We chat to Rob Huysinga, CEO and Co-founder of viral student start-up Pan 'n' Ice, based at Canalot Studios in Ladbroke Grove. He tells us how dreaming big can pay off as his ice cream chain sweeps the UK and takes the internet by storm.

When university friends Rob and Henry upped sticks to backpack around Thailand, business talk was far from on the agenda. That was until they stumbled across a mind-boggling new way to serve ice cream.

On a fun night out in Koh Phi Phi, the friends spotted a man frantically chopping contents on a pan in the streets. The crowd of spectators proved something special was taking place. They soon discovered that it was in fact ice cream that the man was creating in front of the viewers' eyes.

He poured liquid contents onto a frozen pan at minus thirty degrees before transforming it into rolls of ice cream and frozen yoghurt in a matter of minutes. People were enthralled.

Rob and Henry instantly got to thinking. Why hadn't anybody brought this fun, theatrical and delicious display to the UK? "We may have only been 20 years old but we had always very much been ones to 'do things'," says Rob. "So, without giving it too much thought we bought a few machines when we returned to the UK and just got started."  

With the Pan 'n' Ice equipment up and running, Rob and Henry were ready to share the magic with the public in the summer of 2015. Their first stop was food markets and car parks across the UK. "That's when we became very busy," says Rob. "We realised that we had landed on an idea that the public loved."

Their stalls began to crop up at music festivals and retail locations all over the place. "Now, we sell in places like Westfield and Selfridges, with the ambition to eventually opening up across the world,” says Rob.

Something that Pan 'n' Ice really prides themselves on is their brand, what they stand for, and how they operate, explains Rob. "That's why we post weird and wacky videos on Instagram that show our fun-loving nature," he says. "A lot of the time they go viral and act as a great platform to get our brand out there, without a huge cost."

The brand now has 2.1K YouTube subscribers and over 6.8 million views on some of their marketing videos on Twitter. On Instagram, they poured a bottle of Dr Pepper onto the pan and made it into an ice cream and it received 1.6 million views.

"I think what makes us different is our unique personality and our brand charisma," says Rob. "Henry and I are two young lads who enjoy having a laugh and having fun. We’re still a start-up, we’re young and get it wrong from time to time but our ethos is to spread positivity, be kind and smile more."

The company moved into Canalot Studios in West London in September 2017. "One thing that has been amazing about Workspace is how flexible and easy it is. For example, we outgrew our old office a while ago and went to a bigger one, the flexibility around that was great," he says. "There's great energy at Canalot, a really good atmosphere."

Book Corner

For entrepreneurs looking to gain perspective on the world of start-ups,

Rob recommends 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

"It's very futuristic, forward-thinking and all about technology. It talks about advancements in technology, environmental changes and how political landscapes will affect businesses going forward. It's a super interesting read because it gives you so much perspective. It's easy to get wrapped up in your own business and your own struggles and problems, but this book puts things into perspective. Once you have a positive outlook, it will ripple out and into the people around you and who you employ."

Read more about the innovative food and drink start-ups based at Workspace. In Closer to the veg, we find out how Paul Brown launched his own plant-based ready meal company, BOL foods. And we also hear beer pioneer Jesse Wilson's start-up story in Life's a peach.

For more inspiring reads for business minds, check out the Workspace Book Corner where people interviewed in the latest issue of homeWORK magazine shared the books that have changed the way they work.

Find out more about what Canalot Studios could offer your business here.