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Founder of Willie’s Ice Cream dies
Ice cream entrepreneur Wilbur “Willie” Balgobin, who started with a cart and a freezer and grew his business into one of T&T’s best known brands, died on Thursday at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. He was 68.
Balgobin started Willie's Homemade Ice Cream in 1986 with a loan of about $5,000, two employees and a single ice cream cart, operating on a street corner in Chaguanas.
His family and friends thought he was crazy because gave up a promising career in computer technology and information systems to launch pursue his business dream.
In an intervew several years ago he recalled an incident soon after he started the business: “I remember my brother, who was in Brazil at the time, telephoned me and he started to heckle me, ‘What happen to you boy? Your mother spend all that money and send you to England to study and this is what you come back home to do?’”
Willie’s Homemade Ice Cream went on to become one of T&T’s most successful food and beverage companies, controlling about one-third of the local ice cream market.
Balgobin developed one of the biggest franchise networks ever started in T&T and at its peak the company’s operations included a factory in Freeport, 10 company-owned stores, 12 franchises and distribution in 35 supermarkets and outlets.
Balgobin’s successes earned him an Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1997 and at one time he expanded operations into south Florida in the United States.
However, in recent years, fierce competition from imported ice creams took a toll on the company and the Willie’s Homemade brand has completely disappeared from the local market.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.