Renee Andrews recognised her life was in a rut and decided to do something about it. The 24-year-old worked at Massy Stores cooking easy-to-prepare meals but felt pressured to be even better.
She knew she had to make a drastic life change, but opted to stick to the food industry.
"My life started to have no real substantial meaning and became somewhat toxic. So I decided to do something that made me happy and had meaning to it. I knew it had to be something that made both myself and others happy and no matter who you are, ice cream always makes you feel happy. No one in the country is delivering ice cream to you. So it was definitely needed. I hosted an ice cream tasting party to get feedback from different persons to help me with the market research and it kicked off," she told Business Day.
That was the start of Sorvete-tt, (sorvete means ice cream in Portuguese), a weekend online ice cream manufacturing and delivery service, operating out of Andrews' home in La Romaine.
"Sorvete is an online ice cream shop. Where customers can either pick up or have ice cream delivered to them on a weekend. We wanted to produce a local quality ice cream. The idea was to surpass the 'homemade' style of ice cream by adding luxurious items," Andrews told Business Day.
Within the first three weeks of launching her brand of "high-end homemade" ice cream, Andrews' customer base totalled close to 400 and she delivers containers across the country. Sorvete is marketed on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, and offers customers home delivery on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm.
With a growing customer base, Andrews said she is always mindful of preserving their safety first.
"If it’s an existing customer and one we have built a relationship with, we deliver straight to your door, if it’s a new customer, we have a specific meeting point, very public and as safe as can be for us."
She shared with Business Day how she transitioned from food to ice cream.
As a young chef, Andrews said she wanted to travel and cook and the opportunity came when she was able to complete her external internship at Enotel Hotel, in Brazil, in 2013. At that time she was pursuing culinary management at the TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), where she graduated with the William Aguiton Spirit of Industry Award, given to the student who best embodies the principles and standards of the hospitality and tourism industry.
It was during her three months in Brazil, she said, that she had a "eureka moment" and developed a further love for ice cream.
"It started with just the Portuguese name for ice cream, really, it’s so classy and rolls off one's tongue."
But Andrews didn't just return to Trinidad to make and sell ice cream. She shelved her idea for a while and went on to hone her culinary skills for five years at popular gourmet spots such as Krave and Dolce Desserts.
While working at Krave restaurant she was approached by a food blogger, who asked her to host a cooking show on his blog, Eat ah Food. She accepted and begun hosting Simply Local in 2017, which was sponsored by Massy Stores.
The show focused on recreating favourite local dishes, using simple methods and ingredients.
As part of her programme, Andrews would host live events for Massy every two weeks in stores across the country.
It was while having her daily fix of ice cream that Andrews said she realised she could offer the traditional homemade ice cream, but with a gourmet-like twist.
She bought the necessaries, along with some high-end ingredients like heavy cream and vanilla bean paste and begun drafting her first selection of Sorvete. Andrews hosted a tasting party and the rest is now history.
Andrews said her brand also mirrors a concern for the environment. "As the whole world is going green the brand as well has gone eco-friendly We are proud to be at least 85 per cent eco-friendly. I source high end ingredients locally and internationally. I go to the stores or farmers for myself to ensure the quality. It is very expensive to bring in products. Especially to clear them (at Customs). Sometimes locally suppliers do not have stock or they are not on time with deliveries. Which slows down the business," she noted.
This though doesn't prevent Andrews from playing with flavours so that she can offer customers even more variety, like toasted coconut instead of regular coconut.
"We focus heavily on customer service because we understand the importance of exceeding expectations. We love building one and one relationships with our customers as we meet each week. Each month we have eight flavours to choose from. Both ice creams and sorbets are offered each week."
Business has picked up so quickly, that by next month Andrews believes she will be able to offer her customers weekly deliveries as well. She is currently working on establishing a fully-equipped production kitchen.
Andrews said her love for being in the kitchen started from very young.
"Not necessarily in the ice cream business but I always knew I would be in the field of culinary arts. When I was asked in pre-school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would consistently say, 'chef' and at nine years old, I cooked my first meal for my family. They loved it, and the passion for creating enjoyable, nourishing food was ignited. In making ice cream I use a lot of my culinary knowledge to help me create a high-quality product."
Andrews' father was killed by a drunk driver when she was five, and she said living in a single parent household, it was instilled in her and her siblings "never to let money or a lack of, hold her back from realising her true dreams."
For now, Andrews said she is focused on building and marketing her brand, as she has every intention to one day serve customers from behind the counter of Cafe Sorvete.