Ulviyya Nasibova immigrated to the US to attend college and after working for eight years in finance sector. She left her finance career to become a gelato master.
Ulviyya creates her own gelato recipes experimenting with local ingredients and creating flavours inspired by different immigrant communities. She opened the first Gelateria Uli in Los Angeles in 2014 (with a second that followed in August 2017).
ULVIYYA, WHY DID YOU GIVE UP ALL THOSE YEARS YOU INVESTED IN EDUCATION AND BUILDING YOUR CAREER IN FINANCE TO MAKE ICE CREAMS?
I really craved the opportunity to run my own business, to be creative, make something with my hands, and find soul in my work. Not to mention, I wanted to contribute to my community in Downtown Los Angeles, which was just starting to become the hottest neighbourhood in America at the time. I also relished the chance to celebrate the bounty of produce and the diverse cultures found in my new home of Southern California.
WAS THIS DECISION ALSO TRIGGERED BY REALISATION THAT FINANCE IS A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY AND CAN DO BETTER BY BEING IN "MEN FREE" ENVIRONMENT AND YOUR OWN BOSS?
Certainly the old-fashioned and male-dominated environment wasn’t exactly inspiring, but the idea of building something on my own and something original was the spark. The food industry too is very heavily male, but I’m very proud to run a woman- and immigrant-owned business with a wonderful and diverse staff of employees.
YOU BASICALLY TURN IMMIGRANT STORIES INTO GELATO. IS BEING AN IMMIGRANT YOURSELF INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CONCEPT?
Definitely. There aren’t many people from my home country in Los Angeles, so I’ve connected with the traditions and experiences of immigrants from around the world. I may not be able to shop in an Azeri grocery store, but I can find commonalities and inspiration with people from Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, and more.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO OPEN NEW STORES AND GO GLOBAL?
I will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of my first store this year! And I opened my second location in Los Angeles nearly two years ago. Right now, I am focusing on expanding my wholesale business and making LA’s best gelato and vegan sorbet available in restaurants, markets, and venues around the city.