Brian Ugurlu returned from a 2004 study-abroad program in Italy packing a new business idea. Specialty dessert maker Sirena Gelato lauched the next year in Bellingham with help from his parents, Robin and Fahri Ugurlu, who were successful restaurant and hotel operators.
The Ugurlus turned to a third-generation Italian gelato maker for help in crafting traditonal recipes using specialty imports, such as organic Turkish hazelnuts and Thai coconut milk, and regional flavors. Today, Sirena Gelato has stores in Bellingham, Seattle and Kirkland.
“We’ve grown so big that we have a little factory now,” reports Brian Ugurlu, who oversees management while mom Robin handles bookkeeping and dad Fahri manages gelato production.
Operating for 10 years, the company sees consistent annual growth in revenue, projected at $900,000 for 2015, and rarely advertises, preferring instead to give those dollars to nonprofits.
Brian Ugurlu says he’s grateful he turned to his parents.
“I didn’t major in business but I knew what I wanted to do,” he explains. “My parents and I put together a business plan. They’ve been instrumental.”
And while Sirena prides itself on making traditional gelato, it is not averse to embracing the things American customers find familiar. “I want to keep hints of Italian with traditional flavors,” Ugurlu says, “but I’m also offering Oreo and cookies and cream, all the standards that Americans recognize. I’m definitely doing the Old World/New World combination.”