Today we’d like to introduce you to Hap Cameron.
Hap, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My first job as a 10-year-old was picking berries at my local berry farm in my home town of Nelson, New Zealand. With my first paycheck, I sat with my father at the berry farm parking lot and bought my favorite kind of ice cream for dad and I — a real fruit ice cream.
As a 21-year-old, who’d never left his home continent of Australasia, I boldly set myself the goal “to live and work in every continent of the world before the age of 30.”
I left my cottoned wool safety of the rural orchards of Nelson, New Zealand to teach English in the bustling city of 12-lane highways and high-rise buildings: Seoul, South Korea.
Over the next nine years, I worked 32 jobs on the world’s seven continents: from oil rigs in Canada, volunteering at a Mexican orphanage, cycling unsupported through Africa, to being a 6-star waiter on an Antarctic cruise ship. Halfway through my travels, I met my American wife Mandy who came from Denver, Colorado.
At the end of my world travels, still, the best ice cream I had had was the one from my first job at the berry orchard—a mixed berry New Zealand style ice cream cone.
When I arrived to settle down in Denver with my wife Mandy, I saw that New Zealand style ice cream wasn’t here, and I knew that I was going to be the person to bring this to America. I rang my longtime family friend whose orchard I had worked on back in NZ and told him I needed one of his New Zealand ice cream machines, the first of its kind brought into the USA.
Then in 2015, I purchased a 1989 West Virginia school bus and turned it into Happy Cones Co, New Zealand Style ice cream truck. We opened that summer outside of Avanti Food and Beverage in the Highlands as their ice cream truck. Since then you would have seen us at all Denver’s big public events, City Park Jazz, The Big Wonderful, The Denver Flea, Global Dance, etc or maybe we catered your office party.
Now in 2019, we’re currently working on our first brick and mortar location, so stay tuned.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The first year was tough, people didn’t know what New Zealand style ice cream was, so it took education, people didn’t know Happy Cones Co, so our catering side of the business was non-existent. I was a first-time business owner, so the learning curve was steep trying to wear all the different hats that a business requires, bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, logistics, mechanics, electrician, production. Wearing all the hats is hard because you find yourself doing things that aren’t in your skill set because you can’t afford to pay someone and you only have your self to fall back on. And the financial stresses that come with starting a business that is your source of income.
Like any new endevour you take on, whether it’s running a marathon, starting a new job, creating a small biz, it’s never just you. It takes a community of supportive people to make your idea a reality. I’ve been lucky to have the support of an encouraging family here in Denver and back in New Zealand, talented friends that have generously shared their skills and knowledge in areas I lack, or just friends that you can call on when you’re in a pinch, dedicated hardworking employees that like to have fun and loyal customers that follow our little ice cream bus around. Most of all my caring wife Mandy and our little girls, Sonrisa and Kaiya, who hold down the fort when Daddy’s working 60-80 hour weeks through summer.
I remember going over the financial statements with my friend who works in finance after my first year in business and him saying “Hap, right now you have a very expensive hobby, not a business”. And he was right. We made a loss, so my second year in business also the birth of my first daughter, so I set myself the goal to put everything into the company, see if I could make it work, and if not I would cut my losses and go get a “real job”. I’m happy to say that since then my humble little short bus business has grown each year with people coming back for their favorite ice cream and our friendly New Zealand hospitality that we pride ourselves on.
So many people have been apart of getting Happy Cones Co to where it is today, and I’m excited to share the following brick and mortar chapter of this journey with them.
Please tell us about Happy Cones Co.
Our specialty is New Zealand style ice cream, also known back in New Zealand as real fruit ice cream, a concept born on the berry orchards of New Zealand. Before your eyes you’ll see us scoop our homemade, small batch sweet cream ice cream into our New Zealand made blending machine. We then add a scoop of your desired fruit, the machine pulverizing and blending the fruit and ice cream together. The result is a deliciously creamy “soft serve” looking ice cream consisting of ⅔ premium homemade ice cream and a ⅓ real fruit. Nothing artificial, just real ice cream and real fruit—it’s that simple and yet that delicious! People keep coming back as they love the natural taste and the way they feel after eating a real fruit ice cream—they feel lighter and can feel good about including real fruit in a serving of ice cream for their kids.
We also make all our own traditional ice cream flavors in small batches using local Colorado dairy. Trying to replicate the ice cream that I grew up on in New Zealand, we offer kiwi classics such as Hokey Pokey, and add a New Zealand twist to your old school favorites, like our Salted Caramel made with New Zealand sea salt. We believe in making REAL ice cream, so nothing artificial—just REAL ingredients.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Just in general growing up in the natural playground of New Zealand, from exploring the hills behind the house I grew up in, playing rugby in the park after school with the neighborhood kids, camping and boating with my family. Having lived and worked in all the continents of the world really has made me appreciate the simplicity of life and the natural beauty that I had taken for granted as a “kiwi kid”.
- Website: www.happyconesco.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @happyconesco
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HappyConesCo/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/happy-cones-co-denver-4
Kristine Hansen, Kelcie Scott, Hap Cameron