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A Bowl of Ice Cream, a Dream, and the SBA
The love of ice cream and the desire to get into business is what drove Brian and Kelly Ackerman to purchase The Parrot Confectionery, a Helena Landmark.
The Parrot is currently celebrating it’s 87th year in Helena and is saying goodbye to longtime owners the Duensing’s. The Parrot has been part of the Duensing family for over half a century and they are now ready to turn over the business to new owners the Ackerman’s.
Brian and Kelly were looking for a way to return to their home state of Montana, when discussing over a bowl of ice cream in their home in Maryland, brought them to the idea of going into the candy and ice cream business. And that was the beginning of the journey that brought the Ackerman’s home to Montana and into the world of candy making.
The Ackerman’s were able to purchase The Parrot only by way of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). When Brian first contacted lenders looking for financing it was difficult if not impossible to get the financing they needed to purchase the business since a lot of it was for blue sky. (Blue sky meaning customer base.) But with Brian’s knowledge of SBA and their loan programs, he was able to contact the right people at Wells Fargo and get the money needed to take over this well known confectionery.
“There was no way I was going to be able to get the financing without the SBA guaranty,” Brian said.
“I was sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear if we got approved, and was so excited when it went through,” said Brian. “The (loan) process was a great lesson in patience, it got me prepared for the business I was about to take over.” They started in October of 2008 and signed the final papers July 1, 2009, but it was worth the wait.
When asked about the most difficult part of learning the business reins, Brian said “it’s hard to get a grasp on how much product we go through and keeping our ingredients stocked and the lead time needed to get the inventory delivered.”
The Parrot goes through 100 pounds of sugar a day and that makes about 3 batches of candy. The basement is getting stocked for the holiday season which means there’s about 6,000 pounds of chocolate in the basement waiting to be made into truffles, parrots and other assorted candies.
Brian said it’s hard because the Duensing’s do everything second nature and they’re starting from scratch (no pun intended) and need to know the how, when and why for everything. They’re taking it all in while the Duensing’s stick around for a year to help show the Ackerman’s The Parrot way of doing things.
The Parrot is known not only for it’s ice cream, candy and lunch menu, but also for it’s atmosphere. And as promised the Ackerman’s don’t intend to change a thing. A few additions may come in the future, but nothing dramatically different. One of those additions includes shipping year round and possibly the presence of The Parrot on the internet.
But for now it’s business as usual as The Ackerman’s stir their way into their dream of business ownership.