DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – When gelato maker Uli Nasibova opened her shop Gelateria Uli, the last thing she expected was a pandemic. Now, instead of handing out free samples, it’s strictly take-out and delivery.
“This is where my seating used to be, but we had to temporarily take it down because of COVID-19,” said Nasibova, pointing to benches stacked on top of each other. “We’re adapting. We’re still trying to figure it out. We’re open for take-out and delivery. We started selling half-gallon tubs which we only sold to wholesale customers before so we’re trying to adapt.”
That means relying on Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash and GrubHub for even small orders, but delivery services take a huge chunk of her profits in an industry where profit margins are usually slim.
“What I’m really working hard on is creating our own delivery platform because every time we use one of those services, we have to give them a 30% cut, which is a lot actually for us,” said Nasibova.
Born in Azerbaijan, Nasibova moved to the United States to study finance and French literature, but followed her passion to become an entrepreneur. After the federal government passed the CARES Act, she applied for the PPP when the second applications opened, but only received word the money ran out.
“I kept all of my staff in hopes that I would be getting this funding that would allow me to keep going. I’ve kind of tapped out all of my operating budget,” said Nasibova.
After six years building her business, Nasibova is most concerned about big brands taking over unique mom and pop shops. Inspired to create flavors that reflect Los Angeles like black sesame, pistachio and horchata, she's worried she’ll have to close her second location.
“We are unique. We reflect our community of Los Angeles and we make flavors that are loved by the diverse people of L.A.,” said Nasibova.