Paul Ballen & The Business of Instagram

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 Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce Drizzling

Paul Ballen (@Paul_Ballen on Instagram) isn’t known as the ‘Ice Cream King’ for nothing, we’ve sampled his ice-cream for ourselves, and oh yes, it totes did blow our mind. What’s most impressive about Paul and his not-so-little-business is that it started out as a bit of a passion project, which via word of mouth, or should we say social networking – mainly Twitter & Instagram now has now grown to have a bit of a cult following. His flavours are beyond anything you could buy at the supermarket, and every week he seems to create a new ‘must have’ – which when you’re talking about ice-cream is pretty much every flavour. We caught up with Paul to talk about some of his favourite things besides ice-cream, licking the bowl clean and how he has used Instagram to create a loyal following and thus a business.

*Disclaimer If you are on any sort of diet or ‘summer bodies are created in winter’ type vibe we do not suggest you scroll to the end of this post..

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi! I’m Paul! I’m 24, I live in Joburg. Lots of people seem to know me as the Paul, from Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream or as The Joburg Ice Cream King. I’m passionate about food, travelling, exploration, art, Crossfit and photography.

2. As we can tell via stalkin’ you on social media Paul’s ice-cream started out as a bit of a side project, but now has become a full blown business. When and why did you start to make ice-cream, and how long did it take you to realise it was really taking off and could now call it your full time job?

That’s true! Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream started in 2009, for my 21st birthday, with an ice cream machine as a gift from my mom. Soon, I was in the kitchen experimenting with different recipes, flavor combinations and textures. Amazed at the delicious creations that I was making, I soon started giving friends and family ice cream as gifts. During university holidays I would have ice cream & waffle days at my house, and started selling tubs with ribbons and hand drawn labels. I started to create relationships with some small restaurants and after printing some labels began selling them single serving tubs. Through social media, my ice cream started to gain exposure, and I continued producing small volumes for small restaraurants, cafes and some markets. At the end of 2013, I finish my Post-Graduate Diploma in Management at the Wits Business School, and at the beginning of 2014, I had to make a decision about where my future direction would be. I had built up a brand throughout my 5 years of studying, and felt that it was something that had to be grown. Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream is now a full time job. That’s if you can call it a job!

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3. How has the business grown thanks to the exposure on social networks / Instagram?

Since the day I started making ice cream I started tweeting about it. My followers were able to follow my ice cream making process. As I began experimenting more and more, and spending more of my time in the kitchen producing batches, people became more intrigued. I found it motivating as I started to realize how people were interested in what I was doing. As I begun supplying small restaurants and cafes in Joburg, it was easy to keep in touch with current customers, by letting them know what flavours I was busy with, where/what I have delivered and where I would be selling. It was also an opportunity to create additional excitement, and gain a larger following.

Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream is definitely representative of a business of my generation. Although I can’t assume anything, without the existence of social media, I don’t think the Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream brand would be as recognized as it is today.

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4. In what way has your avid & loyal Instagram following influenced your business? I think there must be quite a rush to Father after you post your waffles & ice-cream photos..

Instagram and social media is definitely representative of our generation. In the past, it would have been much more of a challenge to get exposure and for people to recognize what you were doing. Instagram allows one to get exposure, visually and instantaneously. In my specific instance, it has allowed me to get an understanding as to what appeals to my current fans/future fans, which is important to any business. I’ve been on Instagram for years, but it is quite amazing how the popularity of the app has increased over the years. Instagram allows me to share colourful, decadent photographs, that could never have the same effect if it was described in words.

5. Do the many customers comments / order requests you get influence your ice cream making?

Yes, but I wouldn’t say drastically. When Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream was much smaller, it was possible to make small 1 liter batches of flavours, which were then personally hand delivered. I do still make custom orders, but in slightly bigger volumes, which I love doing! I’m always open to experimenting with flavours and ideas that people have and request. The more ideas from others, the better!

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6. What has been your favourite reaction on social media to a new ice cream flavour?

Hmmm… That’s difficult to say! I have had a few marriage proposals, so maybe that says enough

7. How hard it is to not lick the bowl clean every time you make a new batch / post a behind the scenes photo?

They say that you shouldn’t trust a thin chef. However, I wouldn’t just be fat if I ate endless ice cream. I have to taste every batch of ice cream that I make to make that that the taste & texture is perfect, but the key word is ‘taste’. Once in a while I do indulge in a scoop or tub, but I try to stay disciplined.

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8. Where in JHB can we now find Paul’s ice-cream? Also please say it’ll be available in Cape Town soon/for summer! 

Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream is available throughout Joburg:

Neighbourgood’s Market

Thrupps, Illovo

Wolves Café & Good Luck Club, Illovo

Warm & Glad, Craighall

Meat Etc, Bramley

Park Café, Parkwood

Love Food Café, Braamfontein

Melissa’s, Parkhurst

Stanley Beer Yard, 44 Stanley

As you can imagine, transporting ice cream isn’t the easiest of tasks. We would love to be able to satisfy the ice cream cravings of our Cape Town fans, so hopefully there will be some tubs in your freezers sooner than later!

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9. Who do you follow on Instagram for a little bit of daily inspiration?

I can’t say that my Instagram account is as organized as I other people do. However, obviously, I follow lots of ice cream accounts!

@Coolhaus, @Momomilkbar, @Amplehills, @Humphyslocombe, @Lickicecreams, @Saltandstraw, @Sweetrosecreamery, @Gelatomessina

10. What are your favourite apps for editing your Instagrams?

Snapseed and VSCO

11. What is your greatest extravaganza?

When it comes to extravagance, travel and books are probably my priorities. I would include a list of all the places that I’ve been too, but that might take a while to write up J

12. What is your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possessions are probably my pretty extensive camera collection as well as my collection of things from my travels.

Just a little sneak peek at some of Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream flavours, aka torture..

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White Chocolate & Honeycomb

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Cookies ‘n Cream

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Turkish Delight

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Caramel Popcorn

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Strawberry Shortbread

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Cookie Dough

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Slutty Brownie Stacks

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