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Victoria Lai
Ice Cream Jubilee
April 12, 2016

It would be too easy to talk about how much we love ice cream here. Instead, we want to call attention to Victoria's persistence in starting a business that had nothing to do with her day job. Also her passion in creating something that was based on a small but profoundly meaningful childhood memory. And please don't miss her thoughts on the value of labor - that's one area where her voice definitely needs to be heard. But the ice cream does look amazing, doesn't it?!

PS does Victoria's story make you want to join the ranks at Ice Cream Jubilee? You're in luck! They are hiring for an Ice Cream Maker.

When did you know that you wanted to work in food?

I love ice cream because each of us has a wonderful, happy memory about it. To me, ice cream is how I celebrate love and togetherness. As a young girl, my dad often had to miss our family dinners to work extra hours. But as my sister and I were getting ready for bed, Dad would arrive home and call to us from downstairs, "I'm home! Who wants ice cream?" and we would race down to jump on him with hugs and choose our flavors for the night. Ice cream continues to be the perfect excuse to celebrate and create happy moments with family and friends. Ice Cream Jubilee is my way to bring joy to others through imaginative flavors and irrepressible smiles.

How did you get your current good food job?

I started making ice cream in my apartment kitchen in 2009. Tapping into my creativity to invent flavors made me so happy that I took a vacation from my corporate law career to apprentice at a pie shop in Brooklyn called Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Kneading pie crusts by hand and being immersed in a flavorful world where people made careers of their passions recharged me, and I decided to deliberately add passion, creativity, color, and flavors to every aspect of my life. I moved to Washington, D.C. a few months later to accept my dream job working as a presidential appointee at the Department of Homeland Security. Despite the long hours, I dedicated my nights and weekends to my love for inventing ice cream flavors. I hosted tasting sessions at my apartment and in my friends' homes, not knowing exactly what I was building momentum toward. In 2013, I attended the famous Penn State University ice cream seminar, graduating as class president, and began recruiting friends to make ice cream with me on Thursday nights. I started selling twelve flavors in grocery stores and restaurants, and in July Ice Cream Jubilee was voted People's Choice for Best Ice Cream at the DC Scoop competition. I would have never guessed that less than 2 years later Ice Cream Jubilee would be named one of the Best Ice Cream Shops in America!

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?

My previous work in political campaigns trained me well for running a small business. When everyone is working together toward a shared goal, united in passion for a better future, magic can happen! The power of motivated people is immense.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream? 

The hardest thing that surprised me most about starting Ice Cream Jubilee was how physically demanding working at an ice cream shop can be. I'm used to working 70+ hour weeks as a lawyer, but on being on my feet, talking with hundreds of customers, and scooping hundreds of cones, I was spent at the end of each night! But then the administrative work - business planning, emailing, accounting - started. The work seems endless a lot of the time, so I'm very glad that I love being at the store and love creating bigger and bigger dreams for Ice Cream Jubilee because that love helps me overcome most every obstacle.

Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?

My first jobs were as a middle school summer school teacher and a volunteer coordinator on political campaigns. I view everyone who works with me as a student who wants to grow and learn. This growth could be professional, personal, or just exploring a joy and a new experience. I also view everyone who works for me as a volunteer. Although they are paid, everyone shows up to work because they choose to come and devote their energy to Ice Cream Jubilee. I appreciate their time so much, beyond words. I say thank you and show my thanks as often as I can.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now? 

The greatest opportunity in food now lies in lifting up the millions of people who work in the food and retail industries. Minimum wage is not a living wage, and a living wage itself without full time employment isn't a living wage. Labor should be viewed as a fixed cost, just as rent or cost of goods. It's long past time that all businesses treat employees like friends and not like an accounting line item.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be? 

I would love to have more free time. If I had more free time, I'd garden and bike, travel and read, and exercise my ability to dream and encourage others to dream. (I would also take compensation in the form of chocolate.)

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