Korean American Harvard grad opened an ice cream shop with her mom—now she makes $230,000 a year

Orginally published Mon, May 15 20232:46 PM EDT on CNBC

In 2019, Annie Park was backpacking in Southeast Asia when she received a call that changed her career.

Her mother Sarah — a former deli shop owner — was bored with retirement and had decided to open an ice cream shop in Bethesda, Maryland. But she needed Park to help for a few months to get the store off the ground.

“To be honest, at first I was like, ‘ice cream shop?’” says Park, who had recently graduated from Harvard with a master’s degree in education policy and management. “I wasn’t very excited about it.”

But “it was never a question of was I going to help her or not,” says Park. “I think that comes from being an only daughter to a single mother in an immigrant family.”

The idea wasn’t a complete surprise: Park’s mother made ice cream as a hobby, often experimenting with new flavor combinations, like apricots and pistachios, or fresh cherries with rose water.

Unlike commercial ice cream that relied on food coloring and flavored syrups, Sarah only used natural ingredients, like real strawberries instead of strawberry flavoring.

After months of preparation, the March 2019 opening of Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream was a smash success, with long lines of customers lasting until the store closed at 9 p.m. “It was something none of us ever expected,” says Park.

Park and her mother had little time to celebrate opening day, as they were up until 3 a.m. making more ice cream before the store opened again the next morning.

Within a year, Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream opened a second store in the D.C. area and currently has plans to open a third location in Potomac, Maryland, in December 2023.

Instead of helping out for a few months, Park became a full-time partner in the business, which now has 35 employees and brings in $1.86 million in annual revenue. In 2022, Park earned just over $230,000 — a salary of $118,625 and, as part of the partnership with her mother, the profits from the second store, which totaled $111,677.

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32-year-old Harvard grad opened an ice cream shop with her mom—now she makes $230,000 a year