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Yello Interviews: Leandra King, Founder of Cool Comfortz (Frozen Delights)

by Karen Rollins Sep 12, 2022

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Leandra King (Cool Comfortz Barbados)

Local frozen dessert company, ‘Cool Comfortz’, was originally launched in 2011 by Barbadian entrepreneur Leandra King after she visited Martinique and tasted a sorbet made from golden apple and soursop.

Leandra realised the potential of the product especially for people with an intolerance or allergy to dairy, but as a foreign language student, she initially did not have the funding to make the business last longer than a year.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to a slowdown in her second business venture, teaching French to young children through play, Leandra decided to relaunch ‘Cool Comfortz’ and give it the time and money it needed to succeed.

Leandra chatted to Yello about her life as a Caribbean entrepreneur. She told us about her plans for ‘Cool Comfortz’, what she learned from the first time she launched, and she offered some advice for other small business owners.

Describe yourself using three words.

Resilient. Determined. Creative-thinker.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I grew up near East Point in St Philip with my parents and sister. I went to St Catherine’s Primary School and then Harrison’s College which is where I excelled in languages.

I was always an outdoorsy kind of person. My father spent a lot of time in the garden, and growing up in the country I just always loved playing outdoors. We didn’t have a lot of electronic games so we’d play hopscotch and stuff like that.

I also used to love riding my bicycle and that was a big part of my life when I was younger.

What were your initial career plans?

My aim from early on was to be a foreign languages teacher but I also wanted to be an entrepreneur. My father is a teacher, and my great aunt and an uncle, so I had those examples around me. 

Being an entrepreneur was just something that burned in me. My father had a small farm and I remember one time I took some of the peanuts he grew to school, and sold them to the other children, so people tell me that from young I was always looking at opportunities to sell something, and make money.

What was the initial inspiration behind your business ‘Cool Comfortz’?

In 2011, I went on a trip to Martinique to immerse myself in the language as part of studying to become a foreign languages teacher. 

While I was there I had a frozen dessert which was a golden apple and soursop sorbet. It was the first time I had, had a frozen dessert that was dairy free and fruity and not a lolly. 

It intrigued me, and I wondered why no-one was doing anything like that in Barbados, especially when we have so many local fruits.

Cool Comfortz Barbados

When did you officially launch ‘Cool Comfortz’?

As soon as I came back from Martinique I launched Cool Comfortz

I ran it for about a year with my mum, but in order to expand we needed money to get machinery and everything else. At the time, as a UWI (University of the West Indies) student, I didn’t really want to take on any debt, so I just continued with my education. 

After UWI I went back to Martinique as an English Language teaching assistant for about a year. Then I came back to Barbados and became a substitute foreign languages teacher in the local school system. 

In 2017, I set up my own teaching programme called ‘Language Fun Barbados’ which teaches French through play to children aged 18 months to 11 year olds. 

Then in 2020, when my teaching business slowed down because of the pandemic, I had time to think about how I could get Cool Comfortz back up and running. 

What did you do differently to make sure the business worked this time?

Obviously having started it before, and closing after a year, I knew what some of the main challenges were so I tried to navigate some of those issues better than 10 years before. 

I had to get funding in place and spend some time really trying to figure out how it was going to work.

Thankfully my father was able to assist me with a loan and I had some personal savings. I went to the BIDC (Barbados Investment and Development Corporation) which is now known as Export Barbados and I met their criteria for assistance so they helped me with some of the funding for machinery.

I was also able to utilise some of the equipment we still had from previously.

Is there anything you wish you had known when you first launched?

When I first started I had no idea about pricing and branding. As time has gone on, I’ve done some business courses, and I’ve realised the importance of branding, packaging, and aesthetics. 

So, with the relaunch, I spent a lot more time on branding. I’m really inspired by the tropical landscape of the island, so you’ll always notice a tropical vibe and feel to everything we do.

What products do you currently offer? 

We offer a variety of gelato flavours depending on what fruits we have in stock and what is in season.

So far we’ve produced soursop, tamarind, golden apple, guava, papaya with gooseberry, Bajan cherry, and sorrel. We also have pumpkin passion, which is pumpkin with assorted spices combined with passionfruit, that’s our signature creation.

We try to come up with flavour combinations that people don’t necessarily expect and create an element of intrigue and surprise. 

What is involved in getting the gelato from idea to market?

Our products go through a ton of experimentation, especially in terms of refining the texture, before they are ready to be sold. 

I come up with the recipes and then we create small test batches. The process requires a lot of note-taking along with trial and error. 

Originally I was the first taster but now I have two young ladies in the kitchen who provide feedback and together we work on perfecting the product before it is offered to the public.

Cool Comfortz Barbados

What makes ‘Cool Comfortz’ unique compared to other brands in the same space?

Our plan was always to utilise the local produce on the island. Our flavours are inspired by the fruits and vegetables we can grow, so you’ll never get a strawberry gelato from us, because that’s not grown here. 

We get the fruits from persons who have trees and also sometimes from Facebook marketplace, so its allowing people to make a little money, rather than have the fruit spoil and so far we’ve been able to maintain a regular supply.

I also always wanted the product to be plant-based, dairy free, and vegan to cater to what I call the “often forgotten market” of people who have dietary restrictions.

Where can we find your products?

We are at Brighton Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning and Holders Market on Sunday.

Our pint sized gelato can be bought online at www.coolcomfortzbarbados.com with either a debit or credit card.

You can also place an order via WhatsApp with free collection at the weekend at one of the farmers’ markets or Wednesdays to Fridays at the NCF carpark. Delivery is also possible for a fee.

What are your plans for ‘Cool Comfortz’ over the next 12-18 months? 

Eventually we want to create a fully-fledged parlour experience which will be mobile so that we can set up in high traffic areas during the week. The parlour will offer a complete vegan, frozen dessert menu with scooping, and toppings inspired by Barbados as well.

We want to offer catering for corporate events and weddings with a scooped experience or an option to order pre-packaged cups.

We’d also like to launch a tourism offering for visitors so they can come and see us prepping the fruit, making the product, and at the end they will get some to take away.

What advice do you have for aspiring Caribbean small business owners? 

Just start. I find that many times people will put plans in place, but they hesitate to take the first step because they’re waiting for the perfect time or opportunity, which never happens. Don’t let your plans catch dust!

Reach out to business organisations who can help you with mentorship and setting up as an entrepreneur. 

It’s natural to be scared of failure, but you shouldn’t look at it as failure, rather a lesson learned. 

Cool Comfortz Barbados

What do you love about Barbados? 

I love the landscape. Barbados is very different to the other Caribbean islands in terms of landscape. I love mountains and rivers, but we’re so flat, and have beautiful beaches with the Atlantic and Caribbean side.

Sometimes we take the island for granted and forget that people spend a lot of money just to come here on vacation, when we get to live here with this beauty.

What do you do to relax when you have some time off?

I like to relax in the garden. I go out there early to drink tea, watch the birds and lizards, and zone out. I’m growing tropical plants so I find gardening very calming.

If you could have one superpower what would it be?

I would like to know the future, just in terms of the business, so that I could plan everything and know that it is going to work out.

Follow Cool Comfortz on Instagram and Facebook and order online at www.coolcomfortzbarbados.com.