Seward Soft Serve: Ice Cream for the Community
On Franklin Avenue, in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, sits a large, industrial-style building called Seward Makes. Its grey façade may lead you to believe its insides are full of factory parts, mechanics, and other boring stuff. Well, in this case, you’d be wrong. Seward Makes, among its other functions, is the home of a delicious little Minneapolis gem, “Seward Soft Serve.”
Iman Mefleh, founder of Seward Makes and Seward Soft Serve, has been working as an entrepreneur for many years. Her first venture into business ownership started when both she and her partner founded You Betcha Fermenta: a fermentation company that sources produce from small, marginalized farmers around the nation. Their business eventually expanded through three different kitchens – it takes a lot of large machinery to ferment – eventually finding a beautiful industrial kitchen space in Seward. Buying the building wasn’t cheap. “I was running into dead ends with funding,” Iman remembers. “I got so incredibly jaded! So, when I filled out an intake form for WomenVenture’s loans, I was skeptical. Loan officer Jaylana Peters called me back within 24 hours, and told me I had a great idea, that I could do this, and she would help me. I was at a loss for words.” WomenVenture worked with Iman to provide a $36k loan for her to transform the space. She utilized the money to purchase machinery, stoves, cabinets, fridges, freezers, and other equipment.
Iman closed on the building, coined as Seward Makes, in May a few years ago. The timing was fast – by late July, the kitchen space was largely functional. Iman made the decision, in large part due to the birth of her children, to move away from running You Betcha and move into a property manager role, sourcing tenants to use different portions of the enormous kitchen, and solidifying community partnerships. The front of the building had been set up as a retail space originally, so to showcase their tenants, Iman started selling a few products from the tenants and her own business. And then, an idea dawned on her. She could have her OWN retail store here – and she was going to sell ice cream.
“Now, who doesn’t like ice cream,” she says. “Market-research-wise, this idea is golden. Both my husband and I love soft serve specifically, and there’s nowhere to take the kids to get it nearby. So why not just make one?” Excited at the chance of business ownership again, Iman returned to WomenVenture in the fall of 2019. This time, IMan was granted a loan to transform the retail space into a fully functional ice cream parlor: Seward Soft Serve. Since then, the ingredients have been sourced, the walls painted, and the flavors chosen, including vegan options!
This little ice cream shop is just one small part of Iman’s entrepreneurial vision and hard work at Seward Makes. Inside, with bright cheery colors, a mural from Ashley Mary Art, and a general cheerful vibe, Seward Soft Serve strives to bring joy to everyone who walks through their door. They source local dairy and non-dairy products and are determined to be active members of their community. If you visit, you’ll find that Iman still sells You Betcha and the other tenant’s products out of the shop – but the soft serve is the star of the show. Set to open in March 2020, this little homegrown ice cream shop has yet to open full time. Iman has been curating monthly pop-ups, so stay tuned to find out when you can grab some cones and source some joy.
Visit Seward Soft Serve, and the other tenants of Seward Makes, at 2211 East Franklin Avenue, or see their website for more details.