right before she turned two and I was gone for a year. And the last thing that she and I shared, I threw a birthday party for her since I was going to miss her actual birthday and she didn’t know what a birthday is and so I just did it before I left. I made her ice cream cookie cake and then I left the next morning. I literally cried every day for a year. I knew that she was having a really tough time with me being gone because I’m a single mum, and so she’s living in a new house, a new state, like everything was brand new for her and she’s doing it by herself. It was really tough on her. But like me, it was horrible on me as well. I knew that I could not survive another deployment and I knew that she couldn’t either. And so I knew I had to get out of the military. So while I was gone, I literally started building up this company and I didn’t even have a product yet. I just knew I had to start my own company. So I did a ton of research and a few months before I got home, I settled on gelato, because she had fallen in love with ice cream while I was deployed. I’m a super strict mom; so when it comes to diet, she was not having all that sugar and stuff like that she literally had sugar only on her birthday. Yeah, that was twice in her entire life before I left, and then my cousin took the liberty to alleviate or alleviate her of that rule. She was giving her ice cream while I was gone all the time. And so when I got back, I was like all right, fine; you can keep eating ice cream, but it’s not going to be any more than gelato which is healthier for you and then zero cane sugar like no cane sugar. I’m going to replace that was something else. And so I did and now she eats a lot of gelato literally more nutritious than Kale and she’s just happy to do it.
Diana Fryc: Wow. So you shared such a funny story that I was laughing and if you can remind me how you learned that she had been eating ice cream every day. It was on a call right? Is that what happened?
Thereasa Black: Yes, every night I would have night for her. It was two o’clock in the morning for me but for her, it was about six, five o’clock at dinner. I would talk to everyday at dinner.
And so one day after she finished her dinner, she called my cousin uncle. So she’s like, “Uncle, can I have some ice cream?” And he’s just like, “You had ice cream yesterday.” I’m just like, “What?” But there were so many things that were happening while I was gone that I wasn’t happy about but it was one of those things that was just like, I can’t keep nagging like, hey, don’t do this, don’t do this, because they’re helping me, right?
Diana Fryc: Yeah.
Thereasa Black: And so it becomes like a balance, trying to figure out how to balance like how unhappy I am about what’s going on with her, like what things are really important for me to point out; something had to slide.
Diana Fryc: That’s so funny. Amore Congelato, the name comes from where? How did you decide on that?
Thereasa Black: It took me a while, a lot of Google Translate. But Amore Congelato means, ‘Frozen Love’ and so I called it that because my heart was frozen in time while I was gone and so that’s how it was born and I felt like that was a good name for it.
Diana Fryc: One of the things that you shared with me was this passion; you’re making this ice cream, but then there’s this other component was this ice cream shop location and it was– I don’t remember exactly how you phrased it up. But you were like, I think you either wanted to or you identify the place that you thought really needed some sort of congregational place. Can you share that story a little bit?
Thereasa Black: Yeah. There’s this area in Arlington. I used to work at the Pentagon, okay, we used to go over this little space where we would have like, whenever someone was leaving the command, we would go and have lunch there to say goodbye to them. But anyway, I came over there one day with my daughter, and they have an ice skating rink and so I was ice skating and it’s two hours, like you pay for two hours of ice skating. And I’m sitting here just like a three year old skating for two hours, like come on. When you take a break, she asked me to take a break at some point and there was nothing else for us to do except sit there and either eat and after you finish eating is just like, “All right, what now?” And so they had no dessert like no playground. No kids’ area at all and so I was just like, you know what, and this is missing here. So they need this. And so I opened up and I was the only ice cream shop in the area. But the most important thing, I think, was that I made a little kid section in my store.
A lot influenced by the fact that my daughter was coming with me to work a lot of the time because she refused to go to the babysitter and I wasn’t going to force her; if she wanted to come to the shop she’d come to the shop. So I made her a little section in the store where it’s like a huge carpet with these little booties like plush huge pillows and little kids tables with like Elsa, and Paw Patrol and I had so many toys, so many books, play books, coloring books, you can come there and do whatever. And so when I saw what was happening, the whole idea was that kids would see it, they want to come in and they can hang out, while their parents are just like just getting that break that they desperately need and so that’s exactly what it ends up being. The family would walk into my store and literally the kids would just immediately go over to the kids section and they’d be like, “Mommy hot chocolate,” and they just went over and then they would just sit there and play and my daughter loved it because she had new friends all the time. But also she had kids that would come back and just to play with her and like I told the parents I was like, “Don’t feel that you have to buy anything because you don’t.” I understand what it is to be a parent out and you just need a break, you just need like an hour, 30 minutes and even five minutes but just a break because like kids sometimes can drive you crazy. There’s been a little spot where parents can come sit down enjoy coffee, hot chocolate while their kids are just playing and having fun too like having a ball. It was nice little break for them and for the kids.
