I don’t usually write reviews of restaurants but when actor and food blogger (and friend) Lynn Chen invited me to join her at Fluff Ice, a new dessert place in my area (San Gabriel Valley, 626 in the house!), I jumped. She told me we were going to be eating at a new Taiwanese shaved ice restaurant that just opened. I have to be honest, I didn’t know what Taiwanese shaved ice was. I mean, I’d had Hawaiian shaved ice and regular shaved ice, even a Slurpee, but never Taiwanese shaved ice. So needless to say I was excited but had no idea what to expect.
It turned out that I had been missing out my entire life. Taiwanese shaved ice is good. REALLY good. I had one with strawberries, mango, and my favorite condensed milk. I can’t say that Fluff Ice is better than other Taiwanese shaved ice places — since I’ve never been to any others — but it made me want to go back there and try their other flavors. But most of all, I was pleased to find out that it was owned by four young Asian American entrepreneurs. I had a chance to sit down with them ask them some questions:
Who are you? What do you do at Fluff Ice?
Fluff Ice is the result of a collective effort of 4 young APIs. Three of us grew up in Monterey Park and met when we went to Mark Keppel High School. According to our customers, we’re still young (being under 30 and all), but that just means we can’t say “we’re too old to start a business.” Along with running the store, we each have a specific forte at Fluff Ice. For example, Nick is the chef and the mastermind behind all the Fluff Ice flavors. Annie, is the artistic one in our group. She designed the logo, the store, and the posters and flyers you see in the store. My other partner, David, comes from a financial background, so he handles the accounting aspects of our store. Then there’s me. My name is Matt and my passion is in people. I love connecting with our customers at the store and on social media platforms, so I handle our marketing and branding.
What is Taiwanese shaved ice?
Taiwanese shave ice is something that has been around for awhile. The traditional Taiwanese shave ice dessert is made by shaving a block of frozen water and complemented with toppings. We drew our inspiration from it, but we put a new twist to it. To create Fluff Ice, we reversed the process and created flavor-infused blocks. The result is a new dessert with a unique-taste texture profile. We took the popular frozen desserts here in Los Angeles and combined them all into one. Fluff Ice is creamy like ice cream but doesn’t have the fat. It’s like frozen yogurt but doesn’t have as many calories and fluffy just like Hawaiian shave ice since it melts when it touches your mouth. Fluff Ice is one of those things you have to try in order to understand.
Biggest obstacle to getting your place off the ground?
When we started our business we quickly realized our biggest obstacle was funding. We were boot-strapping a lot when we first opened. I’m still perplexed on how we got past our first two months. We were basically living on Wonderbread and love. There were so many times we wished we had an infusion of cash. But we kept at our hustle, made the best with what we had, and listened to the suggestions of our customers. When your back is against the wall, it’s amazing how creative you have to become.
What advice do you have for young APIs wanting to start their own business?
The most important thing to accept is that business isn’t easy or straightforward. We thought it would be. We were wrong. Think of it as Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will.” But, if you are determined enough to get past it, you will definitely learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of. Also, starting a business is an extremely daunting task. It will be the most work you’ve ever done in your life and it never stops. Find partners who can complement your weaknesses with strengths. You’ll need them when obstacles resent themselves. Finally, take on as many mentors as you can. Find people who are in your industry that you can turn to for advice. Find time to meet with them on a regular basis to ask questions and to vent. They’ll provide you with a different insight and the motivation to continue when you’re feeling burned out.
Tell us how people can find out more about Fluff Ice.
To read Lynn Chen’s review or to see more pictures of our trip to Fluff, click here.