August 23, 2023
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 July Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Nikita Seal, Founder of ZZs Ice Cream Puffs. They are the eighth qualifier for the 2023 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Nikita for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Thank you for joining us for our conversation with this month’s Amber Grant winner, Nikita Seal, who’s the owner of Dallas-based ZZ’s Ice Cream Puffs. She is our winner for July, 2023.
I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m one of several WomensNet Advisory Board members who have the pleasure of learning about the amazing female entrepreneurs in our community. So Nikita, thank you so much for giving me some of your time today.
Nikita: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.
WomensNet: So let’s start at the beginning here. Tell me a little bit about your company and where the idea came from.
Nikita: My name is Nikita Seal. I’m an Air Force veteran. I’m a mom of eight year old twins.
So the company started in 2020 after I was laid off in the pandemic. I thought to myself, ‘am I gonna go back to the corporate life or am I just gonna kind of create my own way?’
So I decided to just step out on faith and purchase my food truck. The company is named ZZ’s Ice Cream Puffs after my twins. So that’s where the ZZ’s comes from.
What a ZZ’s ice cream puff is… it’s a fried donut stuffed with cold ice cream. It’s cereal tops, so when you bite into it, it’s hot, it’s cold, and it’s crunchy.
We’re going into our third year. I actually launched the business on my 31st birthday. So we’re getting ready to go into our third year. We’re super excited. Like I said, we’re a food truck, so we are mobile. That’s pretty much the history of ZZ’s.
WomensNet: And where did you come up with the idea of the ice cream puff? Because it’s not something that I’ve seen here in the northeast.
Nikita: I did not come up with a concept. It’s a California inspired treat. So I love California, I love palm trees. If you guys ever see my food truck, it’s wrapped and it has tons of palm trees.
I was in California and I saw this particular company and they did it. They had the treat and I thought it was super cool and I was trying to research and see how they did it. And this process is really, really top secret. So I made a vow to myself. I said, if I ever figure out how to do it, I’m gonna do it for myself. So once the pandemic happened and I was laid off, I spent some time on, you know, researching… and I figured it out and here we are almost three years later.
WomensNet: Fantastic. So what are some of the flavors? Are they different every day or do you have a set number of different kinds of ice cream puffs?
Nikita: Yes, the combinations are endless. Our classic puff, it’s a vanilla ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But of course we have mint chocolate chip, we have cookies and cream, we have blue monster. Sometimes we have a Texas whiskey ice cream that we get specially made. So whenever we do birthday parties and weddings, we allow them to create their own custom puffs, so whatever ice cream they think of. And then of course there’s so many different cereal toppings and it doesn’t even have to just be cereal. We do fruits and candies and all different types of things.
So the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating your own puff.
WomensNet: And seriously, I’m getting very hungry right now. It sounds delicious.
Nikita: Thank you.
WomensNet: So what has been your biggest challenge so far in growing the business?
Nikita: Since it’s actually a food trailer, I’m pulling the food trailer with my personal truck. And my truck is really not big enough to pull a food trailer, so you know, it’s causing some issues with the transmission. It is showing its age at this point. So that’s why I’m super excited for the Amber Grant because now I can finally upgrade and no longer have those issues with my vehicle.
It is such a blessing. I’m so grateful to you guys because I had no idea what I was gonna do next. If my vehicle goes out, then ZZ no longer exists because I have to pull the trailer. So that’s exactly what I’m gonna do with the grant money is get a new truck.
So whenever we do events in different cities, we have to have permits. Of course those permits cost [money]. So I’m gonna use a portion of the grant money to purchase permits. And also now that I’m relocating from Dallas to Fort Worth, I have to find a different storage facility. So that money is also gonna go into storing the trailer.
WomensNet: When you are moving the trailer, do you have certain locations that you set up on certain days or are you just events based?
Nikita: We’re mostly events based. We do have relationships with certain companies that will allow us to pull up to their parking lot. But now that I’m moving to Fort Worth, I have to kind of rebuild those relationships in this new area.
Right now just events based…we do have some things coming up, so make sure, everyone listening to this, make sure you guys follow us on social media, ’cause we do hope to have some permanent locations coming up pretty soon.
WomensNet: What do you think has led to your success thus far? You have not been in business that long and you’ve really done a lot in a short amount of time. So what’s behind that do you think?
Nikita: Of course you have to have a great product, so definitely product. But I think the biggest thing is consistency. I’m one of those people… I think really, really big. So I thought ‘oh, when I start this, I’m gonna be rich and famous the first day.’ Oh no, big surprise. No. So we had this one location when we first started and I would go out every single day. It got to the point where I had to stop people, like, ‘Hey, come try this.’ I gave so much product to away for free because I would buy so many donuts and at the end of the day, the donuts would have to go in the trash if you don’t sell them.
So I started giving a lot of product away for free. But I just stayed consistent even when no customers came, I was like, ‘I’m still gonna go out tomorrow, then I’m gonna go out the next day.’ Because of what I’ve learned when it comes to customers, it takes them five to seven times before they actually decide to try. So they may drive by and think, ‘you know what, I saw you last week, I’m gonna try you today.’ So just staying consistent even when it’s stressful and it’s just looking like, ‘oh my God, am I wasting my time?’ No, stay consistent because it’s gonna pay off.
WomensNet: Awesome. Very, very smart. So you’ve just given a piece of advice, but is there any other advice you might give a woman business owner who’s just getting started, kind of where you were three years ago.
Nikita: Thank you. Network. Go out, build relationships, build relationships with organizations like the Amber Grant, [your] local Chamber of Commerce… Just get involved in the community, talk to people, see where the opportunities are. Your true success comes from your network.
WomensNet: Excellent. Nikita, thank you so much for sharing your story with everyone in the Amber Grant community. And viewers, thanks for taking a few minutes to learn about this month’s winner.
Nikita: Hey, thank y’all for having me. I’m so grateful.