In our Meet the Makers interview series, we sit down and pick the brains of key players in New York City's frozen dessert community. In this exclusive interview with Eugene Hu, one of the Co-Founders of Wooly's, we discuss how he became involved in the business, challenges he encounters, and what the future holds.
How did Wooly's get started?
My business partner, Danny Che, started the business in 2011 after experiencing shaved snow in Taiwan while he was on vacation. He came back looking for the same thing in New York, but it turns out there was nothing here comparable to the shaved snow in Taiwan. In Taiwan, shaved snow is more of a street food, but in New York, California and America it could be the next dessert trend. Danny started Wooly's thinking, "Why not bring shaved snow to New York?"
Where does the name Wooly's come from?
It's one of our business partner's cousin's nickname. It reminds us of something cold and soft, which is why we decided to go forward with it.
Do you come from a food background?
It's funny, I don't come from a food background at all. I started my career off as a trader. Then I moved into fashion, starting in merchandise planning and eventually became a buyer. I have a strong affinity towards branding & strategy and I have always wanted to give creative direction to companies.
So you're responsible for the Wooly's cloud?
The cloud actually has no connection to Wooly's. It is a lamp from an artist I am a fan of called FriendsWithYou. At first, we used it as lighting at our pop-ups, but it worked so well and brought us so much positive energy that we decided to carry it around with us.
What's your personal favorite flavor?
Oh, that's tough! My favorite from Wooly's is the Matcha Green Tea shaved snow. We have a Root Beer Float flavor that we're going to be offering later this summer which I'm a huge fan of.
As far as ice cream in New York City, my favorite frozen dessert place is Morgenstern's. Their Peppermint ice cream is great! Davey's Ice Cream in the East Village is amazing as well.
What are some of the challenges that Wooly's faces?
One of the biggest obstacles is that when people look at our product, they think it's shaved ice, but it's not. Shaved snow is a hybrid between shaved ice and ice cream. We use low-fat milk, so not water like shaved ice, and we don't use heavy cream like ice cream. Our texture comes out fluffy and creamy -- almost airy. Shaved snow is it's own product and one of the obstacles is differentiating it from the shaved ice and ice cream worlds.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say surround yourself with people you want to work with. I'm fortunate that Wooly's has such a great team. I think our passion and work ethic is what drives Wooly's success.
What can we look forward to from Wooly's in the future?
We're always announcing flavors of the day, off the menu toppings and flavors on social media. I think people are going to be pleased with the offerings coming forward.
We're looking to open a brick-and-mortar as soon as possible in New York City. But as for the concept -- you'll just have to wait and see.