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Conversations with the Inspiring Helen Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Helen Williams.

Helen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Best One Yet basically was born out of a love of vegan cooking that started at home. I ran a personal vegan and vegetarian food blog for about seven years because I knew I wanted to do something in the food industry, but I couldn’t really pinpoint a specific plan. So, I ran the blog and posted recipes and that led me to a slight obsession of making vegan ice cream. I wanted to really perfect recipes and try weird flavors and that is basically the origin story of what we’re doing now. Unfortunately, the blog doesn’t exist anymore, but I almost look at that as a stepping stone that got us to where we are now—it was a huge part of the discovery of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to share with the world.

Eventually, I started sharing these ice cream flavors with people in my life and they all said similar things: “I would totally buy this in a store”, or “You should think about marketing this”, etc. They were people with a range of dietary habits, too. Vegan, lactose-intolerant, omnivores, you name it. The fact that they all seemed to enjoy it equally really sparked something within me that said, hey, maybe you’re onto something here.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Oh, man. Absolutely not!

Honestly starting this business and keeping up with it has been one of the toughest and most rewarding things of my life. I know that sounds like a cliche, but unfortunately, the reason those cliches stick around is that there’s a little bit of truth buried in there.

The struggles are sort of endless, and I don’t say that to be discouraging or down on what it’s like to run a business. I think it’s helpful to know that in advance so that you aren’t disappointed when you expect things to go a certain way when they actually end up going in the opposite direction.

If you want to get specific, dealing with money is always a steep hill to climb. You’ll always be wondering if you’re spending money on the right thing and if you’re making the right choice to promote your growth, which is always a difficult thing when you’re new and cash flow is limited. I would say when you’re struggling between two or three or even ten choices, you have to trust yourself and you also have to know that sometimes you’re going to make the wrong choice, whatever that means. But even the wrong choice is a learning experience and there’s something valuable in that to be used down the road.

Another specific struggle is time. There’s never enough, and when you’re doing everything from production to book-keeping to marketing to demos, you’re going to feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends. Some days you’ll just be on fire in the middle. But I think it’s important to set boundaries on your time and value yourself and take care of yourself in the best ways you can. Turn off your phone at a certain point in the evening, stop checking email, etc. I know it’s hard to do (really!) when you’re the only one running things, but things can wait and rest is important.

As far as advice, I’ve got a few things that have helped me a lot along the way. The first and most major thing is, however long you expect something to take, double it, and then double it again. Whether you’re applying for a permit or building out a new vehicle or getting a building inspected or trying to hire the right person, all that stuff will inevitably take longer than you think. Either you’ll run into an unexpected roadblock or the people you’re working with will have delays on their end or something else that you couldn’t have predicted. It’s okay. Things take longer. Rather than stressing about it, it’s just good to expect delays. And that way when things flow perfectly every once in a while, it’s a nice little moment to breathe.

Ask for help. There are people in your industry who have been doing it for longer and will be happy to give you some advice. Eventually, you will be the person people will come to with questions, and that’s cool, too.

Last thing, when you’re on the verge of starting your business, whatever it may be, acknowledge your biggest fear because it’s going to pop up and loom over you on your worst days. Know what that thing is that’s hanging over your shoulder so that when you’re doubting yourself and feeling lost, you already know that it’s going to show up and try to drag you down. But the biggest way to not let it drag you down is to also acknowledge the solution to that fear. For example, “I’m scared to start a business because I might spend all of my savings”—sure, totally possible. But the solution to that would be you would grow your business and/or get a side job to save more money. Every fear has a logical solution, it’s just hard to see it when you’re feeling scared. So, take some time for yourself, list out the things that scare you about starting a business. And on the other side of that list, write out the solution to that fear. It totally tames the beast.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Best One Yet story. Tell us more about the business.
Best One Yet is ice cream for everyone. It just so happens to be vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. but you don’t have to categorize your eating in any of those ways for it to be something you can enjoy. It’s ice cream! Who doesn’t love ice cream, right?

I really love that our brand has some classics like Dark Chocolate and Very Vegan Vanilla but also gets into the fun flavors like It’s My Birthday Cake and Once In A Blue Moon (a totally weird but really great flavor made with blue spirulina and lemon cake—get into it!). We also celebrate being from Colorado with seasonal flavors that celebrate Colorado’s amazing summer fruits like peaches and raspberries.

I think what sets us apart are our fun flavors and the fact that we aren’t overly sweet and don’t use any artificial ingredients. It’s a fun dessert and brand that just happens to be vegan and can still be for anyone that enjoys ice cream. That’s what I love about it.

And of course, I can’t avoid sharing the uniqueness of our ice cream “truck”, the Vegan Vespa, out and about for our third season as of the end of May! We make stops throughout Longmont and Boulder and can even be hired for private parties like birthdays, office events or weddings. She’s an extremely cute red scooter with a custom-built sidecar for housing the ice cream. Perfect for photo ops and any events!

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
I’m sort of beginning to discover that a career isn’t really a path so much as it is cyclical. Everything leads to everything else, you know? For example, this all began for me with writing about food and creating recipes which led me to Best One Yet. And recently I was just given an opportunity to write about food again (more on that coming soon!), so everything sort of leads back to where you started and then it will take you around the loop again. It’s not backtracking, rather it’s rewarding your dedication that maybe went unnoticed in the past.

None of the hard work you do is for nothing, know that. Even if it’s there to teach you what else you do or don’t want, it’s all important and it all leads to something bigger.

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Image Credit:
Photo of girl with a spoon eating out of pint: Matthew Meehan, All others, taken by Helen Williams @ Best One Yet

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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