After years of franchising a Haagen Dasz on the corner of 43rd and University Avenue (“The Ave”) in the University District, Lois Ko knew it was time to open an ice cream shop based on her own vision. She wanted to create an authentic, “farm-to-cone” experience for her customers that would never sacrifice quality for quantity. With this in mind, she became the first person in Seattle to purchase a 30 gallon pasteurizer (most are closer to 300 gallons) and decided that all of Sweet Alchemy’s dairy would be sourced from local farms less than 100 miles away.
The transition from franchiser to small business owner was tough, but Ko was ready for it. As a graduate of the University of Washington, she put her research skills to use, diving into books on everything from operations to finances to team building. Today, she continues to take advantage of her University District location by utilizing small business resources offered by the UW Foster School of Business.
Her University District location also has its challenges. The neighborhood is vibrant, diverse, and packed with small businesses. But with a massive student population, it can be difficult to develop a lasting customer base, even for a seasoned small business owner.
When asked what advice she would offer aspiring entrepreneurs, Ko reminded us that running a small business is hard work, and far more than a 9-5 operation. That aside, she encourages folks – especially women — to set their fears aside and create their own path.
Ko has every intention to grow Sweet Alchemy. She recently expanded to a second location in Ballard, and can be found catering weddings and corporate events as well as vending at farmers markets. She also brings her voice to the board of the U District Partnership. It doesn’t look like Ko will be slowing down anytime soon, so stop by Sweet Alchemy soon and try some delicious, locally sourced ice cream.
Instagram & Facebook: @sweetalchemyseattle
U District: 4301 University Way NE
Ballard: 1555 NW Market St #A