Most people don’t think of ice cream and science as going together, but Priti Narayanan of Koolfi Creamery in San Leandro considers herself both an ice cream engineer and a cultural entrepreneur.
Narayanan was raised all over India, mostly in Bombay and Chennai. She emigrated to the United States to become a traditional engineer, earning a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering and working as a transportation planner.
But after she and her wife Madhuri “Mads” Anji were hit by a bus while crossing a street in San Francisco, they decided to make a big change in their lives: open Koolfi Creamery. The brick-and-mortar eatery fuses Indian and American flavors into ice cream, and the sweet treats are also sold in various Bay Area grocery stores as well as online.
When we sat down to talk with Narayanan, she credited Community Bank of the Bay (CBB) for helping her transport her career from civil engineering to ice cream engineering.
“It’s been a very tough game to be a small business owner,” Narayanan said. “Part of it is the issue of cost in the Bay Area, the unreliability of labor, and the availability of that. But it’s also been phenomenal to be here; this community is very supportive.”
“When we were in the process of starting this business, we were very, very worried about the financial aspect of it. I did go to the renowned Rhode Island Center to do a business plan. And I heard from several people that if you don’t have three or four years of financials, it’s very difficult to get a loan. And it was tremendously stressful, wondering where the money would come from.”
“I was very, very happy that Community Bank of the Bay was even open to talking with us. And they looked through our business plan, asked the right kind of questions and set the right kind of tone—where we also felt comfortable saying, ‘Hey, when we come in we know our numbers and we think we can make it happen.’ So, that was something I really appreciate about Community Bank of the Bay.”
Narayanan also appreciated that CBB’s CEO, William S. Keller, immediately met with her and her wife.
“He was very invested in the fact that we wanted to be in this community,” Narayanan said. “And we are a lesbian-owned small business, which traditionally has not gotten a lot of money from the financial institutions.
In partnership with CBB, Narayana looks forward to the continued growth of Koolfi Creamery.