A visit to Dubai in 2007 prompted Dan Furlong to set up the emirate’s first ice cream van company. He tells StartUp how Desert Chill came into being, and the challenges his business faces as he looks to grow the concept.
For many expats the migration to a warmer climate brings with it numerous opportunities. Cultural differences can mean that businesses expats saw as normal in their home countries all of a sudden became unique in their new surroundings.
Migrations have long been responsible for introducing new products and services to specific parts of the world. Cross-cultural exchanges have been a part of the human experience for millennia, with ancient trade routes taking textiles, precious metals, spices and scientific developments from one corner of the globe to the other. Communities have enhanced each others’ experiences from the vital to the menial, leaving gaps in the market for those with a keen eye to exploit.
So it was with Desert Chill.
When Dan Furlong visited the UAE in 2007, he was amazed to discover there were no ice cream vans offering cold sweet treats despite the long and consistent sunny days.
“I remember the day very well,” he says. “I was visiting my parents as my father was working here, and we went to the Rugby 7s. I sat and asked where the ice cream vans were, and everybody told me there weren’t any. So I did what every good entrepreneur does and went home to research it.”
Desert Chill, set up by Furlong and his brother Nathen, became Dubai’s first ice cream van company when it launched in 2008. The business brings the traditional ice cream vans – seen with great regularity on the streets of the UK – to the UAE. Initially setting out on routes around Dubai, the vans can now also be seen around Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, with plans to expand even further.
Not being acquainted with the business side of ice cream delivery, however, meant that Furlong had to embark on a mission of learning before bringing the concept to life.
“I didn’t have any prior knowledge of how to run an ice cream van – just memories of when we were young, running after the van,” he says.
“They were the great memories that came along when we thought of starting an ice cream van company. But from the business side of things we had to learn everything from scratch, first hand.
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