Entrepreneurs use friendship and customer focus as the basis of this ice cream shop

Dear Bella / Forbes

Dear Bella / Forbes

Belinda Wei and Alice Cherng, founders of Dear Bella

There’s so much to love about Dear Bella Creamery—their pink shop in Los Angeles, vegan ice cream—the fact that they’ve launched a national delivery service so that people from outside Los Angeles too can try their creativity and focus on the customers. But what stands out when interviewing the entrepreneurs, two passionate and smart women behind the brand, is the friendship that lies at the root of the business.

Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei are the founders of this all-natural, vegan luxury ice cream shop. Cherng worked as an accountant for many years before following her passion and being a chef at a vegetarian restaurant called Cafe Gratitude. It was there he met Wei (who was an executive pastry chef at the time). They got in touch because of their shared Taiwanese heritage and the fact that they are vegetarians and have tried every vegan restaurant and dish in town. At the time, vegan ice cream (especially good vegan ice cream that went beyond traditional flavors) was hard to come by, and they saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the market.

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Dear Bella Creamery started in the kitchen of Wei’s home, and over the course of six months, the duo performed more than 60 experiments to perfect their vegan ice cream base. The two were working full time at the time and envisioned Deer Bella Creamery as a weekend project, where they would serve homemade ice cream from a cart.

My pledge without big plans

Instead, one of Cherng’s friends talked about renting a place next to the restaurant. The brick-and-mortar ice cream shop wasn’t part of the original plan, but they decided to check out the space anyway, and ended up signing the lease. “It was totally unplanned,” Schering said. “We weren’t quite prepared and did everything ourselves, but somehow we ended up opening our own little ice cream shop three months after receiving the keys.” The rest, as they say, is history.

A lot has happened since Dear Bella Creamery opened its doors in April 2017. They’ve grown a customer base for their delicious vegan ice cream, launched a nationwide delivery service this month, and plan to open a second location in Costa Mesa, California, in June.

Shipping ice cream across the country isn’t cheap, but Cherng and Wei see it as a way to bring the flavors of Asia Pacific to the market and get the ice cream into the hands of people who don’t live near an ice cream shop. “People all over the country and even the world are asking us all the time if we can open a shop near them, but opening an ice cream parlor is very expensive and time-consuming,” Cherng said. “We feel that the only viable way to get our products out of Los Angeles is through shipping.”

Cherng and Wei feel that even in markets as saturated as ice cream, Dear Bella Creamery is unique: interesting flavors, handcrafted, dairy-free (and largely gluten and nut free), all natural and without artificial ingredients. “I think we have a great product that you won’t find in supermarkets,” Cherng said.

Customer focused ice cream shop

Speaking of flavours, Dear Bella Creamery has a lot of fun and creativity, like the customer favorite Cookie Monsta, a blue spirulina hue, and Taiwanese pineapple cake, an ice cream version of a popular local dessert. From Wei’s father, Taichung City, her favorite flavour, Coffee Chip, Cherng’s favourite, with coffee, zest and little chocolate chips. All ice cream, fillings, and toppings (such as hot fudge, sunflower butter, and honeycomb) are made from scratch and are gluten-free.

For Cherng and Wei, inspiration comes from many places. “Alice and I always go out and try new restaurants, or revisit places with new items on the menu,” Wei said. At a recent dinner party, a woman who baked cookies told them that one of the most popular flavors was white chocolate peanut butter, and Cherng Wei told them to add that flavor to the list of potential flavors to try. “We have a list of about 300 different ideas,” Wei said. They also get flavor ideas from fairs, see new products on supermarket shelves and their Asian heritage.

After five years with the ice cream shop, a lot has changed: They’ve rethought and improved their business vision, and are now more targeted and focused on the company’s history and products. A few things haven’t changed, like their commitment to providing quality ice cream to their customers despite supply chain challenges and pricing issues caused by the pandemic. “Our mission, the reason we started this business, has not changed,” Cherng said. “We want to use ice cream as a means of communication, and that includes not only our customers, but our employees as well. We want to inspire moments of connection and joy.”

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