Diana Fryc: Has she become kind of like a little co-conspirator partner in this project or she is just this kid– some families have their kids kind of integrally involved while she’s still young, but she sounds like she’s having an influence on some of the things that you’re doing outside of the brand itself.
Thereasa Black: Well, yeah, she’s pretty small. She’ll come into the shop. Now she doesn’t like the shop so much because of COVID and the other kids aren’t coming into the store.
So she’s not doing anything so she’ll be sitting in there bored. But she’ll come in there and she’ll say, “Mommy, can I help sweep?” At the end of the night she can help to sweep and when customers come up sometimes she’ll ask if she can do the registers, she can press the buttons to bring them. If you ask her, it’s our gelato shop. Sorry, she says gelato because if someone calls it ice cream, she corrects them. I try to let her be involved in it and she’s already telling me, “When I grew up, I’m going to live in your house forever, and we’re going to work at this store.” And I’m just like, “No, you’re not Bella. When you grow up, you’re not going to want to do this.” And she goes, “Yes, I will.” So it’s like this whole thing. But I thought it like, do you want to work here? You can work here. If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to. But it’s like; I want to make sure that she knows that she doesn’t have to do this just because I’m doing it. But yeah, she’s helped make gelato before. Like, we had a class trip for her class at the job, we did a virtual class trip. They learnt how to make gelato and she was helping me make it for the class and stuff like that. So it’s like she likes it when she likes it and when she doesn’t she doesn’t; so I don’t try to force anything on her.
Diana Fryc: Well, I noticed that a lot of brands in this kind of frozen treats and ice cream and gelato space kind of straddle between having scoop shops, and as the CPG brand. Is there one that you like more than the other or kind of hard to know right now because I guess your shop isn’t getting that kind of foot traffic that it would because of COVID. So it might not be a fair assessment at this time. But do you like the scoop shop component? Is that fun? Or are you more on the CPG strategy charts and graphs get the stuff out in the marketplace type of person?
Thereasa Black: Well, I’m actually only just now breaking into the grocery store around and it’s complicated, because the reality is that when you’re in grocery stores, for ice cream anyway, you’re at the will of the distributors and the grocery stores themselves and so they got it, they set the prices and they make sure that they get everything out of you that they can get. So they make it that you get a small margin, if anything at all, as possible. And until you’re a huge national brand, that’s like really selling, you don’t make any money, you’re losing money the entire time and so it’s complicated, because the only way to like really get your brand become national is to get into grocery stores. You can open up scoop shops, but it takes a lot longer. Actually, if you want to actually grow nationally and do all those stuff, it’s more expensive to do it with the grocery side of things until a certain point. So there’s a certain point where it got cheaper. But at the beginning, like no, it’s not even a question, it’s super expensive and they’re not really making anything. When I say not really, I mean you’re not making anything at all and you’re actually usually in the negative when you want to go through. So at the beginning at least, and that’s for a while. So even as you start to gain popularity, reality is that, I think trying to do both at the same time helps out because all the money that you’re losing goes to a side and you can make up for it. So hopefully you can break even as opposed to just going straight into negative. I think just trying to find the right balance.
Diana Fryc: Okay, I was investigating your brand and your website a little bit more as I was putting my notes together and you have this really awesome comparison chart on your website, this ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ I love that you’re going after some big guys like really big brands when you’re comparing nutritional values. You even go after Kale, like you’re comparing your product to Kale, which is super fun. Why is that an important part of your brand story?
