White Rock, Mainland/Southwest
Thai Affair Rolled Gelato
White Rock, Mainland/Southwest
Thai Affair launched out of a tiny stand by the beach in White Rock, BC, with the aspiration of bringing a street-food travel experience to local neighbourhoods. Met with great enthusiasm by both locals and tourists, Thai Affair was raised by the love and support of the community. We serve premium, handcrafted rolled gelato every summer from May till October.
In Business Since 2017
Best Youth Entrepreneur
What motivated you to start your business and what is your vision for the future of your company?
During a travelling adventure that I made spontaneously to see my friends, I met Leandro - who became my boyfriend - and who gave me the idea that the Thai ice-cream we had tried while travelling in Southeast Asia could be an interesting business project. Fueled by daydreams and market research, I decided to jump right in. Because we lived in separate countries, my idea was to build a seasonal business where the off-season would allow me to see him - and my extended family in Argentina - every year, escape the winter, and continue to travel. After some hustle and perseverance, Thai Affair Rolled Gelato launched 3 months later in August 2017, out of a tiny stand by the beach in White Rock, BC. Since that first year, the business has continued to grow and expand. The first year, the setup was made up of just one machine and a tent. The second year, I had three machines (and employees). The next year, we expanded into the Richmond Night Market and increased the workforce. This year, some plans got put on hold due to the pandemic, but we are on our way to securing another location in Vancouver with one of our three food-trailers that are ready for operations. My future plans for the business are to continue establishing mobile locations across the Lower Mainland, and begin franchising to the rest of Canada within the next 3 years. My purpose is to continue bringing the same vibrancy and sense of interconnectedness, which I found through travel, to our surrounding local cities. Most recently, Leandro and I got married. I suspect that our relationship wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Thai Affair, which allowed me the freedom to travel far and often. He will soon be joining me here, to continue growing the business and bringing that sense of vibrancy and connectedness to our local community.
Why do you deserve to win the Best Youth Entrepreneur award?
At 26 years old, I was hungry to prove myself and see how successful this idea could become. Being a lover of challenges and of pursuing meaningful projects, I applied for a location and permit, and purchased the basic equipment: machine, tent, portable sink, and a mini fridge on wheels. I would bring out each piece of equipment individually every day onto my designated vendor spot, and then store it away every night. It was hard work, and I reckon I haven’t seen a lot of people grinding like I did then; but I had big plans for the future, so I kept going. Since that first year, the business has come a long way. There was a significant amount of risk involved behind the scenes, which isn’t accounted for when others look at you from the outside and say, “If this ‘little girl’ can do it, so could I.” Not many know about the failed attempts to secure other locations; the trailer investments made without knowing whether a new location would be obtained; the struggles of finding a new kitchen when the previous one flooded; the need for diligent research and cold-calling; the financial instability when something outside of your control changes your projections; the logistics and behind-the-scenes of payroll and accounting; or the overall amount of work and love it takes to build something. I believe I've always taken Thai Affair as far as I could, and although mistakes were made along the way, they only served to help inform decisions for present and future growth. One time during the daily grind of bringing out equipment, someone stopped me right in my tracks to ask me if I had children to feed, because he couldn’t understand the motivation behind my hard work. At first I found it funny, but then became disappointed that someone would think this could be the sole motivation for such a project. It did, however, make me reflect on my motivations. Besides providing the income to support myself and my dream of continued travel, I also found great joy in bringing one of my favourite travel experiences home, for everyone here to experience part of what I did in Southeast Asia. It also gives me great joy to create, through the concept of street food and lively music, an atmosphere of vibrancy, connectedness, and belonging among everyone who comes near. It kind of gives you a sense that we’re all interconnected, and that maybe we don’t need to travel to finally realize we’re essentially the same, once we tap into the authenticity of the human spirit.