What started as a spark of an idea while visiting a gelato shop in the Netherlands has landed UND graduate Maartje Murphy on Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Murphy, who graduated from UND, is the owner and founder of Duchessa Gelato, a gelato business based in Carrington.

She said she was shocked to find out that she had made the 30 Under 30 Food and Drink list.

“It was a fun surprise,” she said.

Murphy, whose family name is Wilhemina van Bedaf, was visiting her native Netherlands while she was still in nursing school at UND when she had the idea of starting a gelato business.

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“I loved my time at UND,” she said.

She and her family moved to the United States from the Netherlands when she was 7. Her parents are dairy farmers, and she uses the milk from the family’s dairy cows in the gelato.

“My parents are very passionate about dairy farming, so we have a high-quality milk that I can use for gelato making,” she said. “I've always had a love for dairy products, and I've had a lot of respect for the dairy farmers. So using their milk, I can honor it by making a very good product, such as gelato.”

But starting a brick-and-mortar business can get expensive quickly, so Murphy started with her gelato cart, which allowed her to be flexible while she maintained her job as a full-time nurse. Murphy sells her gelato at such events as weddings, graduations and farmers markets. And she delivers to several cities throughout North Dakota.

“When I wasn't working, I would book gelato events,” she said. “I worked nights as a nurse and then during the day I was scooping gelato. So I was really busy.”

Murphy worked as a nurse until June. Now, she considers herself a “full-time gelatier.”

“Maybe if a flexible nursing position opens up I'll take it but, right now, my hands are pretty full making gelato and delivering gelato,” she said.

She said she enjoys getting to set her own schedule and being her own boss.

“Working many hours a week doesn't feel like I'm working many hours a week, which is super special,” she said. “I feel like when you work for yourself, it's completely different than working for somebody else. So it's been very fun. I'm very grateful to be able to work for myself and make my own schedule and make the gelato and put a smile on people's faces.”

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., tweeted out his congratulations to Murphy on her accomplishment.

"Congratulations to Maartje Murphy for earning this honor & representing #NorthDakota on a national level with her successful gelato business," the senator tweeted on Friday, Dec. 4.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many people have been postponing or downsizing their weddings, which has had an affect on her business, Murphy said.

“I felt worse for the brides: They had to postpone their wedding, they had to downsize,” she said. “So, I wasn't really worried about me .... I tried to just stay positive on my business side of things that .... I was able to still deliver gelato, so the catering events that were postponed or canceled or downsized, I just made it work.”

There’s still some plans in the works, according to Murphy, who said the business is in the process of building a “grade-A” facility and she hopes to start making Gouda cheese by early 2021.

Her products can be purchased on her website at www.duchessagelato.com/shop/.