Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 109 of 131

fresh f lavors every day, ranging from sweet cream to strawberry to Rwandan black tea or coffee. Topping choices include homemade granola, fruit, peanuts, Rwandan honey, and even sprinkles. Inzozi Nziza now also serves a variety of sweets baked from scratch, like cupcakes, banana bread, carrot cake, and snickerdoodle cookies, as well as savory items such as omelets and local potato fritters called sambusas. And thanks to training and support from New York 's Irving Farm Coffee Company, Inzozi Nziza now has a coffee program, offering individually brewed cups of fresh Rwandan coffee, grown nearby and roasted in-house. The Benefits… In creating jobs and training opportunities, such as English classes for locals, as well as growing the business of area farmers with the local sourcing of fruits, flour, sugar, eggs, and other ingredients, Inzozi Nziza has fulfilled Miesen's dream of social entrepreneurship. The shop has also become a bustling community hub. Its proximity to the National University of Rwanda means that students are among the most regular customers, but the most valued patrons are Rwanda's youngest citizens. During regularly organized "kids days," local children are invited in for free ice cream and activi- ties. After two and half years of a financial partnership with Miesen and Dundas, the Rwandan women are now the sole owners of the business. Next Up… The story of Inzozi Nziza and the women who brought it to life is the subject of a documentary called "Sweet Dreams," which was directed and produced by Academy Award winners Lisa and Rob Fruchtman. It was screened to acclaim at film festivals and even had a limited theatrical release last year. Miesen says the film led to her next project through Blue Marble Dreams, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization she and Dundas established to launch the Rwandan partnership. Since October, Miesen runs Blue Marble Dreams fulltime and has been working with another Brooklyn nonprofit to launch an ice cream shop in Port au Prince, Haiti, rep- licating the women's economic empowerment model in Rwanda. It's name: Bel Rev, Haitian for "sweet dreams." world is something that I can produce myself," she recalls. The plan had legs. With a name inspired by the iconic pho- tos of Earth taken by astronauts on Apollo 17, Blue Marble Ice Cream opened in 2007, on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, with 16 handcrafted f lavors on the menu. The business went on to launch a wholesale program in 2010 and, in 2012, opened New York 's only certified organic ice cream plant. Today, Blue Marble's ice cream— sourced from pasture-raised cows—can be found on restaurant menus across New York City, and is sold in three branded Brooklyn scoop shops, as well as seasonal carts at city parks and festivals, and in retail stores across the country. A Rwandan Connection… A chance encounter with a woman from Rwanda would prove Miesen's theory that a small business could have a positive impact beyond its doors. In 2008, the Sundance Institute invited Dundas to participate in a workshop that paired her with a playwright from Rwanda, Odile Katese, or Kiki, as she prefers to be known. In addition to her work as a writer, Katese, who teaches at the University of Rwanda, founded the country's only all-female drumming troupe, Ingoma Nshya, a group of women living in the small town of Butare, still recovering from the devastation of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. When Katese learned about Blue Marble, she immediately envisioned an opportu- nity that would bring jobs and independence to her drummers back home, while providing a much-needed source of pleasure to the citi- zens of that country. She asked Dundas and Miesen to help her open an ice cream shop at home, where most people had never tried the sweet delicacy or, for that matter, tasted anything frozen. Taking the Risk… Despite some reservations, the partners jumped in. "Kiki often talks about how important and fun it is to say yes, even when there are compelling reasons to say no," Miesen says. Working furiously to keep up with their own growth, Miesen and Dundas pushed their hesitations aside. "Inzozi Nziza was brought to life and, in the process, has enabled the training and employment of dozens of Rwandan women, supported a community's economy by sourcing from local farmers and producers, and provided a welcoming, positive place for people to gather, connect, and feel happy." Making It Work… Challenges abounded. During a six-week visit to Rwanda in early 2010, Miesen realized the recipe would have to be altered from Blue Marble's. "Rwandan cows aren't as healthy as North American cows, and they don't produce lots of cream," she says. In addition, Rwanda's power grid is unreliable, and even a few hours without electricity means disaster for ice cream inventory. The solution? Soft-serve. "Soft-serve has less cream," Miesen explains. "It has more air in it, and air is free; plus, you make it as you serve it." With a soft-serve machine donated by Taylor Products, the women were soon in business, and today Inzozi Nziza offers two Alexis Miesen (left) with Blue Marble co-owner, Jennie Dundas Colleen Curtis is a New York City–based food and lifestyle writer. PHOTO: PIPER WATSON SPRING 2014 107 givingback_S14.indd 107 3/17/14 3:57 PM

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