Khatera Abdulwali Ballard ’03
Southern sweetness weds Italian dolce at Honeysuckle Gelato, an Atlanta-based company co-founded by Khatera Abdulwali Ballard ’03. The artisanal treat comes in flavors ranging from honey fig to bourbon.
“Southerners love ice cream,” Ballard said, “but the South doesn’t really have gelato.” To test the market, Ballard and her business partners, Jackson Smith (who developed the concept) and Wes Jones, started Honeysuckle by selling scoops from a food truck. Smith and Jones recruited Ballard in 2011 after the Colgate English major had graduated from Harvard with a master’s in education. As is the nature of a start-up, all three founders do a little bit of everything, but Ballard focuses on sales, marketing, and business development.
In the last five years, “Hotlanta” has gotten a lot cooler as Honeysuckle flourishes. Word got out among local chefs, who added it to their menus. The company started selling wholesale, and then they hit another milestone when they made a deal with Delta Air Lines, which serves the dessert in first class on its longer flights. In the summer of 2015, Honeysuckle opened up a storefront in Ponce City Market.
To keep up with demand, the company is doubling its production and storage space. “Freezers surround my desk,” Ballard said blithely, as they await the build-out of their expansion. The company’s goal is to grow into a regional brand, with stores in several southeastern cities.
In the meantime, they’re concentrating on their own community. Honeysuckle donates 5 percent of all sales at its retail store to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, giving more than $40,000 to date. “We’re making a good product that puts a smile on people’s faces, and with some of the profit, we can give back,” Ballard said.
As their business plan expands, so does the menu. The store now serves shakes and gelato sandwiches — nestled between cookies whose flavors include pie crust, doughnut, and brownie. They also make sorbet.
With the team’s gusto for experimenting with new recipes, Ballard’s favorites are always changing. “I’m a big fan of the fresh mint because we use actual mint leaves,” she said. “But, nothing ever really trumps chocolate.”
— Aleta Mayne
Honeysuckle’s Chocolate Sorbet
20 oz. water
8 oz. sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
10 oz. cocoa powder
1 splash vanilla extract
1 pinch sea salt
In a saucepan, heat 4 ounces of water, 8 ounces of sugar, and the cream of tartar to a slow boil, whisking frequently. Heat the mixture to about 240 degrees. (If you don’t have a thermometer, cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles become larger.) Remove the pan from the heat, and slowly whisk in the remaining water, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Cool mixture in refrigerator, then pour into an ice cream maker and use as directed. Serve with a sprinkle of sea salt on top.