These Founders Are Shaking Up The DIY Ice Cream Business
Today in Selfmade Stories we're partnering with Office Depot to spotlight emerging entrepreneur Kelly Williamson and her brand True Scoops. Kelly shares her story of how she and her business partner Shelly are disrupting the ice cream business with make-at-home kits, no ice cream maker required! Instead, you can whip up True Scoops with ice cube trays and a blender. Here, Kelly talks with us about having a strong business plan, finding the right business partner and more.
B + C: What inspired you to start True Scoops?
Kelly: The lightbulb went off when my good friend and now business partner, Shelly Marshall, and I realized people were baking, cooking, and even pickling during the pandemic because of all the time they had due to stay-at-home requirements. We wondered, why weren't people making homemade ice cream? The traditional process of making ice cream is tedious, requires a list of ingredients, and takes some skill to execute so we went to work to simplify the whole process.
We tapped into our combined 15 years of ice cream making experience to make sure True Scoops ice cream mixes contain all the same ingredients as you'd find in your favorite pint from the store; heavy cream, milk, sugar, cocoa, vanilla beans, salt, and more, just in powder form. Now you and your family can enjoy making ice cream at home without any fuss and spend that time contemplating what toppings you're going to have on your scoop instead.
B + C: What startup challenges have you faced along the way?
Kelly: It's mostly been financial challenges for us, which is typical for small businesses. We took our life savings and put it towards this business because we truly believe in the concept and potential. The vendors we work with are wonderful but often require payment up front, so in order to launch a product we need to have the funds, but in order to have the funds we need to sell the product. It's a tricky situation as you can imagine, but we're confident that our marketing plan will get us on track to meet our sales goals.
B + C: What strategies have helped you so far?
Kelly: Applying for grants, entering pitch contests, and at some point, we will do crowdfunding like Kickstarter. Once we have numbers to share, we will seek out investors. We're new to working with investors so we want to find the right person/s to not only financially invest in True Scoops, but who really believes in the concept and can contribute to our business strategies.
One strategy we have already implemented was launching a discount on all pre-orders prior to our hard launch. By offering this incentive to buy early, we have already accumulated orders and have been contacted by countless media members wanting to try and learn more about True Scoops.
B + C: What would you say are your top 3 successes so far?
1. Finding an ice cream formula that we love and works with or without an ice cream maker, which wasn't easy. Making a traditional dessert like ice cream, but in a different format (for us dry powder mix) was extremely challenging because dry ingredients don't react the same way when they're reconstituted. Let's just say a lot of test batches ended up in the trash.
2. Having the right business partner. Shelly and I are total opposites, but it works in our favor. She's all business and number crunching while I'm about the creative details and R&D. Our strengths and weaknesses create a harmonious balance, so we aren't stepping on each other's toes. She lives in New York and I live in Massachusetts, so we rely on clear, honest, constant communication to get through all projects.
3. Identifying our brand voice. We worked with brand design studio Loyal to create our brand aesthetic and voice based on Shelly's and my personality. Shelly's a mom with two young kids and I'm single with no kids, but we both share the same sense of cheeky and sassy humor. We wanted to make sure that was conveyed through our brand because we know our customers will relate to the fact that we aren't perfectionists and can laugh at the little things in life.
B + C: What about the food industry is especially challenging/rewarding?
Kelly: The most challenging part is that the margins are the lowest of any other industry. That's why we have opted to be DTC (direct-to-consumer) to start so we can take advantage of the higher margins. With time, we will be able to explore wholesale and be on shelves across the globe (we must think big, right?)
The rewarding part is that there are so many organized groups on social media that are created for entrepreneurs. Shelly and I are members of a dozen or so groups and we can get advice, vendor recommendations, or contact info in a snap. We are also able to return the favor by helping other businesses as well and that feels good. It pays to be kind y'all!
B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?
Kelly: True Scoops is a whole new food product category, so not only do we need to raise brand awareness, but also educate people on what our product line is made with and how to make it. When you think of ice cream do you think of a frozen pint or a shelf-stable powder mix? Exactly. Our plan is to scream True Scoops from the mountain tops and implement strong advertising and PR campaigns that not only sell the brand and product concept, but also prove that it is easy to make and delicious. We also plan to create a strong branded social media channel on Instagram and will tap into the influencer marketing space to work with them to do product sampling.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
Kelly: That we're all on the same rollercoaster ride even if we're in different phases of our business and in different industries. Also, no one knows everything, so I know I need to continue to ask lots of questions because it's going to be the only way I will learn. My favorite lesson was learning about writing my elevator pitch and forcing myself to watch my own video. I ended up being the first to go in my class and it was really well-received. It gave me the boost of confidence I needed! Self-doubt is so debilitating.
B + C: How do you stay motivated? Who inspires you?
Kelly: It sounds cliché, but when you find work that you love to do it doesn't feel like work. Ice cream itself is an easy motivator because everyone gets excited to talk about it and learn more about what we're doing. Inspiration comes from various sources including our business mentors who push back and challenge us, friends and family because they're simply the best cheerleaders, and kids because they're the most brutally honest people to get a seal of approval from.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Kelly: Go for it! Taking the leap of faith is the most frightening but liberating and empowering feeling. You will feel all the emotions, sometimes all in one day, but it's worth it to see your ideas come to life. Hearing a client or customer give a positive review is the best reward and will be the fuel you need to keep going. Challenges will arise when you least expect it so don't take it personally and work to solve the problem as best you can. Lastly, find a network of like-minded friends or fellow entrepreneurs to chat with because having a support network is priceless.
B + C: What's next for True Scoops?
We're developing shelf-stable mixes for sorbet, keto, and dairy-free desserts for 2022! The sauce and topping mix product line will also expand but we must pace ourselves with the cadence of new releases. Getting to know our customer is our #1 priority so we are looking to them to tell us what they want. Since we have so much experience with home and professional ice cream makers, a big dream of ours is to design a line of our very own True Scoops ice cream makers and accessories.
Yum! We're so excited to make True Scoops in the comfort of our own kitchen. Having a business plan is your roadmap to success. Office Depot OfficeMax can help with a full suite of business services and solutions. From print & copy services to help build your brand and 24/7 remote tech support to products to help you work from anywhere. Office Depot OfficeMax is all about helping you accomplish more so you can focus on more important things, like starting & growing your big idea.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.