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How One Woman Redefined Ice Cream in Dubai

Meet entrepreneur Marcela Sancho.

As Women’s Entrepreneurship Day approaches on November 19, we’re continuing our series on female entrepreneurs today. After all, Dubai boasts a group of sensational female self-starters whose experiences and professional insights bring with them countless nuggets of wisdom. Case in point? Marcela Sancho, who is all about bringing guilt-free treats to the city.

After popping out for ice cream with her partner one afternoon in 2018, she was shocked by the lack of healthy options on offer for those looking for something that wasn’t packed with sugar, preservatives, or calories. Tapping into her partner’s extensive experience in the region’s frozen treats business, Marcela set about creating a refreshing and healthy alternative to what was available, co-founding House of Pops in the process. Not only is it the only Dubai-based ice cream brand with zero plastic packaging, but its vegan all-natural fruit pops also contain no preservatives, colourings, E-numbers, nor refined sugar.

WHO?

Marcela Sancho

FOUNDER OF?

House of Pops

Age?

33

What was your ‘lightbulb’ moment?

One day, I was with my partner, out for ice cream and shocked that we couldn’t really see anything that was healthy on offer. Everything was high in sugar, high in fat, and packed with empty calories. Health and wellness had become a global trend, and more UAE consumers were moving into this category at the time, so that was our opportunity to take up the challenge and fill the gap in the market.

What was your vision when you first launched your business?

We wanted to be the number one choice when people thought of healthier ice cream, and create the healthiest form of ice cream that we possibly could. We wanted to be the first to bring the change – a disruption into this category – and believed we could have a strong share in the ice cream business, especially since my partner had extensive experience in the industry. Our mission was to provide consumers with an option to delight themselves guilt-free and, so, House of Pops was born. We launched our products at a farmers’ market and sold 100 pops that day. That was a great day.

Has the pandemic affected your business negatively or positively?

It had a positive effect. When people were locked at home, they were looking for something to indulge in to make themselves happy, and House of Pops was the perfect solution as a healthy treat. We already had a very strong e-commerce structure in place, so we were able to cope with the demand. We experienced a channel growth of 10 times its size before COVID-19.

What drives you every day?

The passion to achieve sustainable growth for the business, tackle new opportunities of development from the product range, and expand the brand internationally. The business has been working for three years – we’ve successfully opened seven shops and want to expand our franchise model. It’s been sold to other countries in the GCC, and this is where our focus is at the moment.

Do you have a favourite business mentor?

Jim Rhon and his practical approach. He preaches accountability. This is very powerful, as he made me realise that I can change and drive change in my life and in my business. I stopped pointing out why things went wrong, justifying it with external factors, and started to ask myself what I could’ve done differently or better. This is how I learned. He also explains why it’s important to not only have clear priorities, but also allocate energy and a share of mind to them to get results. When time is limited as an entrepreneur, this becomes very helpful.

Which books/podcasts/blogs do you follow, and why?

I usually like to listen to interviews. You can learn a lot from other people’s experience, irrespective of the field they are in. From sportsmen like MMA fighter Conor McGregor to Michelle Obama, it gives me the motivation and sense of community that I need. I can relate to a lot of the struggles that they speak about, and how they overcame them to reach the place where they are today.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a budding entrepreneur?

Set your concept and give it a try. Have your goals straight. Speak to people in the field. Understand challenges that you might face so that you don’t repeat them again. Read a lot about your idea and your concept. Be like a sponge.

What are five things one must consider before launching a business?

  1. Make sure that the insights make sense.
  2. Make sure that the business is scalable – it should be a business, not a hobby.
  3. Understand the financials on bringing the idea to life. Do you have them or do you need external investment?
  4. Have the right skills to develop the idea. If you don’t have them, get the right team (outsourced or in-house).
  5. Find something unique in your proposition. This will make you build a successful company. We are at a time where a lot of services and products are being offered, so ask yourself, ‘Why people would choose my product?

NEXT UP: What makes sleepwear and loungewear queen Natasha Inman’s business brain tick?

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