Good Humor, with an International Twist
I’ve only been studying entrepreneurship for a relatively short while now, but every now and again I find out about a small business that is so incredibly creative, I feel like smacking myself in the forehead for not thinking of it first. The Los Angeles-based Heartschallenger is one such business. Owned and operated by the 28-year-old Leyla Safai, Heartschallenger is probably best described as the world’s only alternative ice cream truck company.
Safai, it seems, has something of a sweet tooth for international treats. Formerly an interior designer for a hotel chain, her business began when she purchased a U.S. Mail truck and painted it cotton candy pink. Then she went shopping for product: Russian ice cream bars, organic lollipops, mochi ball treats from Japan, obscure novelty toys from Armenian delis. Heartschallenger, you might say, is essentially an international candy shop on wheels.
In the June 2007 issue of Fortune Small Business, Safai said she got the inspiration for the business “from pondering the typical ice cream trucks from my from childhood. Why did they sell only one type of product? It didn’t make sense — an American truck with no international flavors, considering all the nationalities that make up this country. I liked the idea of a shop on wheels that sold a mix of art, ice cream, and toys — an entertainment source outside a venue.”
The Heartschallenger truck has been making appearances at music and art festivals around southern California for about two years now. And this past summer, she took her mobile business to New York City with her boyfriend, a musician by the name of Ben Pollock. Pollock and Safai even have their own electro-dance band, Heartsrevolution, whose music can often be heard wafting out of the ice cream truck’s hi-fi speakers.
Naturally, Safai has big plans to take the business worldwide. Candy-colored trucks will soon be sent to Miami, London, Paris and Tokyo. And according to a recent article in The New York Observer, Heartschallenger has become so popular in Los Angeles that Safai is charging anywhere from $350 to $3,500 an hour to show up at birthday parties for Hollywood’s rich and famous. Which gives me an interesting idea: A Heartschallenger truck would certainly make a perfect addition to a YP Media party… although I imagine we’d have to land a pretty sizable ad account before that could happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.