To celebrate Women’s History Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to SweetPea’s female co-founder, Heather Romens. During this interview, Heather shares how her dairy intolerance helped inspire the creation of SweetPea, the importance of having women in leadership roles within the company, her biggest lessons and advice for women as an entrepreneur. She also shares what her day-to-day is like working with a team of dessert-loving superstars!
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one SweetPea flavor with you, which would you choose and why?
A: Obviously T.G.I.Pieday Raspberry – it contains nutrients from all the major food groups including fruits, veggies and nuts. Gotta stay up on that nutrition!
Follow-up question: if I had SweetPea with me, would that make it a dessert island? ::ba dum tss::
Q: What was it like having dairy intolerance as a kid when your family owned an ice cream scoop shop?
A: A huge bummer! It’s hard for a kid to say no to something so delicious – so I rarely did and I would suffer! It wasn’t until my early twenties that I finally accepted my fate and cut out milk products. Thus began the quest for the perfect non-dairy ice cream alternative… which was another huge bummer until SweetPea!
Q: Tell us some of the challenges or funny moments on the journey to discovering that chickpeas were going to be the secret to an unbelievably creamy pint of non-dairy ice cream.
A: A funny moment would be when I tried the VERY first test sample about five years ago. I was SO excited about this idea and couldn’t wait to try. I finally got my chance and wow – it was NOT great. Womp Womp! The texture wasn’t perfect (yet!), but it was better than I’d had in other non-dairy ice creams so that was encouraging. But the flavor… let’s just say it needed some work. Lucky for us, we had experience creating delicious ice cream flavors so that was the “easy” part.
Q: When the idea of ice cream made from chickpeas came up, what was your—honest to God—first thought?
A: I was excited! I am all about the ‘better for you’ alternatives – cauliflower rice, plant milk, zucchini noodles? Bring it on! I’m happy to make these swaps (that still taste delicious) to have an overall healthier meal. SweetPea does that for ice cream!
I also already ate and loved chickpeas (lookin’ at you hummus) so the innovation aspect of making ice cream from chickpeas was so intriguing to me.
Q: You not only inspired the creation of SweetPea, but you also co-founded the company?
A: Yep – it’s surreal to be part of the founding team for such a fun, delicious product! My struggle with dairy products created an awareness among the whole family that not everyone can enjoy traditional ice cream and the alternatives always came with compromises (taste and texture are important, y’all!). We saw the need and set off to create a non-dairy ice cream that has the same taste, texture, and experience as premium dairy ice cream, and thus, SweetPea was born!
Q: Can you talk about the importance of women in leadership at SweetPea?
A: SweetPea is all about having everyone at the table—whether you’re having dessert or a meeting in the conference room. SweetPea recognizes that women bring unique skills and different perspectives that help create a positive and productive work environment so it is important they are included in decision-making roles.
Q: What does a Director of Sweet Opportunities do?
A: Whatever needs to be done that day 🙂 I’m responsible for our sales team, sales presentations, marketing and promotions. However, when building a brand, a lot more is needed day-to-day. I’ve been fully involved in all things brand design, including logos, colors, fonts, packaging—and my favorite—flavor names! Also, our website and web store design and buildout, SweetPea apparel creation, trade show booth design, and market analytics. No two days are the same, which is the best part!
Q: What’s one entrepreneurial lesson you’ve learned in your role and career?
A: Don’t be afraid to not know! Nobody started as an expert. There are a lot of learning curves and “firsts” that come with starting a business—especially when creating a completely new product and brand! It’s ok to not know the answers and need to ask questions. Wisdom comes from experience, and I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to be a part of a team with a lot more experience than me. I’m learning every day!
Q: Was there a woman you looked up to growing up—or even now—who you would say helped inspire you?
A: Hands down, my mom. I always knew she held an integral role in the family business growing up, but when I joined the company many years later, I fully understood her impact. She made running a business, raising children, and maintaining a household look easy (along with my dad, of course!). I now better understand the dedication and sacrifices needed to keep all those plates spinning!
Q: What advice would you give to any woman who wants to start a business?
A: Just do it! (There’s a reason Nike hasn’t touched their iconic phrase since its creation decades ago). It’s a roller coaster adventure so be prepared for the fun times and the tough times – but the joy truly is in the journey. Stay positive and have faith it’s going to happen exactly how it’s supposed to. Life is short – chase those dreams (and eat dessert)!
Q: What will people say about you in 5 years, as the co-founder of SweetPea?
A: I hope nice things – haha! Really, I just want to be known as someone who works hard and has a lot of fun at the same time. I’m a pretty positive person, so it makes finding the fun and humor in all situations fairly easy.
Thanks for sticking around and learning more about our history, values, and obsession with chickpeas! To stay up to date on all the latest from SweetPea (including info about all the mouth-watering flavors, follow us on Instagram.