Thereasa Black: It’s what helps us stand out. So the reality is, is that yeah, you could eat the other things. Well one, we’ve beaten them all on taste test. So we’ve done a blind taste test and people have chosen our product over the competition. That’s specifically why I chose those brands because we’ve beaten them all in tasting. But another thing is that these are brands that you like, people love these other brands, and the fact that there’s something out there that tastes better and is better for you, I would think would help people to make a decision like people are already leaning away from ice cream and gelato already and it’s just like, “It’s not really good for us. We don’t really want.” If can have a functional food that’s also a dessert but that tastes like the regular desserts that you’re used to, why wouldn’t you do that? There’s really no reason to it but not indulge. I ask all the time, “Why don’t you eat ice cream?” “Because it has a bunch of cane sugar in it and it’s generally not really good for you.” I’m just like, “What if it was?” And then their heads goes off and they’re like, “Okay, I’ll try it. Let’s try.” Then they’ll go home with like three pints. So it’s one of those things, it’s just makes us different. And then we have this line of oat milk gelatos as well and these are dairy free gelato and out of all the oat milk ice creams that are on the market, they all use cane sugar, every single one of them and every single gelato that’s out there, they use cane sugar. The only option to have a non-cane sugar dessert in those categories is to come to Amore Congelato soon to be a sweet by the way.
Diana Fryc: Oh. Okay. What’s that about?
Thereasa Black: Honestly, it’s all legal, but we couldn’t get Amore Congelato trademark.
Diana Fryc: Okay, well, that is sometimes the way it goes. One of the other big things that I that’s important to me is like our mission as a company; I’m an attorney and a lot of my work that I did before this was with public defense and United States Department of Justice. And so when I switched careers, I decided like I needed to continue that mission, because that’s been my life’s mission, not just as an attorney. My life goals is to right the wrongs of our society. And so what better way to spread the word and spread the knowledge about the facts except by product? With each point I printed a social, they called ‘Stay Woke’ facts, but I print facts about social injustice on the primes and then as we open up a new website for one of the sweet, people will be able to come onto our website and sign a petition and then eventually we’ll be a certain number of signatures, we can submit those to the Congress people and then hopefully make change not just Congress, people, but like state and federal.
Diana Fryc: Sure, whatever initiative you have, I’m assuming it’s rotating initiatives or right type of things?
Thereasa Black: Well, each flavor has its own its own initiative. So once we solve that problem, then we move on to the next one. So I dissipate that once we get enough signatures, and once people actually move, because just because we want something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, right? Like this summer, everyone was screaming for social change when it comes to the criminal justice system and Congress said, “Oh, yeah, we’ll do it.” And then they put it on the back burner and haven’t talked about it since July ish, even though everyone was screaming for it. The entire population wants something to change. Same thing, not necessarily supporting the use of marijuana, because I’ve never actually used any drugs myself. But the same thing with that, right now it’s a class one drug and they say the only way that something can be a class one drug, is if it has no medical purpose. Well, marijuana does have medical purpose. So if anything, is to be in class three, like it should be lower, if nothing else, because it doesn’t fit in that category. But even though most of the population is screaming, hey, this need to change federal government is just like no, we’re not going to do it. So that’s all part of the reason; trying get people to move.
Diana Fryc: That’s a lot because I tried to do something similar. Of course, you know my podcast is to kind of elevate women and elevate diversity in our industry and this one thing is very challenging and I can just imagine like all of these things that you are passionate about trying to change. The marijuana thing is probably a whole other podcast because there’s THC and I don’t even know all the acronyms anymore as marijuana starts to unpack and people start getting open to what is possible with it medicinally and then also the environmental benefits of the hemp products and the marijuana products. There’s just so a lot there. So that is amazing that that’s not just the single initiative, but there are others.
Thereasa Black: No, actually marijuana was just an example. Actually that was not one of the things on my clients. That was just an example of something that’s in the society and the society is saying, “We want change!” We’re ignoring it. I know the facts of my clients are things like the fact that we have a ton of innocent people in jail every single day because they can’t afford to pay bail, even though our constitution says that we cannot have excessive bail, obviously, if these people are only in jail because they can’t pay their bail, that means it’s excessive.
Diana Fryc: Yep, something’s not working.
Thereasa Black: Yeah. And so things like that are what are on there. And I do agree that marijuana needs to change as well. It’s not one of those things that; it’s only interesting in the sense that;
We’re criminalizing a lot of people in jail right now because of marijuana crimes.
Diana Fryc: Seriously after we spoke, I was so energized. I want to say I love everything about you. But I don’t know you well enough to say that. But I’m just so enamored by this bundle of superpowers. You’re a lawyer, you’re a military. Are you a military officer?
