It’s a Monday morning for Luanne Ronquillo. She gets up around 6:45 a.m to Ozwyn and Wigmund, her two little pups eagerly wagging their tails for pets. For Ronquillo, dawn is a time for tranquillity––a time for family and reflection before she starts her weekly grind at Ruru Baked, the ice cream shop that took Toronto by storm over the past few years.
Started in 2016, Ruru Baked has sold close to 60,000 pints in five years. In 2021, Ruru Baked hit another huge milestone: opening their first brick and mortar shop in the city, at Bloor and Landsdowne. Finding success after a few years, she recognizes there were bumps along the way, but has no regrets, especially when reflecting on its humble beginnings.
Starting an ice cream business at home
In 2016, Ronquillo was asked by a friend to make ice cream. Working at an accounting firm, she’d steered far from the career path she first imagined when she graduated culinary school in her twenties. Ronquillo thought this would be her final run through the ice cream machine her brother gifted her years before, but what she ended up creating was incredible.
“I hadn’t used it in five years… it turned out really good, so I kept making it,” she says.
At some point, Ronquillo decided to upgrade the machine after friends of friends began requesting pints. In this process of making ice cream, she found herself falling in love with the craft, but it was challenging as she still worked a full-time job. “It was a big investment as a side hustle,” Ronquillo says.
Deciding to go all-in on an ice cream side hustle
As requests poured in, Ronquillo had a decision to make: to either follow her passion or to slow down. With the support of her close friends, she decided to make Ruru Baked official, while temporarily keeping her full-time job to fund her dreams.
Starting out in a friend’s condo kitchen in Toronto, Ronquillo took ice cream and baked good orders throughout the week and delivered the goods herself to people’s homes on the weekends. Eventually, she upgraded to her first commercial kitchen, renting out a spot at Empire Espresso in Toronto’s Little Italy. “Money was the main challenge… thinking about how to raise enough money to start,” she says.
Read about what to ask before turning your side hustle into a full-time job
The importance of social media marketing for a food business
Thankfully, investing her time into creating a social media presence early on paid off. Orders poured in. Ice cream would sell out in seconds on her weekly drops. People flooded Ruru Baked’s Instagram page to connect. “Social media was huge (and is still) huge in our business,” Ronquillo says. “It has been our only form of advertisement.” In a few years, Ruru Baked has hit more than 21,000 followers on Instagram. It’s also what helped Ronquillo make enough profit to leave her full-time job in 2020 to focus on Ruru Baked. In 2021, she opened her first r store and hired staff.
“It’s such a great way to connect with our customers… other entrepreneurs so we can talk to each other and gain knowledge from each other. It’s pivotal,” she says. “I really don’t think what our business would be without social media at all.”
Registering an ice cream business in Canada
Another big help Ronquillo found early on was using Ownr to incorporate her business. “It seemed like a daunting process. I asked, ‘Can I really do this myself? How high are the fees?’” she recalls.
With a simple Google search, she found Ownr, which made the process much easier. “They’ve really made it user friendly… made it for the millennial-era of people with beautiful branding, and a really simple, easy-to-use platform. They walked you through every single step,” she said, adding that she’s recommended it to many others. “It’s the most seamless way to go about it.”
Proudest moments as a small business owner
Even as a business owner with a storefront and years of success under her belt, the 35-year-old still faces self-doubt. “I definitely feel imposter syndrome all the time, and I do take criticism hard. When people compliment us, I usually don’t believe them,” she admits. But then she thinks about all the love and success, about seeing her regular customers show up at the store she created, and it helps push her forward.
“My proudest moment is getting the construction of the shop done. It seems so long ago. Every time I think about getting this off the ground, it’s wild. We made this place, and people come to buy stuff from us and they like it,” Ronquillo says. “It’s alive and doing well, and it makes me really proud.”
The importance of a great team and employees
As they hit the winter months, Ronquillo gave her staff more time off, opening only four times a week until warmer weather approaches. One thing she’s taken away from becoming a “boss” (she sees herself as a part of the team) is how success comes from trusting her employees: “They help me make a lot of decisions and stay balanced in life.”
Next steps, Ronquillo is hoping that she can get her shop moving like a “well-oiled machine.” “I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like next year and the year after that, we can really know how the business is going to run.”
Advice for other entrepreneurs looking to start a business
If she has any advice for entrepreneurs, it’s one that she continues to challenge herself with daily: the necessity of accepting change.
“Things are gonna change, things will constantly change. If we can’t pivot and innovate, our business will suffer. Listening to our customer’s feedback, what they like, what they don’t like, listening to my team’s feedback is really important. So we’re going to keep doing that,” she says.
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