two pints of ice cream

When Courtney Ro (BBA ’12) was a student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Shidler College of Business, she was busy preparing herself for her post-college path, which would include her first job at Ernst and Young and then running her own bookkeeping business in 2017. She couldn’t have imagined it at the time, but the flexibility would allow her to help her husband, Zachary Villanueva, a UH Mānoa Department of Political Science (BA ’15) and Leeward Community College alumnus, to sell handcrafted ice cream. Now the pair operate Sage Creamery, scooping out flavors such as Strawberry Fields, Kiawe Honey Lavender and Haulolo (combination of haupia and kūlolo).

two people smiling for the camera
Zachary Villanueva and Courtney Ro

“We started the business in 2020 in honor of my husband’s late brother, who passed away from cancer in 2018 at the age of 36 and was an inspiring entrepreneur,” she said. “Our brand was created in his image of simplicity and authenticity. We source organic and locally made ingredients whenever possible.”

In only two years, the company has evolved from selling pints on Instagram, to a food truck and now to the first brick and mortar location, opening this year in west Oʻahu’s new Hoʻopili neighborhood.

“Being a first-time business owner with your partner is inherently challenging and rewarding,” she said. “The most difficult part can be navigating both the relationship and business partnership. It’s our biggest advantage and challenge.”

Recalling her time at Shidler, Ro fondly reflected on her involvement in Beta Alpha Psi, which allowed her to bond with classmates and business professionals while making friendships and building her network.She has some sage advice to current students and recent alums.

“Stay open and be like a sponge and trust that every situation you find yourself in has a lesson and opportunity for growth,” Ro said. “If you keep an open attitude in each step, you’ll find yourself exactly where you need to be in the end.”

For more stories about what is happening with students and alumni from the Shidler College of Business, see the fall/winter 2022 edition of Shidler Business magazine.