9 min 2 sec

Game of Cones: Two Women Make Architecturally-Inspired Ice Cream

A nouveau-cream wave of ice cream debuts at Coachella, and everyone freaks out.
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What It's About

Some things just go better together ... like architecture and ice cream.

Business Model
Skills Required
Design & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Natasha and Freya were focused on one method of sales, which was pretty much in-person only and meant they’d only get so far before getting stuck. Instead, they pivoted and changed their business model from in-person sales to encompassing online sales as well.

Not only was it a great lesson for Coolhaus, but it also created more opportunities for a lot less cost. They didn’t need to pay for rent or employees, and, as long as they had a functioning website, they could make and process sales pretty much while they slept. And, because they would be able to sell larger quantities, they could reach more people even faster.

Fun Fact

Coolhaus was hired to cater the birthday party for one of Reese Witherspoon’s kids. They served everyone, including a handful of celebrities, and everything was going well. Until they had to leave and their truck broke down, leaving them trapped at Reese’s ranch. They eventually got the truck going again, although it broke down a few times on the way home. At least they have a good story to tell!

Notes from Chris

Episode 688
Like many good things, Natasha Case’s side hustle started by accident. While she was studying architecture at Berkeley, she was tasked with designing a student housing model. After she presented it, her professor described the project as “basically a box cake—like it was a bad thing.” Since everyone likes cake, she decided to take her next project even further and actually baked it for her class.

This light-bulb moment of combining food and architecture would return to her later.

After college, she started a job as a Walt Disney Imagineer and began baking cookies and making ice cream for her coworkers. She enjoyed creating ice cream sandwich combinations that were a play on famous architectural concepts like "Mint-imalism." They were a hit!

Natasha had always wanted to find a way to bring architectural design to a wider audience, and seeing the sugar-crazed ecstasy written on her colleague’s faces as they consumed her creations, she realized that she might have found the perfect way to bring her love of architecture to the masses: design and dessert.

But what started as a fun hobby might have stayed that way, until her girlfriend, now-wife, Freya, saw the business potential in what Natasha was doing.

Freya started asking about numbers and figures. The couple went to Whole Foods, wrote down how much ice cream products cost, and started to work out the feasibility behind starting their own side hustle. While standing in the aisles, they noticed that ice cream products hadn’t changed for a long time. They didn’t see any brands with character, and there was nothing that spoke to them as women or as millennials. Freya says that this only helped motivate them to “design and introduce a product that represented the frozen zeitgeist of the times.”

Two weeks later, they co-founded Coolhaus, with the goal of restoring the diminished glory of ice cream sandwiches. Natasha and Freya both had full-time jobs, so they spent the weekends at local farmers markets selling their treats and building their customer base. This allowed them to test their products and scale slowly, without making a large financial investment into their business right off the bat.

They loved their weekly spot at the farmer’s market, but when the opportunity to sell their sandwiches at Coachella presented itself, they jumped. A few Craigslist searches and $2,500 later, they bought an old postal van and had it towed out to the Californian desert.

Coachella was a “sink-or-swim” event for them, which involved people lining up at 7 am and them accruing roughly 5,000 Twitter followers in one afternoon. It gave them the feeling that they were onto something, especially as the posts and mentions started to flood their feed—including a write-up in the New York Times that helped them expand their business.

It’s now been a decade since that write-up, and Natasha and Freya have since built Coolhaus into a multi-million dollar ice cream empire—without investing a lot of startup capital.

Their current line-up includes pre-packed pints emblazoned with names like ‘Sundae Fundae’ and ‘Midnight Munchies’. All of this came to be from a $3,000 investment, which included all ingredients and the Craigslist Van.

Still, it wasn’t a huge success financially until a few years in. In 2009, Natasha and Freya made about $100,000. The next year, they made $650,000. 2011 saw the opening of a brick-and-mortar store, an angel investor, and breaking $1 million in sales for the first time.

Since its inception, Coolhaus went from school project to farmer’s markets to Coachella, and later to partnerships with Whole Foods (full circle) and a projected $12 million in revenue in 2018.

Looks like this side hustle was just mint to be.

  • Coolhaus: Check out Coolhaus's tasty and creative creations on their site and order your own pint or sandwich today!

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"When we first got the idea to go to Coachella, we googled ‘hipster ice cream truck’ and came up with zero results. So we went ahead did it ourselves!"
—Natasha Case #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau