Friends follow their dream and go into ice cream business
A bitter winter’s morning doesn’t sound like the inspiration for an ice cream business, but that’s exactly what prompted these two friends to follow their dreams. Reporter LAURA STUART-COOK found out more ...
"MEET Betsy," enthuses Jools Ferrier, as we are introduced to the lovingly-restored ice cream van she co-owns with friend Sarah Brown, "isn't she beautiful?"
Indeed, the duck-egg blue Bedford CF is rather endearing, with her multi-coloured bunting and retro seaside scene painted on the front.
Betsy is the star attraction of the Vintage Van Company, which was founded by Sarah and Jools earlier this year after they decided to turn their dreams of owning an ice cream van into a reality.
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Jools, who works at Grimsby's Jobcentre, explained: "I moved to Tealby last September and quickly became friends with Sarah after she invited me to go dog walking with her.
"It was a bitterly cold morning in February this year and we were walking through the village having our usual grumbles about husbands, children and work when we got talking about things we would love to do.
"I asked Sarah if I'd ever told her about my ice cream dream, to which she replied "No" and for the rest of the walk I filled her in on my lifelong dream to own an ice cream van."
Pilates instructor Sarah was equally as enchanted by Jools' ambition to buy a vintage ice cream van and hire it out for weddings, christenings, birthdays, fetes and fairs.
Two muddy dogs and three miles later, they arrived back at Sarah's house, stood on her doorstep and shook hands on going into business together.
After researching vintage ice cream companies online, the duo realised there was a real market for their business ambitions in Lincolnshire.
Sarah, who is a trained childrenswear designer and has worked for companies such as FCUK, added: "The idea for the Vintage Van Company was born from our shared passion for all things vintage, kitsch and retro, and we began searching for a van straight away.
"We scoured the internet for weeks to no avail, but our dream finally came to fruition when we discovered Betsy on eBay in May. After a nailbiting auction, she was ours.
"People thought we were mad because she was in such a sorry state, but we knew we could make her absolutely beautiful!"
The ladies travelled down to Pinner, in London, to collect Betsy, who was then bright pink and blue and plastered in lollipop stickers. The journey back to Lincolnshire took six long hours thanks to Betsy's 50mph top speed.
With their first event, a party in the village to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, just three weeks later, they set about sanding, priming, undercoating and painting Betsy by hand.
They also enlisted the help of mechanic Graham Chapman, from Humberston – the only garage owner they asked who was willing to help restore Betsy to her former glory.
"Graham and the team have done an excellent job on Betsy and by offering us driving lessons and reassurance when things looked bleak, they look after Jools and I as well as Betsy," laughs Sarah.
"It was hard work, but we loved it," added Jools. "Especially when it came to the good bit – making her pretty!
"She's decked out in the prettiest bunting, flickering tea lights, fairy lights, vintage advertising prints, beach hut oil cloth, paper chains and dangling hearts galore.
"She really is the most beautiful van in the world."
After signing a deal with nearby ice cream producers Willingham Fayre, they now have access to 36 flavours, including banoffee pie, lemon meringue, toffee crunch, wild fruits, mint-choc-chip and the ever-popular vanilla and strawberry.
Betsy went down a storm at the Jubilee party and Sarah and Jools loved every minute of serving customers.
"People commented that we looked like we were made for the job – and we felt like we are too," said Sarah.
"People in the village have been so supportive.
"Local graphic designer Adam Lee offered to work on our artwork and made some amazing business cards for us and the village school invited Betsy to serve ice cream at their end of year disco.
"Without any advertising, we have already been booked for weddings and birthday parties and recently took Betsy to Thorganby Hall where we provided pudding for 300 party guests.
"Our first wedding was absolutely fantastic, we loved every second of it, as did the bride and groom and all the guests."
With grand plans to one day own a fleet of vintage vans across the country, Jools and Sarah say they are already offering a scoop of their ice cream dream to Lincolnshire folk.
"The business offers something different and unique," said Jools.
"We are currently in the process of designing and making our own dresses to wear to help us stand out even more. We're looking forward to the future and covering all kinds of events – Betsy loves a party!"
To book Betsy, visit www.betsybedford.co.uk, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01673 838124 or 07837 230568. You can also search "Betsy Bedford – Vintage Van Co." on Facebook.