As I turned into the parking lot of the Fun House, I immediately spotted my High School classmate and now owner of Tropical Treats (Anguilla) and the Fun House sitting on the outside with an open laptop beside him. He certainly looked the part of the entrepreneur! I was looking forward to having a chat with him about his journey from a laid back fun loving young man to being one of the first persons to make and distribute ice cream in Anguilla. The story does not end there. Read on to find out more about the accomplishments, hopes and dreams of this young entrepreneur. You don’t want to miss his advice to other young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs! Before the interview, I ordered a soursop milkshake and then joined Mr. Kyle Hodge at the table. When I told him what I ordered he asked ‘where else in the world can you get a soursop milkshake other than Tropical Treats Anguilla?” I was stumped. After some friendly banter we got down to business.

Tropical Treats and the Fun House

Tropical Treats Fun House

 

MAE: Who is Kyle Hodge?

Kyle’s answer: Kyle Hodge is 30 years old and was born and raised in Anguilla. I attended the A.L.H.C.S and finished with four CXC’s. I knew what I wanted in life and those were the subjects I focused on. I worked for six years at Aronel water where I gained so much experience in production and at Max Printing for an additional year and during my school years. In total, I worked for 7 years before I went to university to pursue a degree in Business Administration with a specialization in entrepreneurship. While overseas studying, I used that time as well to think about business ideas that could work in Anguilla; and that is when the idea for Tropical Treats came about. It has now been three years of Tropical Treats and one year at the Fun House.

MAE: Did you consider other business ideas other than ice cream?

Kyle’s answer: I did but none of them stuck like ice cream. In fact I was worried about other people starting before me.  I couldn’t focus on anything other than ice cream. I remember attending a get-together at a friend’s house in Anguilla and she was serving dessert. The ice cream stood out and I read the label. It was made in the United States. It traveled a long way and it said a lot about the quality of the product.  I believe we look too far for products that could be made here. I knew there was no competition locally. However St. Martin, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and a few other islands do produce ice cream so I realized it was something that could work. Ranny and Jo did produce locally so I was not the first to come up with the idea but I do intend to be around for a long time.

MAE: How did you come up with the name Tropical Treats?

Kyle’s answer: I have a group of friends from church 15-16 of them. We hang out and have socials. I got them involved with choosing the name.  I had at least 15 names I could use. These included things like Tropical Scoop, Frozen Delight, Tropical Dip, Flavourite Scroop and much more. I had my friends vote for the name and Tropical Treats was the most requested. What I did though was to reduce the names to 2 and then make a vote. The 2 names were Island Treats and Tropical Treats. I am guilty though of lobbying a few of my friends to vote for the name Tropical Treats. I think it would have been too much confusion to send them all of the crazy names I had.

MAE: Why didn’t you just stop at ice cream?

Kyle’s answer: I wasn’t just satisfied with making ice cream to sell to stores. I wanted to distribute it to local parlours and ice cream trucks. This idea was not very well received so after six months I purchased my own ice cream truck. I purchased a second truck seven or eight months later so that both trucks could cover the entire island and to counter the risk of a breakdown of one truck. I still plan to get into more villages off the main grid. I still wasn’t satisfied as I wanted somewhere where persons could sit down and relax. There is just something wonderful and unique about having a parlour where a family can sit down and enjoy ice cream. I added the play ground for the children. I was only satisfied for a short period and I wanted to bring on new items which could create excitement. I had a lot of space and I needed to fill it. I noticed that families were coming and sitting for hours and I decided to offer other light foods and desserts such as apple pies, brownies and pitas.

Family and friends at the Fun House

Family and friends at the Fun House

 

MAE: How do you market your product?

Kyle’s answer: I recognize the importance of social media. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and other applications consistently. Of course word of mouth is very effective as well.

MAE: Do you get a lot of local support?

Kyle’s answer: I get tremendous local support. I would like to thank the Anguillian community, expats and visitors for coming to Tropical treats. Anguillians patronize the product a lot. They are also proud of the fact that it is made here. 

