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Business is sweet for this young Hamilton entrepreneur

Sunny Nelson Real Fruit Ice Cream opened in October 2018 and, while he’s still learning the ins and outs of operating a small business, the 25-year-old entrepreneur couldn’t be happier.

“I absolutely love my job. It gives me and the team the ability to create, solve problems, bring joy to people and make money.”

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wintec in 2015, King applied for his second Prime Minister’s scholarship to China and spent a total of two years there learning Mandarin. He completed an internship at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise in Beijing before returning to New Zealand to work for Chinese-owned company, Milk NZ in Auckland.

He knew that working for other people wasn’t his destiny so he took a risk, quit his job and moved back to Hamilton.

“I’ve always had this yearning to start my own small business. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, anything that allowed me to be creative and think for myself.”

After two failed business ventures, inspiration came via his grandad’s neighbours. His grandad lives in Nelson next to a boysenberry farm (Tasman Bay Berry Farm) and another neighbour who makes real fruit ice-cream machines (Little Jem). Armed with an idea and the right connections, he started gleaning valuable inside knowledge. 

At the same time that he was scoping out the real fruit ice-cream business, his dad’s Frankton car-yard became vacant. 

With help from friends and family, he transformed the car yard into a bright and welcoming ice-cream parlour.

Within 40 days from the idea’s conception, Sunny Nelson Real Fruit Ice Cream opened for business.

“Our goal is to be the best real fruit ice cream parlour in New Zealand,” says King, who is quick to stress the business is still in its early stages and he’s learning every day.

He learnt some valuable lessons in the first few months of business.

“When we first opened, I was working 12-hour days, every day of the week, which just isn’t sustainable. I got burnt out and now I have every Monday off.”

As an owner/operator, he keeps pretty busy. From Wednesday through to Sunday he’s the face of the business, scooping ice-creams and chatting to customers. He also has to keep on top of all the administration required for a small business – such as managing wages for up to five staff members invoicing, IRD requirements – as well as sourcing new business for Sunny Nelson’s mobile ice-cream unit.

“Thanks to the team behind Sunny Nelson, we were able to pump out well over 1,000 ice-creams on our busiest day over summer."

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Sunny Nelson was forced to temporarily close its doors.

“We were really lucky that lockdown happened at the end of New Zealand’s summer, just as we were starting to wind down. Thanks to the ‘support local’ movement and the novel way we adapted to meet Level 3 requirements; we were quickly back to business as usual.”

Using good old Kiwi ingenuity, King turned the Sunny Nelson carpark into a drive-through, meaning customers could drive in, order their ice-cream, pay using pay-wave and have their ice-cream delivered from the shop to the car via a slide formed from house guttering.

“Customers loved the concept so much that we kept the drive-through throughout Level 2 and then in Level 1, we reopened our doors to customers again and started operating under our winter trading hours, where we only open on weekends.”

This winter, Sunny Nelson has collaborated with Hamilton business, Mamas Donuts selling real fruit ice cream filled, glazed donuts on Saturdays. King utilises the colder months to float new ideas, grow, and experiment with new flavours ready for the summer to come.

The latest addition to the menu are Sunny Nelson jars – take home and refillable glass jars filled with mouth-watering ice-cream flavours such as Oreo, ambrosia, cheesecake or classic mixed berry.

Always dreaming up the next big idea, King is planning on expanding his services by creating an ice-cream tricycle, an alternative to the mobile ice-cream unit which is already taking bookings for summer events.

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