Some would describe Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen’s ice cream as life changing. The creamy concoctions, made with dairy from local farms, are swirled with a secret ingredient: empowerment. In 2007, the duo opened Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn, NY never imagining their small eco-conscious treat shop would expand from Boerum Hill to Butare — Rwanda, that is.
Shortly after the opening of their second shop in Prospect Heights, “Sweet Dreams,” a project to empower female victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, began to churn. The idea formed while Dundas, an actress by trade, was attending a theater workshop in Utah. There she met a Rwandan woman named Odile Gakire Katese whose passion it was to not only reshape economic opportunities for the women of her homeland, but to also give them a taste of the ambrosial pleasures that had been stripped away by war. Dundas’ heart melted after hearing Katese’s story, and two years later the three entrepreneurs opened Inzozi Nziza, Rwanda’s first ice cream shop, run by the women of Ingoma Nshya (the country’s premier women’s drumming group organized by Katese).
Today, the shop continues to flourish providing Rwandans with a sense of hope for a better future. The store’s 11 employees have been able to provide more than 70 family members with food, clothes and education thanks to this rare opportunity. And the outreach doesn’t stop there. Inzozi Nziza also relies on beekeepers, local dairy farmers and coffee growers to support its products.
If you’ve been to either of Blue Marble’s locales in Brooklyn, you know that there is truly something special about these shops — beyond the delicious fair trade coffee and creamy strawberry ice cream — there is a tender love and care vibe that speaks to the customer. Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen have discovered a way to do something they are passionate about while giving back in extraordinary ways. And that is truly a sweet deal.
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