This 23-Year-Old's New Zealand-Style Ice Cream Empire Earns Him $650,000 A Year | How Did He Do It?

This 23-Year-Old's New Zealand-Style Ice Cream Empire Earns Him $650,000 A Year | How Did He Do It?
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Teejay

Nico Vergara was only 18 when a six-week tour of New Zealand changed his life. During his time there, he ordered a treat from a small cart on the coast where he saw the vendor feed a vanilla ice cream base and fresh fruit into a "cool machine". The machine then produced a perfect blend of the two.

In 2021, three years after he took that trip, Vergara launched his own business of New Zealand-style fruit ice cream in Portland, Oregon. Today, Nico's Ice Cream includes two brick-and-mortar locations in Portland and pints sold in about 60 convenience stores across Oregon and Washington.

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"It’s funny. I mean, I’m not a huge sweets guy,” Nico, 23, tells CNBC, adding that he’d "never been a huge fan" of ice cream. "[But] when I ate New Zealand-style, it’s light, airy, fruity.”

Nico emptied his bank account to turn his dream into reality. He says that he put in entire $25,000 of his life savings and borrowed $10,000 from an uncle for the business.

Within a year, the ice cream cart became two brick-and-mortar locations, a Mexican restaurant and a cafe, which closed down within a few months of opening. According to the publication, Nico did a combined sale of $650,000 in 2022. Most of his revenue was attributed to Nico's Ice Cream.

Pexels | David Disponett
Pexels | David Disponett

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Nico says that he was able to build the business because of his mom who taught him to invest at a very young age. He saved the seed money by investing in Apple and Amazon.

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“One of the things that she taught me about was investing. So when I was 14, 15 years old, she had me start investing into stocks and having me do my own research,” Nico says.

Before starting his own ice cream company, Nico worked in the service industry. He spent around $11,000 on the ice cream blending machine made by a New Zealand-based company called Little Jem. 

Nico's Business Model


With the capital and equipment in place, Nico decided to chalk out his three-year business plan. Year one's target was to simply open a cart and sell ice cream in Portland.

Year two's target was to set up another cart and sell ice cream and finally year three saw him open a brick-and-mortar store in Portland.

Nico tells the publication how this plan simply went out of the window and exceeded all sales expectations. 

What's So Special About The New Zealand-Style Ice Cream?


Real fruit ice cream or New Zealand-style ice cream has been made popular in the country by Little Jem. The blending machine takes a premium hard-packed ice cream and blends it with frozen fruits to create a soft and creamy ice cream treat.

Pexels | Calebe Miranda
Pexels | Calebe Miranda

New Zealand is world-famous for its quality of dairy products, which is the result of its clean environment and its technically advanced dairy industry. Early settlers in the country made their own ice cream using hand churns and ice from the mountains, as per Te ARA

Ice Cream Charlie

One character that stands out when it comes to New Zealand's ice cream history is Sali Mohamet, who was known as Ice Cream Charlie. He came to New Zealand from Iran in the late 1800. He and his dad were hawkers and began selling ice cream from a cart in Cathedral Square. It became quite popular and allowed him to set up a small ice cream factory. 

"He'd make his ice cream, pack ice around it, put it into his cart behind a horse, take it into the Square and sell it all day and then come home at night and make his next batch for the next day, as per RNZ


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