Women-led ice cream producer scoops up success

Recipient: Shaw’s Ice Cream
Region: St. Thomas / Tillsonburg
Total funding allocated: $96,458

Shaw's ice cream
Sisters Kelly Heleniak, Kim McCutchen and Kristine Hayes, Co-owners of Shaw’s Ice Cream Ltd., standing outside their iconic Dairy Bar in St. Thomas, Ontario

Shaw’s Ice Cream is the remarkable story of three sisters who purchased an old-fashioned ice cream company with a small processing facility in St. Thomas, Ontario. The original Shaw’s Ice Cream was established in 1948 by Carl Shaw. When the sisters—all in their early twenties at the time—heard the company was closing in 2001, they decided to take a leap of faith together into the dairy industry.

Like true entrepreneurs, each sister wore many hats: Kristine found a mentor to teach her how to make ice cream and took over accounting at night; Kelly covered sales and managed the ice cream store; and Kim got her truck license and delivered products to wholesale customers. 

Each time they encountered an obstacle, they found a way around it and kept moving forward. When the ice cream machine broke down, they learned how to take it apart. When the bank said they wouldn’t be approved for a company credit card because they are women, they applied anyway. And as always, their persistence paid off. If they had a motto, it would be “Don’t take no for an answer.”

Fast forward 20 years and Shaw’s Ice Cream has maintained its vision by continuing to bring families and communities together for the common love of ice cream. The sisters have worked hard to also expand Shaw’s Ice Cream with the addition of a new state-of-the art manufacturing facility in Tillsonburg, introduced private labeling, increased their distribution area and renovated their iconic Dairy Bar. Now with over 45 different flavours of 100 percent Canadian dairy fresh ice cream to choose from, Shaw’s Ice Cream can be found on shelves, in restaurants, and in your favorite local ice cream shop all across southwestern Ontario – a long-time goal for the sisters.

To sustain their momentum, FedDev Ontario provided the company with $96,458 through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund to launch new products, set up an Innovation Lab for product development and create jobs. As a result of this funding, Kristine no longer has to do the accounting herself at night and has been able to grow their staff by hiring a full-time bookkeeper to take care of the finances. Additional staff were hired to support Kelly with sales and marketing as the company looks to break into the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) market. And with new equipment in the Innovation Lab, Kim is overseeing the development of new products and ice cream flavours to support future growth.

In 2018, Shaw’s Ice Cream celebrated its 70th anniversary. Today, the three sisters continue to work hard side-by-side, and with FedDev Ontario’s support, can be more strategic as they look to the future. “We are overwhelmed by the support and loyalty of our customers,” says Kristine Hayes, Co-owner of Shaw’s Ice Cream Ltd. “It’s been incredible to watch our small, family-run business grow over the past 20 years and we are excited to see where the next 70 years will take us.” 

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Without the support from FedDev Ontario we would not have been able to expand our business as effectively as we have. We now have an incredible team of eight women working with us and we were able to expand our production to a modern facility that will better serve the growing needs of our customers. We look forward to what the future has in store for us. - Kristine Hayes, Co-owner of Shaw's Ice Cream Ltd.