Thereasa Black: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: Single mom and an entrepreneur; all of those things individually require a lot of mental fortitude and physical and emotional strength. Where does this passion and drive come from? Is that just who you are? Is that a family thing? Or where does that come from?
Thereasa Black: It’s funny that you’re asking that question. My brother sent me a message last night, literally last night and it made me cry, honestly. He was basically saying, like, “Most people have these role models that are celebrities and famous people, whatever. But like you’re my role model, because you’ve literally done everything that you set your mind to, and you don’t just stop at what the status quo was, you don’t just stop because you’ve done something that someone else in our family hasn’t done, you keep going, because that’s your drive, you want to achieve and you have these goals, and you set your mind to them, and you do them, you don’t just sit there and always talk about it, you actually take action.” That’s just the abbreviated version of it. But it was just like, I started crying because I think every step along the way; I went to college, undergrad, I was the first person in my side of the family to graduate from undergrad. And then I joined the military as an officer as a first officer in my family and then even just getting through that process was so difficult.
I went to OCS, I broke my ankle; I literally went through my entire training, the entire training with a broken ankle and it’s just one thing after another, it’s just like I just said, I was not going to give up. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. And up to this point, like just going to law school, having my daughter in my second year of law school and continuing with my studies. I literally did not take a break, I just kept moving. Getting deployed immediately coming back home and starting this business. Just in life, that’s just my personality, I am going to do something, I make a plan and I execute. But when it comes to this business, honestly, my motivation is my daughter, I know that I cannot go through another deployment away from her like, I can’t do it. I can’t and she can’t do it. She went through a lot during that time and I cannot do that to her again and so it’s not just about building this company, so that she has something financially to hold her up, because reality is that I’m a single mom. I’m a truly single mom, like financially, everything is up to me; I get no money from anybody else, no source, and it’s like everything about her life is in my hands and I need to set her up so that she’s taken care of.
But like just beside that, it’s also just the fact that; and she points this out to, it’s just like she sees you every single day and she sees what you’re doing and she might not understand it right now but when she gets older, and she looks back at everything that you did to make sure that she was in a position to succeed in life, that’s something that you can’t pay for. Every decision that I make is something that she’s going to see later on and say that was a good choice that was a bad choice. Or maybe I need to do this. It’s everything.
Diana Fryc: The military component. And I am curious; I feel like the business exists because of who you are, and because of the deployment, but I wonder, are there other things that having a military service or military background have served you well, as you’ve created this brand and have grown this brand?
Thereasa Black: Being in the military always helps you as an entrepreneur, mainly, in my personal opinion that the best thing about being in the military and having to transfer into this line is that when you’re in the military, when you’re on deployment, you’re in a high stress, high paced environment and most people just can’t handle that type of stress. When you’re in the military, you’re on deployment, you don’t have any choice but to handle it. That teaches you how to deal with certain situations.
And so once you become an entrepreneur, the levels are nowhere close to that highs. It’s not like if you failed, someone’s going to die. It depends on what you’re doing, but the point is that you’re still in a high stress, fast paced environment. It’s just that being in that high stress, fast paced environment trains you to be prepared for this, and succeed. And then the other thing that the military helps you with is that when you have a mission, everybody sits down and says, “This is our plan A.” What if you’re in the middle of that mission and plan A fails, you have to be able to immediately come up with a new option, that will also help you succeed in this mission immediately. It teaches you how to pivot, which is like the key to being a business person.
You have to be able to pivot. And in the military, it’s like, “All right, this failed, pivot it.” It has to succeed. If that doesn’t succeed, pivot again because the mission has to be accomplished, period, there’s no option to fail. And so the same thing is translatable into a business in that, while you have some people who aren’t in the military, and this is a big thing with investors, they’re just like, “Well, how do I know they’re not going to just quit? I’m going to give them my money, and they’re going to go and quit.” So I tried to give you incentives like, “Hey, go do a friends and family round first because you’re not going to lose all your family’s money and not hesitate.”
Diana Fryc: You’re like, “Excuse me, I’ve been in the military.”