MAE: What makes Tropical Treats special?

Kyle’s answer: It is fresh. What you eat today was made yesterday. The gap between production and eating is less than 2 days. Sometimes it is even less than 24 hours, our machines do not rest. We produce a high quality ice cream. When I was looking at mixes, there were s0me ingredients in St Thomas Dairy ice cream used to extend shelf life and prevent melting which I was uncomfortable using. The ingredients were polysorbate 80 and mono and diglycerides. They could be used in small amounts but I chose not to include them and my ice cream is better because of that. So I guess there are three things which make Tropical Treats special 1)      Freshness 2)     A special customized mix 3)     It is local and everyone likes local

MAE: Tell me about the team?

Kyle’s answer: Without the team there would be no Tropical Treats. The team consists of 11-12 persons. It is a family like business so there is always someone around to help. I have 8 brothers and sisters so with that kind of help I am in a good position. And I also have a very helpful niece; she was helping me pack the fridge with water earlier today. Togetherness is what makes us work. The trust level is high. I am laid back and everyone knows what I expect. In fact when I am not here, things operate the same way as when I am here. I allow everyone to be their own mini boss. I encourage people to be creative and to just be themselves. I also work as an employee. I have a shift that I am included in. I scheduled it so I have the opportunity to work with everyone. We are on the same level where respect, values and vision are concerned. We all want to see Tropical Treats do its best.

MAE: I love Pita Sandwiches. Where did the idea come from?

Kyle’s answer: The pita idea came from my girlfriend Charlene. She was making a sandwich for me and made it in 7-10 minutes. I did not rest until she showed someone here how to make it. She is also responsible for brownies (nutella), apple pies and cake pops (she prepares them from scratch). She is such a blessing to my life and one which happened at the right time.

Interior Tropical Treats Fun House

Interior Tropical Treats Fun House

 

MAE: You come from a family of entrepreneurs. How has this guided you?

Kyle’s answer: I have been around entrepreneurs all my life. During High School I had to walk the bush track to get to Max Printing. I took out the trash and had other tasks like folding the Anguillian news paper with my younger brother Kyron. My very first job after high school was producing water at Aronel so I was pretty much exposed to automation and assembly lines from very young. My dad and uncles were always into production. Machinery and equipment is all I know. I will always find something else to produce.

MAE: Who are your typical customers?

Kyle’s answer: My “biggest” fans are the “little” children. When the school bell rings, the next stop for many parents is Tropical Treats. Some parents have even said that they now have to avoid passing Tropical Treats by taking the long way to their home because as the children pass they always want to stop and play and have a treat. My other fans are the other big children – the adults. These include persons coming in after work. Ice cream is a business that if you manage it well, it should not fail. Everyone loves ice cream from the very young to very old. For example with our ice cream trucks, we have persons who look forward to us being in their village every week. We want to cater to everyone and we go to certain houses to give disabled or elderly persons ice cream. There are many persons who look forward to our visit every week.

Playground at the Fun House

Playground at the Fun House

MAE: Do you see a link between Tropical Treats and Tourism?

Kyle’s answer: When it comes to tourism anything that is produced locally, visitors are interested in trying it. Visitors do boast about the wide variety of flavours and this is great exposure for Tropical Treats and Anguilla when they post positive reviews. I have great pride that this ice cream is produced locally. I also get tremendous support from the hotels.  My product is carried at Viceroy Resort, Flavours, Tasty’s, Anacaona, Altamer, Ani Villas and other big restaurants.

MAE: Did you get support for this venture from the Government of  Anguilla?

