Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Jessica McKinley

Whit's Forzen Custard

Jacksonville, Florida

Jessica and her husband Michael are making a case for Jacksonville to be the next frozen custard hotspot with Whit’s Frozen Custard. Our friends say we’re building our frozen custard empire here in Jacksonville, says Jessica. With four locations so far and plans for a few more, it’s hard to disagree.


Jessica and Michael worked corporate jobs for years, but they got the itch to start their own business. They both grew up in the Midwest, where frozen custard is the go-to treat if you’re looking for something sweet, and they noticed it was conspicuously absent from their new home. I grew up in Missouri and we’d always go to the custard shop, said Jessica. And then we moved out here and we were like, where’s the custard shop?!


Jessica and Michael saw their opportunity to bring a piece of home to Jacksonville, and opened Whit’s Frozen Custard, originally a Midwestern franchise. Whit’s thrived, and they added more locations. However, as the business grew, Jessica and Michael wanted to decrease their personal investment and use a business loan in order to set their franchise up for future expansion.


They tried to get a business loan, but their capital needs weren’t large enough to qualify. Thankfully, they had someone in their corner in their Chase banker, who referred them to Ascendus. They received an SBA Community Advantage loan from Ascendus to finance their growth, marketing efforts, and support their payroll.


Working on this loan helped give us an idea of where our financial solvency was. It’s recognition by another entity that your business is in good standing. We learned a lot and were able to give a better picture on our financials afterward, explained Jessica.


And payroll is no small part of a company who employs around 40 people. Most of Whit’s employees are high school and college aged, a positive, in Jessica’s eyes. We really like having that younger employee because it’s their first job; they are so energetic and passionate about doing well, she says.


And although employing young adults can be a challenge, Jessica and Michael relish in the opportunity to mentor and cultivate the youngest members of the workforce. We’re teaching them their cleaning skills, accountability skills, reliability the importance of money, Jessica says. They make tips, so they learn that the better customer service they provide, the more they can make. I think those are good things to learn in your teenage years. The impact of the lessons they teach their employees is not lost on Jessica, either. It translates to jobs outside the restaurant industry. It’s that work ethic and willingness to get the job done.


Having opened 4 stores in 3 years, Jessica and Michael are looking to take a breather and manage the stores they currently operate. But it won’t be long until they’re back in expansion mode, taking over Jacksonville, one cup of frozen custard at a time.

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