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Brooklyn Ice Cream Makers Featured in Film About Rwandan Entrepreneurs

By Sonja Sharp | November 1, 2013 10:09am
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Sweet Dreams

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — They're giving Butare a little taste of Brooklyn. 

The borough's own Blue Marble Ice Cream will make its theatrical debut this Friday with the New York launch of "Sweet Dreams," a documentary chronicling the birth of Rwanda's first artisanal scoop shop. 

"To see grown adults experiencing ice cream for the first time was hilarious — a lot of adults had never tasted something so cold, " said Blue Marble co-founder Alexis Miesen, who now leads the company's nonprofit, Blue Marble Dreams.

"The first thing you see on their faces is total shock, but then it starts to melt and you can see their eyes light up."

Miesen and her business partner Jennie Dundas came to Butare, Rwanda, on the invitation of Odile Gakire Katese and her all-female drum troupe, Ingoma Nshya. For Katese, it was a chance to start a business with her bandmates. For the Brooklyn pair, it was an opportunity to share their success with fellow female entrepreneurs. 

"When Jennie and I started the business, we knew nothing about ice cream, about retail, about food," Miesen said. "It was exciting for me to work with other women entrepreneurs that were at the very beginning of their learning curve and to help them through their learning process."

The result was Inzozi Nziza — Sweet Dreams in English — a first-of-its-kind creamery in Rwanda. 

"What we’re interested [in] is how we can use this as a catalyst for social impact, not just have this be about selling food," Dundas said. "[Inzozi Nziza] seemed so perfect, it was just what we wanted to do."

"Sweet Dreams" will be showing at Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village through Nov. 7, but the story is far from over.   

"It’s evolving in unexpected directions," Miesen said. "I'm thrilled with what they've done." 

Inspired by the shop's success in Butare, Blue Marble Dreams recently partnered with New York nonprofit Haiti 155 to open a second spinoff called Bel Rev (Sweet Dreams) in Port au Prince, and is weighing a third project in Ethiopia that would use ice cream to deliver critical nutrients to people living with HIV/AIDS. 

"We always knew we wanted to have some kind of nonprofit piece of what we did," Miesen said. "There was so much to learn and there were so many people who helped us out, and I really believe you need to extend that to others."