As with most franchises, Tifa Chocolate & Gelato did not spring up overnight fully formed.

Quite the contrary. Our business model was developed through a series of purposeful decisions, surprising lessons, and events that shaped what the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise has become today.

It all started with a little cart in the mall…

The Beginnings of the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato Franchise

Tifa Chocolate & Gelato did not immediately jump in with both gelato and chocolate. Our original passion was artisan chocolate. Despite internet shopping being great for many businesses, we understood people would relate to us better if they could taste our chocolates.

So in 2007, that’s what we set out to do. First, the original founders—Mike Ashamalla, wife Denise, son Shawn Orr, and daughter Candace Rono—set up in our local mall in Southern California. It quickly became apparent our style didn’t fit with the brusque, often aggressive nature of the other cart operators.

We searched for a new solution and found it in a defunct donut shop. It was here where Denise and Shawn could proudly display the artisan chocolates, but Mike and Candace also had the space for our new passion: gelato!

A New Horizon for the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato Franchise

The new store was a hit, especially for local high school students, who had nicknamed Denise “Mama Tifa.” She was in her element, teaching them the joys of real dessert flavors, highlighting how natural flavorings produce delectable tastes instead of overpowering with chemical additives.

Mama Tifa became a minor celebrity among the students, who brought their friends, who then brought their families. Tifa Chocolate & Gelato grew thanks to Mama Tifa’s kind lessons and heartfelt approach, and customers loved her.

Word of mouth was growing, and Tifa Chocolate & Gelato was blossoming into the dream we’d envisioned. We still had more to do, however.

A Growing Ice Cream Business and Finding the Heart of the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato Franchise

We weren’t yet the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise people know and love today, but we were gaining customers and building relationships.

Beginning Fridays and lasting through the weekend, a line grew out the door. Our shop was small, and people were chatty and happy, both with each other and with us. The atmosphere was very much like an impromptu party in our small shopping center.

What we didn’t anticipate, however, was how deeply these relationships were taking hold, or how quickly our little business would be tested.

An event requiring the presence of all four family members—the wedding of an extended relative—necessitated that we hire our first non-family co-worker. As amazing a job as our new employee did, working the Friday night block party crowd alone proved to be more than he could manage.

After congratulating our newly married family members and rushing home, we arrived at the shop expecting chaos and impatient, irritated customers, or worse, no line at all.

Instead, we found what would become the heart of Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise: the relationships we build together help each other.

A family of regulars, The Lawrences, saved our young employee by jumping behind the counter to pitch in where they could. They scooped, served, and smiled their way through the line of customers. Even their youngest, too short to scoop gelato, helped by washing dishes!

First lesson: we needed more employees.

The bigger lesson: forming bonds with our customers developed ties with people who found value in our little shop, and they helped when we needed it most. The Lawrences didn’t want to see us lose business because of our poor planning simply because they cared.

Because that’s what Mama Tifa would do.

We learned how much our relationships with our customers matter, and that has been at the heart of the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise business model ever since.

Mama Tifa and Perseverance

Our next lesson was one of determination.

It became clear to us that we wanted better for our customers in the gelato arena than what our gelato vendor could provide. This coincided with Candace’s passion for making our gelato. The trouble was, she needed more experience in order to develop recipes that would meet Mama Tifa’s exacting standards.

We arranged a meeting with a prominent gelato chef from Italy in Long Island, NY, but transportation delays caused Mike and Candace to miss our flight. The best we could do was fly to Boston from LAX and drive all night in a rental car.

We were determined to make that meeting, so we did it. We flew to Boston and drove all night to reach Long Island in time.

Candace met with the gelato chef from Italy who changed her life and the course of the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise. She was so inspired, she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA, and graduated as a pastry and baking chef.

Today, Candace is the Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchise Executive Chef and Back of House Manager, curating all of our gelato recipes to inspire the taste buds and appeal to the American palate in an approachable way.

Tifa Chocolate & Gelato Franchises

We’ve learned some humbling lessons, had some surprising revelations, and worked hard to get where we are today.

What we hope to do with our franchise model is help franchisees avoid many of the common (and not so common) pain points a new business owner may face. There are still challenges, but the rewards are well worth it. Our Tifa Chocolate & Gelato franchisees are family, and we work together to find a little bit of Mama Tifa in us all.

It’s how we commit to making Tifa Chocolate & Gelato the best part of someone’s day!