SHARP & Range Rover
Luanne Ronquillo launched her specialty ice cream brand back in 2017 and, ever since, Torontonians have decidedly had no chill.
Started as a creative outlet and mood booster, Ruru Baked’s first home was an apartment belonging to a friend. Six years later, the little-ice-cream-shop-that-could now boasts two brick and mortar locations, a thriving online ordering system and nearly 30K followers on Instagram. It’s a little brand that has created an almost cult like status of devotees — and with good reason.
Its success could be attributed to a variety of factors. Ronquillo dreams up out-there flavours such as black sesame, buttered popcorn and miso crumble (don’t worry, vanilla die-hards, Ronquillo’s whipped that up for you, too) that customers can’t get enough of. Ruru Baked regularly teams up with heavy hitting brands such as Adidas, Hoegaarden and Vitamix to deliver unique collab flavours. The company also takes transparency incredibly seriously, outlining on its website its efforts for quality control, the donations it has made over the years and a comprehensive and well-researched explanation of its use of paper versus plastic.
But according to Ronquillo, it’s not one tangible element that shot Ruru Baked into its cult-classic status — it might not be a tangible piece at all. For Ronquillo, it comes down to great products that stand the test of time, killer branding and an enviable company culture. But it’s also about a feeling.
“All I know is that we do what feels good for us, and that must attract like-minded individuals,” she says. “I know how I want the brand to be perceived — what we do and what we don’t do — and I do my best to make sure that all of our decision-making follows that.”
In fact, this lead-with-her-heart mission is what has powered the creation of Ruru Baked’s iconic flavours. “I mostly go with my gut,” she says about her creative process. “If it feels fun, exciting and challenging, I’ll move towards those feelings and ideas.”
And those feelings come in handy when it comes to other decisions, too. “If a collaboration comes up and I don’t feel excited or challenged by it, I’ll say no — even if it seems like it’d be financially beneficial or a great partnership.”
Ronquillo has always felt strongly about choosing what’s right over what’s profitable. She’s an outspoken proponent of helping others. “Giving back is a value I grew up with,” she says. “If I have excess, I’ll give it away or pass it on to my team through raises, fun outings or gifts. The business isn’t just about me and I shouldn’t be the only one reaping the benefits.” Over the years, Ronquillo has made regular donations to local charities such as food banks, community toy drives and mental health organizations.
So it’s no surprise that “compassion” lands at the top of her list of qualities she believes an effective leader should possess, along with humility, a willingness to learn from anyone (“and I mean anyone,” she says) and decisiveness. And while she continuously strives to rise to the challenge of being a great leader, the business teaches her foundational lessons daily.
“A big one I’m constantly learning is to not take anything personally,” she says. “People will complain and get angry about the wildest things, and sometimes I just have to understand that not every customer is right — sometimes they’re just not the right customer. Apart from taking feedback, we can’t please every single person in every way they want us to.”
But she knows the right people are always in her corner — especially those she works with, who have a vested interest in her well-being. “Down time is hard for me. I like to be very involved in the business so I know how it’s operating. The team knows they can rally with me because I’m working just as hard as they are,” she says. “I do have some telltale signs of when I need down time, but my team and partner are great — they’ll let me know when I need to take time for myself.”