This gelato shop isn’t only known for its healthy take on the popular dessert. It’s also owned by a female Black veteran.
Thereasa Black is the founder and CEO of Amore Congelato, a Virginia-based gelato shop that prides itself on using healthy ingredients. Inside its doors, date sweetener and coconut sugar replace cane sugar, some flavors are packed with 24 grams of protein and oat milk is offered.
Black, who plans to change the name of her business to Bon Appésweet, opened shop last December just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the United States. While thousands of local businesses were forced to close down, she stayed optimistic.
“Honestly, I’m not afraid at all. It’s crazy to say, right?” she told “Good Morning America.” “Because my product, people love it and people are going to buy it.”
Being a small business owner during the pandemic is hardly the first challenge Black has faced. As a single mother, Black woman, Navy veteran, author and law school graduate, she is all too familiar with overcoming challenges.
Black grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where she said she experienced discrimination at a young age. She remembers elementary school teachers excluding her from advanced classes despite her good grades, being the only girl on the football team and getting chased down the street by two white men in a pickup truck one night.
“My drive comes from a place of pain — a place where I cannot let other people define who I’m going to be,” she said. “When your whole life is people telling you that you’re not enough, you have to prove everybody wrong.”
Black went to college and joined the Navy. After a few tours of service, she enrolled at George Washington Law School to become a public defender.
Black became pregnant with her daughter during her third year at George Washington. She said the father didn’t want to be in the picture, but Black still had Isabella and finished school in 2017, documenting her progress through a series of YouTube videos called “Single, Pregnant & in Law School.”
Then, the week after completing her bar exam, she was called back into service and had to leave Isabella at home with her cousin, Vaughn Black. She packed her bags, baked her daughter an ice cream cake for her birthday and kissed Isabella goodbye.
She had heard of how hard distant military parenting can be and braced for being oceans away from her 2-year-old.
“None of the roadblocks I’ve hit, and none of the hurdles I’ve had to go over, compared to what I did during that deployment,” she said.
Despite crying in bed every night, Black called home daily.
“There was a handful of days, and when I say handful, I mean you could count them on one hand, when Thereasa missed it,” said Vaughn Black. “The effort I saw from her, from another country, a lot of the times I see none of that from people that live right in the same neighborhood.”
After six months overseas, Black knew that returning to be a lawyer would only make her too busy to spend time with her daughter.
Whatever she would end up doing, it had to be about Isabella.
Interested in entrepreneurship, she bounced business ideas off family and friends before deciding on gelato — a reminder of the ice cream cake she made for Isabella.
Not only would she cook all of Isabella’s meals from scratch, given her daughter’s soy allergies, but she also baked cookies for her fellow sailors overseas.
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