A unique ice cream business in Guelph is serving up tasty frozen treats, teaching work ethic and demonstrating the power of renewable energy while bringing magic to each summer day.
Since last summer, Leah Nielsen, owner of Unicorn Scoops, has brought joy to the community while riding around on her solar-powered bike and selling things like popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and other frozen goodies.
After suffering a brain injury while wakeboarding, Nielsen was unable to pursue a full-time teaching career. Through the hardships, her husband encouraged her to follow her dreams.
“He just encouraged me to think about what I wanted to do,” Nielsen said. “Then I just put together all the things that I love and all the things that I'm good at – and unicorns, and this was born.”
The bicycle has solar panels on the canopy that allow Nielsen to use renewable energy as her power source. Nielsen said Unicorn Scoops is an environmentally friendly option compared to ice cream trucks, which would release emissions during their travel.
“We operate on pedal power not fossil fuels,” Nielsen said. “Our bike uses renewable energy. The freezer and hand wash station are both solar powered and this bike creates zero emissions.”
Nielsen originally wanted to offer scooped ice cream, but the pandemic got in the way of her plans. For now, Nielsen sells pre-packaged items like Spongebob popsicles and Fudgesicles.
Nielson also maps out her routes on Facebook to allow people to track her down and get their own frozen delight.
“I'm not the best with directions so I would just look at a map, see where I was starting, and then figure out where I wanted to go,” Nielsen said. “Then I would figure out streets along the way and same with the way back. So, it's been a lot of trial and error.”
That’s when Charlotte and Amelia Ting, along with their mother, Karen started making a game of finding the Unicorn Scoops bicycle.
“It started off last summer during the pandemic and we would say ‘Hey, there’s a bike riding around town, let’s try to ride around and find it,’” said Karen Ting. “It was like, the highlight of our day.”
Eventually, Charlotte and Amelia grew their relationship with Nielsen and volunteered to help her with the unicorn-themed ice cream business.
“One day we decided we would make flyers, and (Leah) loved it,” Charlotte said. “Then we kind of just got more and more involved.”
Charlotte and her little sister, Amelia, help Nielsen by providing customer service, handling cash transactions and coming up with marketing ideas.
“We’ve learned a lot about responsibility and that it’s very difficult to bike around for four hours a day,” Charlotte said. “We’ve really learned independence. This has been great and Miss Leah has been an amazing mentor.”
The sisters even wrote their own jingle for Unicorn Scoops, which they hope to record at the library once it reopens.
Amelia said it was Charlotte’s “genius musical ability” that helped them come up with a quirky jingle inspired by Peppa Pig.
“She just wrote it on the piano and it sounds really nice,” Amelia said. “That night, I wrote the ukulele chords and we’ve been playing it ever since.”
As much as the girls are having fun, their mom said volunteering their time with Unicorn Scoops has taught them about the importance of a strong work ethic.
“Leah’s really taught the girls how to make a sale, how to provide great customer service, how to be polite to people and how to make a route,” Karen said. “They’ve learned so much for her and it’s been an amazing thing for them.”
Sometimes, one of the girls will dress up as a unicorn and dance around the bicycle, but that isn’t the best part for them.
“It’s definitely the free ice cream,” Charlotte said with a grin before getting back to business and serving her customers.