Thereasa Black: It’s not just that. It’s just that, I guess some entrepreneurs have a mindset where it’s just like, it’s all about them. They’re going to do this, they’re going to do this, they’re going to do this. In the military, that’s not your mindset. It’s never just about you. And so it doesn’t matter if I know you, or if we’re complete strangers. I will do this because I said I was going to do it and you’re invested in it. We put our lives on the line for the entire country, not just our families. So it’s just like, it doesn’t matter if I know you or if I know him, or if I know her, I’m doing this because I said I was going to do it. And because I made a promise to you, that was. And so that same thing applies to business, and that I’m not going to give up just because something’s not going the right way or because I have a new hobby that I want to try out. I told you, I was going to do this thing. I’m going to put everything into doing it and I’m going to make this succeed. And if that means I have to pivot, then I have to pivot, but it’s going to succeed regardless. The mission has to be accomplished. And so I think that that’s another aspect of things that a military person brings to you that a civilian wouldn’t. Sometimes they will, I guess, maybe, but I don’t know. A different mentality is what I’m saying.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, it’s so interesting, because the forming of your brand comes from deep, deep in your heart, as do all startups. They come from somewhere, it’s not usual that people just decide I’m going to make a thing, sometimes I can make a thing, because I can make a lot of money. The people that I talk to on my podcast do what they do because of a deep passion and a commitment to that passion. And what’s interesting to me is oftentimes, people who have that deep passion don’t have the ability to be agnostic about how they feel about the journey, because the journey is bumpy and tricky. And so it sounds to me like what you’re saying is, there’s two sides. There’s, I’m passionate to my brand, because this is about my family, this is about me and my daughter and then at the flip side, you know that even though there’s bumps in the roads, you have a skill set to be able to just go, go, go, go change, move, move, whatever’s in the best interest, and your commitment to yourself. And your commitment to your daughters is very, very strong. And that commitment probably comes from before the military, I would guess because I think the military draws a certain type of person like that. But then that experience must have just like really entrenched it and its little bit more foundational than maybe it was before. Is that a fair assessment?
Thereasa Black: Yeah, I think growing up, it’s just me, my mom and my brother, and then my cousins move closer and so there was six of us. Our family is very close and when I say our family, I don’t mean like my nuclear family. I mean, my whole family is very, very close. We share holidays together, everybody comes, like 36, 60 people at like Christmas. Or we have a family beach day, everybody comes too. And so for me, I think some people see the world and they’re like, “I care about my family, my immediate nuclear family.” The other people see the world, they’re just like, “All right, I care about this group of people but not everybody else.” And I think that I’ve always been of the mindset that it was just like I do care mainly. I care strongly about my immediate family, my full extended family. But in the way I see it is that in order to make the best situation for them to succeed and thrive and be in this world is for everyone to succeed and thrive in being in this world.
Say the fact like our schools. Our schools right now they’re broken down, if you’re poor, usually you have a really bad school. All that’s going to do is hurt everybody in the long run, it doesn’t help that my cousins are going to this better school and this kid is going to a bad school because the end of the day, they’re the same age where they get to this point in life, when they have to take over our country, this person’s going to be prepared and this person’s not. That doesn’t help anybody that’s actually going to make our country most likely fail. I guess when I look at the world, or our country, I think of it on the larger scales. It’s like we all need to succeed in order to hold each other up. If one Domino fall, we’re all going to fall. And so I guess that is something that I brought with me into the military and something I kept with me in the military and then through it. So would I say that the military helped strengthen that? Maybe. Before, it was a theory, you don’t need 40 military. It’s a theory, but we are actually in the military. It’s happening right now.
Diana Fryc: Got you. So I kind of want to jump back to your daughter a little bit, she comes into your gelato shop. This kind of feels like a little bit of a tricky question. But when you’re single mom and you’ve got a business and your daughter wants to be with you, sometimes she doesn’t want to be with you, she’s four, everybody knows what four year olds are like? I don’t know that you can even think about it in a different way. But like talk about, how does she fit into your day? I think I asked this before she a little bit of a pal, is she a co-partner, is there’s still very much a mom daughter relationship. And it’s just some little critter that you get to manage throughout your day.
