Sarah Mandelson’s dream job: Serendipity Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream. Answering nationwide cries for ice-cream is the best job around, says Sarah Mandelson, CEO of Serendipity Ice Cream.
Remember when you were a kid, and you’d do pretty much anything for a bite of ice-cream? There’s just something about ice-cream that keeps us craving into our adult lives. So when faced with the decision of choosing a career path, Sarah Mandelson thought, what better than sticking to what she loves?
Together with husband Richard, she now gets to run her very own ice-cream factory, and experiment with all sorts of whacky flavours; everything from liquorice to gin and tonic.
“You could say I was born to make ice-cream,” says Mandelson, explaining her mother actually began Serendipity Ice Cream, and went into labour with Mandelson while making her first batch of commercial ice-cream.
Mandelson’s mother wanted to do something about the dull reality that Neapolitan was the most exotic flavour available in Sydney at the time. So flavours from rum and raisin to avocado were made for dinner parties, and before she knew it, word had spread. Hence the name Serendipity, which means coming across a good thing by accident.
Then almost 20 years ago, Mandelson, moments away from finishing her university degree, realised she had some decisions to make. So did her then boyfriend, now husband and business partner. When they heard about plans for Serendipity to go on sale, the couple put their hands up. Neither one has looked back. “Since then, we’ve continued on with the mission of Serendipity, which is to produce the standard flavours as well as the exotic,” she says.
A typical day at work varies. After all, it is a seasonal business. In the winter months, when sales drop by 30 to 35 percent, Mandelson spends more time working on the business, rather than in it, trying to improve practices and procedures. “But I still get to do fun things in winter,” she says, like making ice-cream cakes and inventing new flavours. “Then in summer, it’s just making ice-cream; from dusk till dawn.”
Now, when it comes to the limits of Mandelson’s experimentation, it depends on whether or not she’s given a brief. “I was recently asked by a modern Turkish restaurant to come up with some flavours for them,” she explains. “That’s quite a specific brief and there are ingredients that I must work with because they suit the cuisine style.” Other times she’ll have carte blanche and will go wild, being inspired by anything and everything—even a Thai curry, which turned out to be one of their best sellers. At Serendipity Ice Cream that’s saying something, because they hold their ice-cream to some pretty high standards, winning numerous awards, including Best Overall Exhibitor from the Dairy Industry Association of Australia.
Life’s not all ice-cream and skittles though. “Of course there are also a number of challenges, but fortunately, I love a challenge,” says Mandelson. “It’s a constant learning process, so it keeps you really alive.”
And the attitude of her family makes it all worthwhile. “My kids think their parents have the best job in the world. Actually, so do most of our friends and family—they get to benefit, particularly when we do experiments.”
So, what does it feel like to deliver a much-loved product? “Doing something that makes people happy is a pretty easy job and it’s a very enjoyable one,” says Mandelson. “I can’t imagine what else I’d do with my life.”