Kyle’s answer: Right now I am getting their support but it was a challenge. Both the past and present Government did not understand the impact production can have on the economy. I was recently granted duty free concessions. I would like to give a shout out to Haydn Hughes as he drives by right now (Haydn Hughes happened to be driving by right at this moment). He has the idea where the country can go. His influence as well as that of Mr. Jerome Roberts helped a lot. My duty free concessions lasted a year in the first instance. I am of the view that it should be permanent. Without the concessions I would not have the Fun House. A couple of months ago my duty free concessions were renewed for 2 years. I am able to expand and keep prices at an affordable cost because of concessions.

MAE: What is your favourite item at Tropical Treats and/or the Fun House?

Kyle’s answer: I am into the new things. The slushies/snow cones are colourful and refreshing. They are the perfect treat to cool down in Anguilla. I cannot settle on one flavor for ice cream. I usually get 2 scoops but this includes 10 flavours. That is my only privilege. No one else gets to do that.

MAE: What is the future of Tropical Treats?

Kyle’s answer: I would like to branch out and have franchises in other islands. I have been approached by persons in Barbados, St. Maarten and St. Vincent so far about helping them set up a similar business. Locally I would like to see my products in more supermarkets. In the near future I will be expanding to offer donuts. I always stop by Starbucks and Dunkin donuts when I am in the United States and my idea is to kind of merge the two concepts here.  I will offer glazed donuts, sugared donuts and my own coffee. I currently have a donut robot in my possession. It is fully automated. I am currently doing testing and trying out different mixes.  I am giving myself two months to get it right. I am an aggressor but I do realize that sometimes you must take it slow to get it right especially when it comes to something people will eat.

Come and play and eat  at the Fun House

Come and play and eat at the Fun House

MAE: Where do you find the time to do it all?

Kyle’s answer: I read a lot and in the past, I did research at night.  Recently, I have switched to being a morning person. You can find me here sitting on the deck between 5:30am and 6:00am in the morning doing research. I go to sleep early now so I can be rejuvenated. I am always on yahoo news or entrepreneur.com to stay abreast with what is happening in the world and in various sectors of business.

MAE: What advice would you give to young persons hoping to start a business?

Kyle’s answer: Be disciplined – it is probably the most important thing. Be careful with your finances, that is, manage and control your spending. Ensure you have discipline in terms of work ethics. As an entrepreneur you will have to put out more than everyone else. I went to Dallas on vacation and that is where I got the idea to make snow cones. When I go overseas, I take pictures. Travel has done a lot for me.  I would encourage young persons to travel if you can even if it is to St. Maarten/St. Martin. I refer to SXM as a little New York.  Use the internet wisely. Instead of using YouTube for the negative, use it for the positive. You may not have the means to travel but YouTube and other resources on the internet can take you all over the world. Be self motivated. Don’t wait for someone to come and uplift you. Do something positive in your life or for someone else.

MAE: Do you have any final words?

Kyle’s answer: I give God thanks and praise for the person I am today. I was not always this focused and determined. God is doing a work in me. I want to continue living for him and telling others about him. I am not doing any of this by my own might and strength. My father is Max Hodge and he was and is very instrumental in my life.  He paid for my tuition which was a serious sacrifice but it means I don’t have a student loan. He is one of my inspirations and my mentor from a very young age. So I owe a lot to him. Thanks also to my mother Celine, brothers Kyron, Davon, Keon, Auran and sisters, Maxine, Melena, Shaumelle and Ravia,my girlfriend Charlene and my little niece Kesha! Thanks to my friends from church for all of their support. Finally thanks to the rest of the staff including Ernice, Sandy, Ana and Claire. Hope I didn’t miss anyone. Well there you have it from the innovator himself. You can get the latest news about Tropical Treats on

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kjhodge

Twitter: @Tropical_treats

Telephone: 1-264-497-3557

Email: kylejhodge@gmail.com

Or stop by the FUN HOUSE located in George Hill or grab a scoop of ice cream from any of the ice cream trucks marked Tropical Treats. Interested in reading about other Anguillian entrepreneurs.

Click here for Hottest Selections and LaVue Boutique Hotel!

Also be sure to post a comment and let us hear your views about Tropical Treats and the Fun House.