Thereasa Black: So I’ve made a very distinct line for her and she understands it now. I think for a while she didn’t, but she would always say, “You’re not my friend anymore.” I would say to her, “You’re not my friend, I’m your mom, you’re my daughter.” That’s the relationship that we have. And the idea behind that is that, it’s complicated. I tried to let her understand. I’ve rescheduled my entire day in order to fit around her. So at the very beginning, I was working, working, working, working, working, and she was coming with me, and she was at the shop. And she had a full time job, which wasn’t fair to her. And so I figured out how to change my schedule around, get employees in there certain times, certain days of the week, make sure I was home by a certain time so she can get the bed on time for school the next morning.
And also time for us to spend time together, because the whole point of me making this business was that she and I could do stuff together and spend time together. And so what I’ve done is that, and when she’s not with me, I try to get as much work as done as possible. Like as much. I tried to pack all my meetings and before she gets home, just try to get everything accomplished before she gets there. Because as soon as she gets home, I haven’t taken her to the playground, or we went to the library, or like we’re doing something as soon as we get home together. And then after that she gets a little break, she can play with her toys. And then she has to do her homework, which is just us going over her sight words and practicing her handwriting. And she’s doing like basic math, like one plus one is two up to like, five, and stuff like that.
We’re doing basic math, just stuff like that, she and I are learning after we played together. I have a certain amount of time that she has to have. This is the amount of time minimum of every single day and then outside of that, it’s up to her. Most of the time now, she doesn’t want to play with me, already. It’s crazy. She says, “Mommy, I want to go play with my friends.” And so what we do is we have a little enclave where we live, our house. And so I’ll go outside, sit in my little lawn chair, and hook my computer up to the internet on my phone and then watch her play with her friends while I work and she plays. It’s really up to her. And I have some other friends who are also single parents, one friend as a single parent and she’ll go sometimes so just go play with her daughter while I’m at the shop if I’m going to be there for too long of the day, I don’t want her to sit there all day. So balance, trying to figure out what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. It’s kind of leads me to my next question, which is around the Stacy’s Rise Project. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ciara Dilley several weeks ago, and she shared a lot, more than we could possibly even have on the podcast about Stacy’s Rise Project. And then I saw that you were on there. I sent it to you and you said, “No, I’m already one of the people that are on there.”
Really this female founder brands initiative that Stacy’s Rise is doing, tell us more about how that opportunity came about and what kind of support and mentoring is the program giving you right now?
Thereasa Black: I applied for the programs like everybody else did, and I was picked up, they gave us a grant initially. They linked me up. The thing actually is I’m not 100% sure. It’s complicated. I applied for a Hello Alice grant. And with Hello Alice that came the Stacy’s Rise. They came together, they came together. Grant was being funded by Stacy’s Rise. And then it’s complicated, because I don’t know, most of the time, I’m just getting emails from either Stacy’s Rise, or Hello Alice. But essentially what it is, is like you’re part of these programs. And then it’s a tree, there are trees, they’re trunks. Those two are the trunks. And they have just all these branches. And so I never know who is the person who liked, “Hey, this is opportunity, they wanted to like for you to be a part of it.” The emails I get all the time. And so, I have a mentor, her name is Phyllis Newhouse. And I don’t know which program that came through, But it came through one of the two. And so she’s helping me out with certain things.
They put together a little video for us, video clip, they put it on our website on their Instagram page, there’s just a bunch of different things, different opportunities they give you and they tell you about and they say, “Hey, if you want to do this, you can do this. If you don’t, then you don’t.” And so it’s hard to even pinpoint what it is because I get so many emails all the time saying, “Hey, this opportunity just popped up.” It’s a lot, but it’s always connecting me to the next level, I guess, next person to take me to the next stage.
Diana Fryc: So when you say you have a mentor, is this overall business? Or is this from a brand management standpoint? I’m just curious how the program works for you from the recipient side. I’ve heard about it from the program to people who generate the program, but from the recipient side, did you have like weekly meetings? Or is it really genuinely whatever your need is, they’re there for you? Or how does that show up?
Thereasa Black: I think it’s complicated. I was part of another program called Mass Challenge. And with that, when you get a mentor, and you pick your own mentor, like a marriage, everything. In those situations, I have goals for my company, and I picked someone that’s in that specific area, and then they say, “Okay, yeah, I can help you with that.” And they become my mentor. But for this one, they didn’t really necessarily ask you, they linked me up with Phyllis Newhouse. She’s a tech person, but she owns this a huge company. She’s involved with a lot of venture capital. She gives me advice on that, like, what’s the next thing that you can create because I’m a CPG company? The complicated thing about CPG is that investors if they don’t already invest in CPG, it’s difficult to find investors because they’re not interested in food.
