CARRINGTON, N.D. — It's an understatement to say Maartje Murphy was surprised to learn she'd been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Food and Drink this week.
She admits it may sound cliche, but in an interview Wednesday, Dec. 2, Murphy said she was "just happy to be nominated."
Murphy, whose given family name is Wilhemina van Bedaf, is the founder of Duchessa Gelato. She makes the artisanal treat with milk from her family's dairy farm near Carrington, a town about 140 miles northwest of Fargo.
When she read on Instagram that Forbes would be releasing the list this week, she didn't think she'd made the final cut.
"I woke up that morning and it (the list) was posted. I saw it, and my jaw just dropped. I thought, 'This is not possible. I'm just a small North Dakota girl. There's no way I'm on that list, but it's starting to become real," Murphy said.
Murphy is unsure who nominated her for the honor. She was selected by Forbes reporters, editors and expert judges who considered a variety of factors, including funding, revenue, social impact, inventiveness and potential.
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Murphy was born on her family's farm in the Netherlands, where she lived until moving to the U.S. at age 7. She developed her fondness for gelato on trips back to the Netherlands to visit her grandparents.
"We'd visit a gelato shop once, sometimes twice, a day," she said.
On one of those trips, Murphy told her family that she'd like to open a gelato shop of her own back in North Dakota. At first they told her she was crazy, but her mom, Conny van Bedaf, came around after seeing information about an Italian company offering a gelato-making immersion course in Chicago.
The two had so much fun during the course that they began talking seriously about starting their own business. The first thing they did was convert a garage into a Grade B dairy facility where they could produce ice cream, gelato and cheese. They also purchased a gelato cart from Italy.
Today, Murphy sells her gelato at events such as weddings, graduations and farmers markets. She also routinely makes trips to Jamestown, Fargo, Grand Forks and other cities to deliver online orders. Her next stop in West Fargo will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 19 at Thunder Coffee, 300 Sheyenne St.
Murphy estimates she's made over 100 different flavors. She said the most popular here is likely salted butter caramel. She also recommends trying blueberry cheesecake or true Italian flavors like pistachio or hazelnut.
Come to Carrington
Murphy said she's grateful for the incredible support she's received from North Dakotans since launching Duchessa Gelato in 2018.
"I don't even know how to put into words how great everybody has been from the start and how they continue to support me. I love seeing how excited people are to watch me grow and how proud they are that I started this business in North Dakota," she said. "Without the support of all those people, I wouldn't be where I am."
Thanks to that support, she's working on expanding her business. She and her husband recently purchased a farmstead near Carrington where they are in the process of building a Grade A dairy facility called Cows & Co. Creamery.
"We're going to start with gouda cheese. Our gelato and gouda cheese will be made there. We're also going to have a small cafe where people can come and have some wine and cheese or a cup of coffee and gelato," she said.
They'll also offer tours of the creamery and the dairy.
"My goal with Cows & Co. Creamery is to give back to North Dakota. I want to give people a destination to come with their families or with the girls on a day trip," she said. "We also have a winery in Carrington. Make Carrington a destination place. Not that we've lost it, but I'd like to bring life to our small town and have people want to move here because it truly is amazing living in rural America."