Jackson Smith, Wes Jones, and Khatera Ballard have created a successful business specializing in “la dolce vita,” Southern style.

In 2009, Jackson Smith began apprenticing at the prestigious Il Laboratorio del Gelato, which supplies high-end restaurants in New York. He thoughtfully brought back samples for his friends in Atlanta. After dabbling with some down-home ingredients in his family’s kitchen, he recognized a demand in a Georgia market with an already rich tradition of desserts and a booming industry of food trucks.

So he teamed up with Wes Jones and Khatera Ballard to launchHoneysuckle Gelato, an Italian dessert (it uses less cream and fewer, if no, eggs than ice cream) with some distinctly Southern twists — flavors include honey lavender, bourbon pecan, and honey fig. “In 2011, I made what many considered a very risky decision: I quit a good job in a down economy to start my own business,” writes Jones in an essay for Huffington Post.


The licensing and permitting process for food trucks proved complicated and daunting at times, but with advice, support, and funding from ACE, which has worked with other vendors in this culinary trend, the trio of young entrepreneurs launched Honeysuckle Gelato. Now their artisanal, “farm-to-bowl” dessert, whipped up from locally sourced dairy products, has become an award-winning mainstay of the locavore, slow-food movement. HG has been honored by Atlanta Magazine and by DailyCandy’s “Start Small, Go Big” program, and the growing company is a major player in the annual Atlanta Street Food Festival.


Served in gourmet specialty stores and restaurants, includingSawicki in Decatur and Buckhead’s Cacao and Buttermilk Kitchen (mixed with housemade root beer for an old-timey float), it also can be purchased by the pint at Whole Foods on Ponce de Leon. This specialty gelato is expected to gain an even higher profile by delighting international travelers – no doubt some Italians pleasantly puzzled by the “Kang,” a banana and peanut butter ode to Elvis — at the Food Network Kitchen slated to open this year in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.


“This would not have happened without all of the support we’ve received,” Smith says.