Stumbling across a machine for making ice cream 18 years ago changed the life of Jhon Alexander Arango, a Colombian who intuitively identified a gap in the market and went from making cardboard hats to a promising entrepreneur.
"It was like divine guidance. The spotlight went on for me. I didn't look for it," Arango - the manager and founder of Fryscol, a company that makes products for ice cream parlors and currently has 150 customers - told EFE.
He was in the second semester of his university studies and while he was gluing together cardboard hats, which are used for parties, he thought he could probably do "something more" with his life.
With the money loaned him by a relative he bought a soft ice cream machine and started selling the cold and tasty product at the entrance of a supermarket in the city of Medellin.
"I didn't know anything. I hadn't tried it out and I tossed my hat into the ring," the businessman said, adding that fate presented him with a big opportunity when someone asked him about the machine's screws and he took advantage of that to question him about the type of ice cream he bought.
"It was a spark. I told him: I'll sell you the ice cream mix," said Arango about the moment marking the start of the business that today has six lines of products and 35 flavors, including passion fruit, piña colada, naranjilla and cappuccino, as just a few of the newest.
By "trial and error," he learned to make the ice cream formula, which he said at first he didn't like and had to keep adjusting to get the texture and flavor just right.
"I made mixtures at my house and it was all very homemade," he said, although now he exports his products to Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba.
Five years ago, Arango converted his apartment into the factory he used to grow the business amid difficulties and limited resources.
"I don't know how I didn't throw in the towel. I thought about returning to my hat work," he said.
The situation improved when he got better organized, transferred his business to a new location and polished things up from the packaging to the formula, but his lack of experience and managerial training resulted in Fryscol's growth stagnating.
He began taking part in a business program offered by the Corporacion Interactuar and that marked a turning point starting with "getting your house in order" to optimize your activities and improve communication, productivity and sales.
"Last year, we made a 180 degree turn. It was a rough shift. We're a team of six people and we've quadrupled our sales," said the 23-year-old.
Now, he uses blenders to mix the ice cream, producing more than 6,000 kilograms (13,200 pounds) of ice cream per month that are sold to small and medium ice cream shops in Colombia.
Arango said that part of his company's success is that it not only offers a finished product but also sells additional products and toppings, along with providing advice to customers on operating the machines and making the ice cream.
"We're going to be the first choice for soft ice cream in Colombia," he said.
He said that family support had been a determining factor in getting him started in the ice cream business, and he now gives advice to the parents of young entrepreneurs who, like him, are seeking to "make history" and change their situation, saying "No matter how crazy their projects are, support your kids."