Ice cool in the Dragons’ Den
My Life: Catherine Scott talks to Yee Kwan
Being made redundant from her job as a chartered surveyor turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Yee Kwan.
It spurred her on to make a life change and set up her own business, making exotic ice creams and sorbets.
“I and my husband Anthony had always been keen foodies and we particularly liked Chinese and Asian food but always missed having something sweet to round off the meal,” explains Sheffield-born Yee.
“In 2005-6 we went on a life-changing trip around South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands sampling the real flavours of the Far East.”
It was these flavours that Yee wanted to capture in her ice creams.
Now, six years after setting up YeeKwan, the mother of three – including eight-week-old Alexa, has found herself in the formidable Dragons’ Den.
“My business has grown really well considering I started out making it in a demonstration model with the equipment manufacturers. I now employ five people and have an ice cream factory in a unit in Sheffield city centre.
“But I have no real background in business and decided that I needed the expertise of the Dragons to expand my business further, including into the export market.”
Yee appears on the BBC2 programme on February 15 and she is remaining tight- lipped about whether any or all of the entrepreneurs decided to invest in her. She was asking for a £50 000 investment to help expand her growing business.
“I always watched the programme and have to say I was rather nervous before hand as I have seen a lot of people humiliated, but they were all really nice to me.”
Yee Kwan produces a range of 23 ice creams and sorbets in her factory.
The exotic and innovative flavours are ideally suited to East Asian cuisine and are already being sold in premium food stores Harvey Nichols, Wholefoods Market and restaurants around the UK.
Favourites include bestseller Green Tea, the Great Taste Award winner Lychee & Rose Sorbet, Black Sesame Seed, Lychee and Yee’s favourit, Lime & Lemongrass.
“I just find that these Asian flavours go well together,” says Yee, although she admits that not all flavours work.
“I tried making a sweet potato ice cream and it really wasn’t very nice.”
Up until recently Yee relied on her husband, her mother- in-law and other members of her family as tasters, but she is now setting up some tasting panels.
“If people want to be part of the tasting panel then they can just Tweet me,” she says,
Yee, who also has two sons, Max and Dexter, was back at work when Alexa was just four weeks old.
“Sadly both my parents are dead and so didn’t live to see us making such a success.
“But I get great support from my in-laws, who are really helpful with childcare and live close by.
“Sharing new food experiences and experimenting with new and exciting flavours is what I love doing best.
“All our ice creams are made with real flavours from the Orient that awaken your taste buds.
“I have taken time to create perfect combinations of flavours to reflect this passion and complement Asian cuisine blending creamy smoothness and intense and complex tastes to give surprise and excitement”.