An artisanal maker of handcrafted, small batch ice cream and frozen confections featuring Vermont agricultural products including berries, eggs, cream, milk, herbs, syrup and honey.
After a successful summer selling Scout’s Honor ice cream at the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market, owners Johnny Vitko and Sarina Guilisano were ready to ramp up production to meet the growing wholesale demand for their ice cream, as well as become partners in a retail store in historic Waitsfield Village. But these new marketing channels came at a cost, including licensing and state-mandated equipment. A $10,000 Innovation Loan from the Vermont Farm Fund put the couple in a position to produce their frozen treats safely, efficiently, and to code at their new retail storefront.
Johnny Vitko and Sarina Guilisano were already successful entrepreneurs with their glass button and closure business, Moving Mud. But, when faced with the problem of having too many eggs from their growing flock of backyard chickens, they saw an opportunity to use the eggs along with produce from their garden and syrup from a neighbor to start another business – this time making ice cream. Johnny had dreamed of making and serving ice cream, so that seemed like the perfect fit. In early experiments, he flavored ice cream with his own homegrown berries and made ice pops infused with herbs from the garden. Loving his ice cream treats, friends encouraged Johnny to sell them at the local farmers’ market. Each Saturday during the 2010 season, Johnny showed up at the market with his pedal powered ice cream cart and consistently sold out well before the 1:00 closing time.
Nearing the end of the 2011 farmers’ market season, Tropical Storm Irene would deal the Guilisanos a severe blow, almost destroying their family’s building and forever closing the doors on brother Jason’s acclaimed restaurant, The Green Cup. After a year of exhausting and expensive renovations, the building was ready for new occupants. Johnny, Sarina, and her sister wanted to carve out a portion of the building to carry on the family’s culinary tradition, but needed an infusion of capital to get a milk handler’s license and purchase equipment like a pasteurizer and commercial-grade ice cream machine to make that dream a reality.
The Bottom Line
Robin McDermott, a Scout’s Honor ice cream fan and founding member of the VFF board, encouraged Johnny and Sarina to apply for an Innovation Loan. Robin made the recommendation knowing that the new processing and retail facility would add new infrastructure and equipment to increase the amount of local agricultural ingredients in the market, one of the goals of the VFF.
During that first summer Johnny and Sarina focused on increasing store traffic and building relationships with some key local restaurants. Their ice cream is now sold in several restaurants in the Mad River Valley and can be purchased in pints at the Red Hen Café in Middlesex, as well as at the Sweet Spot in Historic Waitsfield Village and in the summer at the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market. Scout’s Honor probably would have managed to work through their first year in their storefront without the Vermont Farm Fund loan. But, the infusion of capital with friendly terms enabled the couple to put their energy into the basics of the business instead of wrestling with financing.
All photos for this story were provided by Scout’s Honor.