And so when they’re having to weigh whether or not they’re going to invest in the next heart pacemaker, or the next gelato that’s going to help prevent you from having to need that pacemaker, you’re going to say, “I’m going to go with a pacemaker.” And she’s been encouraging me like, “Hey, Thereasa, you need to figure out technology that will go along with your product.” And I actually figured it out. And I’m just in the process of trying to develop it myself, because I don’t have any background in chemistry. Basically, its entire project, like my entire company has been a bunch of research for me, because gelato is all about chemistry. And I haven’t done chemistry since my first year college. And I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was, but it was a long time ago. And so, this next stage of development, I think it’s an amazing product. It’s an amazing product. I just need to do it. And so I’m working on it.
Diana Fryc: Okay, well, we’ll have to stay tuned for that. I’m curious. Well, our time is almost up. And I always have a couple of questions that are a little bit outside of the narrative that we’ve been going down. So I’m curious for you as you’ve been in CPG and you’ve been looking out in the market and doing your research, are there any brands or ingredient trends or anything that you’ve got your eye on? That you’re like, “Ooh, I like what they’re doing.” Anything that’s exciting for you right now?
Thereasa Black: Honestly, if I’m being honest, a lot of the stuff, a lot of new avenues I’ve taken or paths I’ve gone down it’s been because customers are asking for it. And it’s less to do with the market and more to do with what’s going on and just my store. And it just happens, it just so happens that a lot of the times, that’s what people are looking for, even when it comes to the gelato and taking out the cane sugar. It just so happened that that’s actually where ice cream is going right now. Most of the ice cream companies that are off that are not using cane sugar, they’re using alcohol sugars or something like that, which is not really actually good for you. It makes you buy things about to get sugar and then it doesn’t and then it pauses this whole reaction. Anyway, the point is that I made this product because this is what I wanted my daughter, and it so happened that this is where the market was going.
And then when it comes to the non dairy, I made the product because my customers are like, “Okay, I get it, you have sorbets, but I want ice cream, I want non dairy ice cream, because I want ice cream, and I don’t eat dairy.” And so I created this product, I used oat milk, because my daughter loves it, so I’m not going to give her something she can eat. And then a lot of other kids are allergic to nuts. And so I’m not going to put almond milk in my stuff, because then none of them can eat it either. And so it was just like, well, what’s the next best alternative? And I was just like, “Oh, oat milk. Hello.” And so I don’t base what I do and my company off of market trends, even though I guess that would be a smart way to do it. It just so happens that I’m doing things and it happens to be the market trend.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, just curious if there’s just — and it doesn’t even have to be in categories that you’re finding interesting, but I love that you’re just listening to your community and developing based off of your community needs. I always love it. I always ask actually, for folks like yourself when they come on the show to kind of give this kind of some sort of interesting fact or tidbit about your product or industry. And I’d love for you to share something that you think people would think, wow, that’s really interesting. I’d also love for you to share if you can remember off the top of your head, your comparison between Gelato and Kale. What are you comparing there? And what are you trying to show people because that to me was really, really fun.
Thereasa Black: I guess I’ll start with the Kale. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I do know that, when you’re comparing one cup of Kale to one cup of our Gelato, our Gelato has more nutrients. This is compared to our chocolate Gelato because each flavor has a different level of nutrients. But this is specifically our chocolate, our milk chocolate. So our milk chocolate has 24 grams of protein, it has 46% of your daily value of fiber, it has 30% of your daily value of iron, potassium and magnesium I believe it is, it has 60% of daily value of calcium. So the idea is that it would take six cups of Kale to nutritionally equal one pint of Gelato. And so yeah, that’s a fun fact.
And then when it comes to our oat milk, if you buy from the shop, our oat milk Gelato has elevated levels of nutrients as well. So it has a higher level of calcium and iron and all that. But it also gives you 86% of your daily value of fiber. Which for older people who are not supposed to be drinking milk and have issues with their heart and everything like that, it’s a better product for them. It helps them, like it gives them the taste of ice cream, their favorite dessert, and then they also get that fiber aspect of it. So it helps with the movement.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, helps movement. That’s so funny.
