Life is sweet for Bay entrepreneur with artisanal ice cream
Port Elizabeth residents who are familiar with Han-Made gourmet ice cream will be shocked to learn that the woman behind the brand started the business quite by chance – after making a tub of ice cream for her husband’s birthday three years ago.
Today, Han-Made is available at various stores, restaurants and coffee shops around Nelson Mandela Bay, including Blue Waters Cafe, Grass Roof, Tea Merchant at Baywest Mall, Frederick and Son and Friendly Stranger.
The brand is also available at popular markets such as The Valley Market and The Goodnight Market, as well as the Baakens Food Truck Friday.
But Hannah Mclean, 27, said she had only tried her hand at making a batch of Kit-Kat ice cream for her husband, Shane, in early 2013 and had never planned to start her own business.
“This all happened by chance. I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen and decided to surprise him for his birthday as he really likes Kit-Kats. He loved it and I wasn’t allowed even a spoonful of ice cream! Because he had studied business he encouraged me to start selling my ice cream,” Mclean said.
Once convinced, Mclean said she chose a brand name which combined her own name, Hannah, and her production method of hand-making the ice cream. She also asked a friend to design a logo and ordered tubs for packaging the ice cream.
“At the time, a friend of mine owned the Friendly Stranger and I asked if they would be open to stocking some of my ice cream.
“This partnership has lasted despite them changing ownership and today we still consider them our flagship stockist. I then played around in the kitchen by using conventional flavours and adding my own twist to them.”
She said it was extremely difficult in the beginning as she kept her teaching job and used money from that salary to buy ingredients and packaging and worked on making the ice cream at night.
“I think the mistake some entrepreneurs make is that they believe they will be able to live off a salary from their new business. The truth is that your business will not make any money for quite some time and if it does, that money has to go straight back into the business. By keeping my teaching job I did not have to take out any loans for start-up capital,” she said.
Mclean said the kitchen of their Richmond Hill home was transformed into a production hub, with her husband becoming her main “taste-tester”.
“I then established the brand on social media, did a few functions and events and slowly started advertising. I did not want to bite off more than I could handle, so I worked on making ice cream in the evenings and on weekends but as the business progressed, I found that I had to hire someone to help out.”
Mclean said she hired Martha Sando, 36, and trained her as production manager 18 months after she started. She also continued teaching up until last year before quitting to run Han-Made full time. However, she still lectures part-time at Varsity College.
She said she believed the product sold itself because of the taste.
“I am absolutely passionate about what goes into the ice cream. I only use fresh cream, which makes a huge difference. You can taste the quality as it is creamy and smooth. The ingredients are locally sourced, good and wholesome.
“I believe in using all-natural products such as fresh fruit, natural teas and I also use locally crafted beers from two breweries.
“It is in the same price range as the Magnum but it is an entirely different product. Some SPARS have asked me to stock it but for now I like the fact that it is artisanal and on the high-end market. Each stockist has its own unique orders and offerings,” she said.
Mclean said Blue Waters Cafe has even incorporated Han-Made into its desserts.
“They plate their own desserts, like their Lindt dark chocolate brownie with some of my craft beer ice cream.”
Also, despite purchasing additional freezers to stock the ice cream in their home, Mclean said they eventually ran out of space and Han-Made has now opened a factory shop in Chicky’s Yard in the Baakens Valley.
“My husband is very happy that I listened to him and started the business but upset that the factory is no longer at our house.”
She said the most challenging aspect of the business was managing the accounting side but was thankful that her husband assisted her in this regard.
“The most rewarding aspect has been seeing people from all walks of life enjoying the ice cream. There is a lot of reward in selling something that makes people happy and we get a lot of compliments.
“My advice is to start slow. You might have an amazing product but if you do not manage the accounting side of things, your business cannot grow. South Africa is ripe with opportunities if you are willing to risk it. You need to believe in your product and the quality of your product.”
From starting off with six flavours, Han-Made now offers 20 different unique flavours, including lemon meringue, craft beer and espresso.