Science & Tech Editor
All entrepreneurs have formative influences. For Karen Waddell, a UCSB alumna and the founder of an ethics-driven vegan ice cream company, one of her most significant influences was her college education.
Waddell originally entered UCSB as an English major, eventually deciding to double major in English and economics after taking an economics class for a general education requirement.
“My time at UCSB taught me how to problem solve and think rigorously,” said Waddell in an interview with The Bottom Line. “My experience there had a very direct influence on what I do now. Business involves writing persuasive letters, coming up with creative strategies for addressing problems, and running the numbers, which were all skills I learned from my undergraduate education.”
While at UCSB, Waddell won a fellowship to work with the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce on producing an economic forecast for all Santa Barbara businesses. She attributes this opportunity and success as being related to her ability to both write and analyze well — two abilities that have also helped her in the business world.
After graduating from UCSB, Waddell received an offer to return to UCSB to complete a Ph.D in econometrics. However, before enrolling in graduate school, Waddell decided to travel to Asia instead — leaving with just a backpack and a ticket.
She ended up in Bali after seven months on the road, intending to visit a friend. While she did indeed visit that friend, she stayed in Bali for another 28 years.
It was in Bali that Waddell met her husband, who suggested that she found a restaurant there. In response, she founded The Bali Food Group, a healthy restaurant with roots originating in her husband’s family recipes.
Waddell’s time in Bali was filled with many successes. She catered the film “Eat, Pray, Love” when it was in Bali and expanded her restaurant business into multiple locations.
However, she always wanted to make a product that aligned with her values of creating healthy, tasty, and enjoyable vegan and vegetarian food, which is where the idea for her current ice cream company, Reveri, was formed.
“A lot of vegan ice cream tastes bad,” said Waddell. “I always say that it may be nice to the animals, but it’s not nice to the humans. It always felt too sugary and fatty to me.”
Waddell developed the recipes for Reveri in a friend’s garage. In alignment with her goal of creating a healthy dessert that leads with taste, Waddell included whole fruits, vegetables, and natural flavors in her recipes.
Although Reveri began small, Waddell quickly experienced success.
According to Waddell, Reveri just landed a nationwide account with a large fitness chain across the country. With Reveri sales currently concentrated in Southern California, Waddell plans to expand her reach to Northern California before going completely nationwide.
Waddell believes in running her business with a higher purpose because it makes her work more meaningful.
“You have to be relentless in your energy in business and sometimes it’s hard,” said Waddell. “But what grounds me is realizing that what I’m doing might actually have an impact on human health … I’ve done the numbers and if the ice cream industry converts from dairy to plant-based ingredients, a ton of animals can be saved and carbon dioxide levels can be reduced.”
Although Waddell’s product may have positive implications for social change, she believes that the best way to convince people to eat healthier is to make healthy products that taste good.
Reveri currently has four flavors: Vanilla Almond Blossom, Purple Mint Chip, Chocolate Forest, and Strawberry Patch. They are available for purchase in the Isla Vista Food Cooperative.