ORLANDO, Fla. – As difficult as it can be to start a business, it’s even harder when your own name is attached to it. But when you add “homemade” to the title, you know it has to be good.
Homemade was the basis for that business idea Kelly Seidl and her husband, Scott, had when they moved to Central Florida 10 years ago. Homemade and celebration.
“I had a lot of ice cream growing up, and every time it was a celebratory thing -- a birthday party or an event, and I just didn’t feel like there was any of that in Central Florida,” Seidl said about the inspiration behind her business, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream.
First came love, then came an idea, then came the sign. When Seidl and her husband exchanged ice cream makers as Christmas gifts one year, that’s when it all clicked. They started with taste-testing a few flavors at home, then took their product to work, neighbors, friends and family. When word got around they had something worth celebrating, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream was born.
“I have a nursing background, and my husband has an accounting background,” Seidl said. “We had an ice machine in our dining room with hoses running out to the physical water cooler machine. People thought we were crazy.”
The couple entered the business world farmer’s market style, then added a food truck. In July 2015, fittingly on National Ice Cream Day, they went brick and mortar and opened up their first shop in Orlando’s Audobon Park neighborhood.
During the course of nearly six years, Seidl’s growing recipe binder has become a reflection of her business. She opened up a second location in Orlando’s SoDo district, followed by a third location in Oviedo in January 2020.
Not long after that, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Seidl made the decision to shut down dining rooms and serve all customers at the walk-up window. She also initiated delivery for six months, so people could still get their ice cream fix. Those decisions, plus taking the necessary coronavirus safety precautions, earned her recognition from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings for properly handling the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, she also worked one day a week at a local hospital. That shift has since been taken away, but she remains on call. The pandemic has proven that people not only need nurses during the pandemic, but also ice cream. Siedl says sales were up 25 percent in January and February of this year.
Since becoming a small business owner, Seidl has discovered not only what ice cream means to her, but also for people in her community. Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream has become one of the most popular woman-owned businesses in the Orlando area. The notable pink and cream colors may be perceived as a feminine touch, but it’s actually meant to attract those with a sweet tooth.
“It’s the Neapolitan. We use a lot of pink and it’s one of my favorite colors. The heavy cream is like a vanilla, and then the dark brown is chocolate,” Seidl said.
Those classic flavors are just some of the options to scoop from. The menu consists of signature flavors, featured flavors of the month, originals, non-dairy options and seasonal sorbets. The most popular flavor is cookie monster, followed by ore-dough.
And some of those deserts have been labeled as the best in Central Florida. Seidl said the best recognition she’s gotten so far is being on the cover of the February issue of Orlando Magazine. Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream has also been recognized for helping with community service. After the Pulse nightclub tragedy in June 2016, Kelly’s scooped up ice cream for workers cleaning up the site, a deed that earned the shop the Good Citizenship Award from the City of Orlando.
Seidl said her recent recognition has also brought her closer to other small businesses and it’s made her realize how diverse and supportive Orlando is. The fact that more women are opening up their own businesses is a welcome sighting.
“I think it’s so important to recognize women, the hard work that we’ve gone through and also just balancing everything. It’s not easy. It’s not a walk in the park,” she said.