Obstacles and Stepping Stones | Part Four: Katie Earl and Delish Ice

Obstacles and Stepping Stones | Part Four: Katie Earl and Delish Ice

It was as simple as catching a glimpse of a Donna Hay magazine cover. There, in all their icy glory, was a stack of colourful popsicles. And Katie Earl found her inspiration.

Five years later, Delish Ice is the glam result of Katie’s idea. The business comprises two vintage caravans – Poppy and Hemingway – that do the rounds of Perth’s festival and market circuit selling gourmet ice pops and spreading a distinct 1950s vibe.

It was a business idea that presented plenty of opportunities. Perth’s festival scene was just starting to gain momentum, the city’s weather was popsicle-friendly and the concept was unique – Katie couldn’t find anything similar anywhere in Australia.

But, of course, there were hurdles, too. One large hurdle, in fact. Thanks largely to the 2008 financial crisis, Katie and her family had recently experienced a property development turned bad and were forced to sell off the family land. The aftershocks were still being felt.

“We had a pretty horrible three or four years trying to keep everything on track,” Katie recalls.

“Looking back at the (Delish Ice) journey and the emotions that I have gone through…there’s definitely been some carry over; probably some trauma.

“(There’s a) fear of security and fear about money so I’m working so hard and furiously because I wanted to create an income for myself.”

An endless summer

Katie spent about nine months tinkering with her idea, sourcing supplies and creating a plan to help her turn Delish Ice into a full-time business. She was living with her parents in a small town in the Margaret River region at the time.

Post-launch, Katie’s schedule involved a two-and-a-half hour trip to Perth every Friday, a jam-packed weekend pushing popsicles as various events, a return trip on Monday morning and a week of popsicle preparation in readiness to do it all again.

Delish Ice was well received and Katie enjoyed a busy opening summer, but the success took its toll.

“After the first summer…I was completely burnt out,” she says.

“I didn’t really know it at the time, I didn’t know I was burnt out, I just couldn’t do anything anymore.

“Going to the cupboard and writing a few labels that said ‘raspberry and lemonade’…it was too hard. I couldn’t actually do it.”

A three-month hiatus helped Katie reenergise, but after a second summer of busy seven-day weeks, she burnt out again.

The art of self-care

A few years later and Katie admits she still hasn’t mastered the art of self-care, but she’s getting better. She says the ability to recognise when she is depleted was an important first step.

“One of the big lessons for me is self-love,” says Katie.

“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but when you’re depleted you just don’t have anything to give.”

“I am probably doing things now in the business that I probably should have done two or three years ago.”

Katie attributes her progress to the people she has welcomed to the Delish Ice team. She appointed a virtual assistant, starting with just a block of 10 hours as a test run and building to 20 hours a week. She also recently appointed a personal assistant.

Spending the necessary time and money to get things done right the first time was also a lesson Katie learnt the hard way after trying to secure a logo on the cheap.

“I was embarrassed by (my first logo) and I held back from putting my brand out there from people,” says Katie.

While Katie’s business management has evolved, Delish Ice has expanded to include not just markets and festivals, but weddings, parties, community events and other private and corporate functions. The brand is also moving into the wholesale market.

Although her ride has been bumpy, she says her advice to anyone thinking about launching a new business would be to take the leap of faith.

“I would say ‘do it’,” she says.

“I would say think about where you want to go with it from the start, think about your exit strategy and always work towards that and have faith in what you do.”