MVT Women’s History Month Celebration Continues with Sweet Profile of MVT Resident & GELAT’OH! Founder Sierra Georgia!

Thursday March 21, 2024

As part of our ongoing celebration of women whose contributions make DC a better place to live, work, and visit, this week we caught up with Sierra Georgia, founder of artisan gelato company GELAT’OH and proud MVT resident since 2009! Sierra’s gelato journey began almost 10 years ago when she quit her job at the Federal Aviation Agency to pursue a sweeter venture: operating the first gelato food truck in DC. From there Sierra attended the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna where she learned the fundamentals and made it her mission to “put some respect on the American palate internationally and spread the gelato lifestyle across America.” Today her products are shipped nationally or can be purchased locally at The GELAT’OH Shop located at 1625 Eckington Place NE and Union Kitchen Groceries.

Check out our interview with Sierra below to read more about her gelato journey and learn more about the women who lifted her up along the way:

MVT CID: How did you get involved in the gelato business?

: Baking and making desserts was always a therapeutic experience for me and over time my family really pushed me to formalize my love for dessert. One day I went outside for lunch at L’Enfant Plaza and saw a line wrapped around the corner at DC’s first cupcake truck. I was instantly obsessed with food trucks and knew I needed one of my own. I put my money together over about a year and bought my first truck, all the equipment, and I thought I was ready to hit the road. At the time all I needed was a wrap and a commercial kitchen to work out of. One year later there were about five cupcake trucks out on the road and I didn’t want to be the sixth! I saw there were ice cream trucks, but no gelato. So in 2013 I took a three-month leave of absence to become DC’s first gelato truck. At the time I was selling a local Italian chef’s gelato. I did that for three years until I expanded to Philadelphia. They offered me a licensing deal but it was too expensive, so I decided to travel to Bologna, Italy to attend Carpigiani Gelato University. I spent four weeks overseas becoming an artisan gelato master, and another two weeks taking the train all over Italy and soaking in the gelato culture. I was hooked! When I returned to the US, I started my brand GELAT’OH in 2016.

MVT CID: Did any women inspire or assist you early in your career?

Sierra: In the Federal Government, I worked for a phenomenal woman named Carey Fagan, she was the Executive Director for International Affairs at the time, now retired. I was very inspired by her because not only did she have a great career flying all over the world consulting on aviation on America’s behalf, she and her husband also owned a few restaurants. She made me feel like I could have it all. She inspired me to keep going and really pushed me to build my business, even while I was still working for her. She was one of my most consistent customers when I first went full time as an entrepreneur. Her belief in me and my product gave me a lot of confidence and inspiration in the beginning to take that leap of faith and bet on myself.

Before I started my brand I applied to be a “Gelato Angel” at the Gelato World Tour Finals in Berlin, Germany. It was basically Germany’s top gelato chefs competing and I was accepted as a volunteer.  This competition had two German women and 10 men competing. I was in awe and inspired by the display of the creativity I saw and one of the women placed in the top three. I always saw the gender disparity and early on knew I wanted to diversify the field. Not just as an ethnic minority making world-class gelato, but also as woman. The women that competed that day had the most badass flavors and presentation. They were bold, and I was inspired. One of them had a Tabbacco smoked flavor with extravagant presentation details and the other did a yogurt mint flavor with the tastiest raspberry sauce super intricately presented. It was beautiful! They were the most awesome women on the planet to me at the time and I was super inspired. Never did I imagine three years later, I would compete and earn two bronze awards in my first Gelato Festival America competitions. It was a full circle moment and I will never forget those ladies in Germany.

MVT CID: How do you think your industry could benefit from having more women in positions of leadership?

Sierra: Representation matters. I think as the gelato industry grows in America, you will see more diversity. Little girls need to see women in the industry so they have someone they can relate to. If all they see are men competing, they’ll think it’s just for them. It’s really about inspiring the next generation and being an example of what’s possible. Planting that seed. Women are also just really awesome and make everything better!

MVT CID: What advice can you offer to women looking to join your industry?

Sierra: My advice is focus on putting out the best product, every time. When that spoon hits your mouth, it’s not going to matter who made it if it’s not good. When I first went to Italy and studied the gelato industry, what took me by surprise was the fact in that Europe, specifically Italy, gelato was more than just dessert, it was a lifestyle. I wanted to bring that experience back to the US. My advice is to understand the history of gelato and where America is in it, compared to the rest of the world. Then decide how you want to make your mark. Always represent your brand with your best foot forward, compete when you can, and be authentic. The American gelato industry is really just getting going in the US, so there is a lot of opportunity.

MVT CID: What is your favorite part about the Mount Vernon Triangle community?

Sierra: I have lived in MVT since 2009 and I could not see myself living anywhere else in the city.  I love how walkable and international our community is as far as the diversity of food options and businesses here. I also love how dog friendly it is, but most of all, the people. People that live here care about the community and what happens here. I take great pleasure in knowing that even if I don’t make every community meeting to voice my concerns, some of my awesome neighbors will definitely advocate on behalf of what’s best for the community as far as quality of life. Love this community!