Creating a culture of quality starts with family

As a fourth-generation, family-owned company — 2016 marks 102 years of business — Velvet Ice Cream has built a culture where our employees are recognized as our greatest asset and are welcomed into the fold as if they’re family.

Many of our employees — from sales to manufacturing — have been honorary Dager family members for decades. More than 70 percent of our employees have been with us for more than five years. And three have worked at Velvet for more than 35 years.

Like family, we want employees who are passionate about the product we make. Thus, in addition to a paycheck, we give employees a carton of Velvet Ice Cream every payday to take home and share with their families. A freezer full of Velvet is available for everyone to enjoy at work.

Tips for a positive atmosphere

Beyond ice cream, we’ve created a number of programs that foster a positive workplace. Companies seeking to improve productivity will find improving moral is the first step.

The following tips have proven effective for us:

  • Promote longevity by honoring milestone anniversaries with a gift. We recognize every anniversary and treat 20-year team members to a four-day vacation, including airfare.
  • Provide a familial support system. If an employee is going through a difficult time, the entire Velvet family hosts a silent auction, organizes food deliveries and rallies any needed support.
  • Get behind a cause important to our shared community. Velvet Ice Cream has helped fund cancer research and related causes, including supporting Team Granville Pelotonia with riders and donations.
  • Bring associates in on tough decisions. During the most recent economic downturn, the last thing we wanted to do was lay off our employees. Instead, we were committed to do everything in our power to keep them, taking employee suggestions for ways to save money and improve efficiencies.
  • Make them part of every process. We continue to value and ask our employees’ for their opinions and ideas, hosting monthly meetings where they can be heard and participate in Velvet’s upward mobility.

Employee contributions are everything

These efforts and others have created a positive atmosphere where employees know they are truly valued. Creating a culture of sharing and caring has helped take our company to the next level.

As president, I couldn’t be more proud of Velvet Ice Cream’s growth. But every day I remember that we wouldn’t have achieve success without the support of our employees.

We understand that our company and our community are both made stronger by a solid commitment to our employees.


Luconda Dager is the president of Velvet Ice Cream. Family-owned and operated since it was founded in 1914, Luconda is the fourth generation to run her family’s company in Utica. In addition to leading the company’s tremendous growth, Luconda is a frequent speaker and author, sharing her experiences and ideas with the region’s and her industry’s business community.