Thereasa Black: A fun fact about ice cream. Actually, the funniest fact is what I learned as I was learning how to make it is that, when you’re making Gelato, there’s a rule in Gelato actually that you cannot replace more than 20% of the cane sugar. It’s just chemistry. You need a certain number of solids, a certain number of fat, a certain amount of sugar because the thing that keeps ice from freezing into ice is the sugar.
Diana Fryc: Oh, really?
Thereasa Black: Yeah. That’s what makes it scoopable. And so when you replace all that sugar, you had to figure out something else to replace it with. Like I was saying earlier, when you replace it with like stevia and sugar alcohols, your body’s gearing up to take in certain things and when it doesn’t get it, it’s just like, “Where’s that thing?” If you’re ever wondering why you start pinching, you start feeding for like, certain foods after you’ve eaten one of these healthier ice cream, that’s why.
Diana Fryc: Well, that’s the diet soda phenomenon too, this is same concept.
Thereasa Black: Yes, ma’am. And so at least this way you’re getting the fruits, like literally, it’s all fruit based sweeteners in my gelato. So you’re getting that sugar, but it’s like coming in a better way than what you would have gotten if you had gotten is eating cane sugar.
Diana Fryc: This next question, I’m going to ask you seems like insane, based off of your life as a single mom and an entrepreneur, but how are you keeping yourself sane these days?
Thereasa Black: It’s funny, when I was in law school, before I had my daughter, we were all sitting down, I was part of this clinic, and they always make us sit down or actually, I just would have my daughter, but they would make us sit down. We had a wellness session. And so they were telling us that we need to take time to take a break in our days, and they asked everybody who went around the room and asked everybody, how do you take breaks? Like, what do you do to relax? And they got to me. What do you do when you’re taking a break? I don’t really do that. They’re like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “I’m never not thinking.”
When I’m in the shower is the only time where I really just sometimes I will relax. But a lot of times, I’m just thinking about okay, so I need to do, I make my checklist, my mental checklist. But when I’m about to go to bed, I do same thing, but I try to like relax before I go to bed because I don’t want my mind racing as I’m trying to fall asleep. That prevents you from falling asleep. But like, honestly, when I try to fall asleep, all I do is say sleep, sleep, sleep, and then I just fall out. But like, when I’m driving, I’m listening to audio-books about like businesses and investments. It’s like, I don’t even know what it means to take a break, really. And I think that’s a bad thing because everybody needs to take a break.
What I’ve been trying to do is, I got this bag because my back’s always giving me problems. And so I got this bed that like, you push the button and it puts you to zero, like zero gravity. So it helps your back to like, just relax. And then when you put it back flat, it’s I can’t explain the feeling. But like, all the muscles are just like stretched out and relax, really. It’s like amazing. And so what I’ve been doing lately, I just got that bed the other day. So what I’ve been doing now is like when I go into the G, you only post data for like 20 minutes. And so when I do that, I’ll watch something on Netflix or watch something on Amazon prime, like just the time where I can just like be like, just not think, it’s usually a comedy because if it’s too much of a thriller, I have to think too much. That’s it. I honestly want to play with my daughter. I also get that time that break. But I’m still usually thinking about work at that time. But it’s tough not to.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I know I can completely relate to you. I have a hard time and it’s an effort on my part right now to kind of go, the brain needs a break. Like, okay, I know you like to work, but the brain needs break, reset, go for a walk or something. So I’m working on that myself, I can completely relate to that. Before we go, I’d love for folks to know who are interested in connecting with you what’s the best way to connect with you is? Do you prefer LinkedIn? Or do you want people to just send you an email?
Thereasa Black: LinkedIn is fine, but my name is spelled really weird. So a lot people can’t find me. So my email address is CEO@amorecongelato.com. But if you want to find me on LinkedIn, my name is spelled There-as-a
Diana Fryc: Oh, well, I guess if you live with your name long enough, you help people along. I have the same with my last name too. I really want to thank you for giving me your time. I know it’s very, very precious. Thank you for sharing with us. And I wish you luck as you continue to grow your business and wish you luck with your four year old daughter and honestly, thank you. Outside of the work that you’re doing in CPG, thank you for your service to our country. It’s such a pleasure to meet you. And I’m just honored that you gave me some time today.
Thereasa Black: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Diana Fryc: Of course. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your natural brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.