Eighty percent of all business enterprises in North America are family owned. Family businesses account for 60 percent of total U.S. employment and 78 percent of all new jobs, according to Family Business Review.
At Velvet Ice Cream, we take our responsibility as a family-owned business and a major Licking County employer seriously.
In the past eight years, we’ve plotted a course for controlled but steady growth, increasing our revenue from $25 million in 2009, to more than $30 million today. In addition, we underwent a major new expansion in 2016, adding a state-of-the-art cold storage facility. That growth has been good for our community, adding jobs and strengthening Velvet’s commitment the region.
As Velvet has grown, so has the Dager family. My sister Joanne and I took the reins from our father, Joe, in 2009. And just as he mentored us from the ground up, we are involving our own children. That involvement grows as they do. From taste testing at six months old, to representing Velvet in parades and at community events, to eventually working at Ye Olde Mill in Utica, our children are growing up as much a part of this business as we did.
Finding a path
Although working in the family business was an integral part of our childhoods, our parents never pushed it on us. We were encouraged to study hard, go to college and set our own paths. We use those same words today with our own children.
Growing up in the family business did mean making sacrifices. As teenagers, my sisters and I worked every week during the summer while our friends were at the pool. At times, we may have felt that we were missing out. But as adults, we see clearly that our parents gave us a valuable gift. They taught us the importance of hard work, and that the more you put into something, the more you receive from it.
Passing it on
Today, this is a lesson we share with our own families. We teach our children that the family business is simply a way of life. It can’t be measured by a 40-hour workweek. We work until the job is done, but we also have a lot of fun. After all, we are creating and sharing with our customers a product that is a celebration of important life events and time together.
In addition, we take pride in treating our associates like family, going the extra mile and encouraging everyone in the Velvet family to do the same. Our children watch our love in action every day while we’re at work and when we give back to our community.
I treasure the lessons my parents passed down to me through the family business and I continue to live by them every day. They are the legacy my sisters and I share with our children. It’s one way we can ensure that when it’s their time to run the company they are equally committed to hard work, family, community and our treasured Velvet customers.
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.