From the lakes to the mountains, from Lebanon to Littleton, Grafton County is a diverse and thriving community. In this new segment, the team at GRDC spends some time with our region’s small businesses; what made them go into business? How are they supporting their neighbors, and in turn, how is the community supporting them? What advice do they have for startups?
Join us every month as we talk to a different small business in Grafton County.
Super Secret Ice Cream
Kristina Zontini, Owner
GRDC: I’ve been looking forward to this spotlight for quite a while! Joining me today is Kristina Zontoni, founder and owner of Super Secret Ice Cream Club. Kristina- let’s dive right in- what drove you to start your own business, and why ice cream?
Kristina: I started up about two years ago, using a shed in my backyard for self service ice cream pick-up. I knew I wanted a career that let me be creative and work hard, but also to create a fun experience for my community. Ice cream always intrigued me because not many ice cream shops make their own ice cream from scratch, using real ingredients, so I decided to take on that challenge myself.
We’re a small operation, committed to making everything from scratch and using local ingredients, like fresh berries from local farm & our milk & cream are sourced from Hatchland Farm.
GRDC: I love that you’ve made it a priority to find your ingredients in your community!
Kristina: Well, it’s easy when you have so many fresh ingredients and sources so close! Plus, as a small business owner, I’ve been so supported by my community and neighbors. Especially this past year, there has been a really strong focus on the local economy and keeping dollars in the community as much as possible.
GRDC: Speaking of last year, how has the pandemic affected your business?
Kristina: I’ve actually only been in business during the pandemic, we just opened in 2020, so I don’t think I’ve really experienced a “normal” business year yet. But I also think we were pretty lucky; our business is small and nimble, so we can adapt to most situations and that helped keep our overhead low. And instead of opening up a retail shop with a counter, we’ve been participating at Farmer’s Markets- which by nature provides the perfect environment, as it’s outside and allows for plenty of social distancing.
GRDC: Littleton has a fantastic Farmer’s Market!
Kristina: It really does, and when we first started- right away we had long lines and excited customers. I think having something new and fun open up in the middle of the pandemic was actually a really nice reprieve for people- a bit of happiness and nostalgia in an otherwise tough time.
We pre-package our pints, to keep food-handling at a minimum, and it lets our customers pick up and take away ice cream for their family and friends.
GRDC: And tell me about the flavors!
Kristina: Well, like I said- we try to incorporate ingredients from local sources and farmers, like honey, herbs, spices, fruit, and even vegetables. We also decided early on to make our own ice cream base, which means we buy our dairy directly from Hatchland Farm, so we don’t rely on a commercial ice cream mix from an industrial source with added sugars and preservatives.
GRDC: What’s the most popular flavor?
Kristina: Hands down, Honeycomb is the most popular flavor. It’s not over the top, simple and lets the quality of the ingredients we use really shine. It’s our sweet cream base (which is the foundation of all of our flavors), and we fold in homemade honeycomb candy, with honey that we get from White Mountain Apiary Honey. The honeycomb is salty and sweet and often some pieces stay a little crunchy, while others melt into pockets of caramelized honey.
GRDC: That sounds amazing! So, tell me more about how you came up with your business name?
Kristina: Ha, well-actually it was meant to be a placeholder. When I was first starting out, and in the off season I do “ice cream drops”- I notify our followers via email when we have ice cream available.
So, that was my concept, and I had been going back and forth on a name- spending months brainstorming, there were sticky notes all over my walls. Finally, I just had to get going and couldn’t let my name hold me back. Since the first drop alert was only going to a handful of people, I thought I’d joke that it was a secret, and they were all part of my new fun club!
And then the name just stuck, it’s a little mysterious, which makes it fun for adults and kids!
GRDC: I love it, it is fun- and intriguing! I’m sure it helps attract new customers. I feel like I see the name everywhere, so it’s definitely working! What’s coming up for Super Secret, where do you think the business will be in five years?
Kristina: Hm…I decided to open my own business because I wanted a career that allowed me to be creative and create a fun experience for my community. I think it’s really important to be able to adapt- which I think has been very apparent this last year. I’d love to be able to offer scooped ice cream on freshly made waffle cones in a wonderful setting! Having a place that allows for people to come and enjoy a cone would be a dream.
GRDC: I think we all remember that sweet, intoxicating smell of walking into an ice cream shop. So as a new business, there’s always unexpected hurdles, plans that don’t go the right way, learning as you go. What advice would you give to someone just starting out, or thinking about opening their own business?
Kristina: This is really tough! For me personally, the most challenging aspect was having the confidence in myself and my product and to just go with it. And just remember, we’re all making it up as we go! No one has all of the answers and or a perfect road map. And because of that, it’s so important to have a community or network there to support you! People or businesses in similar fields to be able to collaborate with, or brainstorm and just ask questions.
Finally, learn how to turn the switch in your head off and just unplug. As a small business owner, you have to be so much to so many people, it’s really important that you also make the time for yourself! I find that whenever I step away for a bit, the best ideas and solutions always come to me.
GRDC: I love that, Kristina; those are great points! Final question, what’s your favorite flavor?
Kristina: Oooh, it’s a toss up between Blueberry Buttermilk and Earl Grey.
GRDC: Can’t wait to try those! And to see you soon at the Littleton Farmers Market. Thanks so much Kristina, make sure to add us to your Super Secret Ice Cream Club email!
For more information, check out the website at https://supersecreticecream.com, or even better- stop by the Littleton Farmers Market, every Sunday from 10 AM to 1 PM starting this Sunday (June 6)!
If you would like to have your business featured in our Small Business Spotlight, email us at [email protected].