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MSP Business Journal : Cool Spots: Wonders Ice Cream serves treats cold off the griddle

By David Clarey

With a social media-friendly product and a heavy dose of CNBC’s business reality show "The Profit" as a guidepost, Wonders Ice Cream owners JK Yangand Kit Houngnakhone have rolled their ice cream to success. 

The pair opened their first ice cream parlor, which uses a hand-rolling technique in which ice cream is made to order on a super-cold griddle, in August 2017 on University Avenue. Since the concept has expanded to spots in Blaine and Maple Grove, with a location in Burnsville set for next month.

Update: The Mall of America said this week that Wonders will also open a location on its east-side second level this fall.

Rolled ice cream got its start as a Thai street-food item, but its popularity has spread across the United States in the past couple of years. It's made from a cream base thrown on flash-freezing cooking surface at almost negative 20 degrees, with flavors added as the consistency thickens.

The end result looks like ribbons of ice cream — flavors range from vanilla to avocado — adorned by selected toppings. Cost per order is about $6 to $7, depending on toppings.

 

 

The picturesque product is a big part of the concept's marketing. Yang said he hates stock photos; the business's social media presence is almost solely sourced from customer postings of their orders.

“Definitely one of our goals is to create a picture-quality product,” Yang said. “We’re kind of building our community around our ice cream, it’s something unique and different.” 

Yang and Houngnakhone first saw the rolled ice cream concept through social media and decided to try making the product. For two months they worked out of Yang’s Chicago apartment and, once they decided to pursue it, Yang moved back to Minneapolis, his home. 

Neither had started a business — Yang still works as a product designer with Anaplan, a cloud-based financial planning software company, and Houngnakhone works in real estate — and so the two took a crash course in entrepreneurship through watching the business reality show "The Profit."

“We didn’t really know how to start a business or run a business,” Yang said, while noting he and Houngnakhone “live and breathe” The Profit.  

The two opened their first store in St. Paul with $50,000 in start-up costs, and Yang said the expansion startup costs have typically been close to that as well. 

The duo are eyeing other potential locations for expansion, including near the University of Minnesota campus and they are considering a foray into Chicago. 

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