“A lot of times, it feels surreal and we look at each other and we’re like ‘How is this possible?’”
These were June-Ann Henry’s words when describing the growth and success of A&J Premium Ice Cream, the business she runs with and her husband Anthony.
June-Ann and Anthony are awardees of the 2022 Chamber of Industry and Commerce's Champions of Business Entrepreneurship award, the 2019 TT Manufacturers Association's Manufacturer of the Year award among other honours.
This all started after their business was launched in 2017 after Anthony kept telling June-Ann how good they would be at selling ice cream.
“For years Anthony said, ‘Babe, you know I feel like we should just sell ice cream,’ and I would ask, ‘Why do you want to sell ice cream?’ And he said he didn’t know, but feels like it would be a good idea. Turns out it was a good idea,” she said.
A&J Premium Ice Cream is known for its unique local take on the popular dessert offering flavours such as salt prunes, pineapple chow and the one and only ice cream doubles. But they initially started off re-selling ice cream that they bought from distributors from their car.
June-Ann said, “He (Anthony) had actually began experimenting with making ice cream at home and some of the ice cream was really good, so I said if we are going to do this then I feel like we can make it. We then came together and started working on the recipes that he had already.”
She said one of the first flavours that they did was coffee and chocolate since that is what they had at home. Now, they have over 78 flavours and six new ones starting with tamarind-flavoured ice cream to come later in the year.
June-Ann said one of the biggest challenges they faced when establishing their business was balancing their family.
“When you start out as a small business, you have to put in a lot of the man-hours, we weren't always able to just assign staff. So we had to put in the hours and sometimes what that would mean is our kids sleeping in the shop till all hours of the night while we were there trying to make orders, stock up on ice cream and going to events. Sometimes they would go to events with us.”
She said their informal business plan was a key factor of their success seeing as though they had that from the get-go.
“Before we started, we said we eventually want to open a store and then multiple store fronts and we want to distribute. So the fact that we had a plan and we were both on the same page, we know where we want to be is definitely a driving force as well as the fact that we are willing to switch it up.”
June-Ann said this meant they were flexible in their appearance to cater to customers and attract potential ones. She said they were able to recognise what was working and what they needed to improve or remove from their stores.
Some examples of what they’ve done are expanded their location at Caroni Savannah Road, Charlieville from one side of the building to the entire building, introduced a menu with food items including breakfast foods, in-house dining and many others.
June-Ann said, “We revamped the store a good few times. You would see that we have a chalkboard wall that our customers love, where they come in and they can sign. We also have selfie areas, we made some picture frames for that and we also have a swing with our logo at the back so customers can also take pictures there.”
She said they also introduced “book nook” where customers can come in and take a book to read at the store or take it home if they prefer. She said customers can even bring in books to add to their library.
June-Ann said, “With each improvement that we’ve made to the business, we have seen increases. We have steadily increased each year and the awards do help with exposure so that also increases our traffic a bit.”
In keeping with their drive to improve and expand, A&J Premium Ice Cream can also be found at their new location in Brentwood Mall, Chaguanas with another location to be determined. June-Ann in this new year, they hope to venture into distribution to get their product in all groceries.