Last week, to kick off “Be Legendary,” our weekly series celebrating local legends in cities around the world, we introduced you to stellar photographer Anna Wolf, who shot the campaign for SLS Las Vegas. This week we meet ice cream entrepreneurs Natasha Case and Freya Estreller of Coolhaus. Their business, which started in a beat up old postal van at Coachella in 2009, now boasts two storefronts, 11 mobile ice cream trucks operating in 4 states, and their ice cream concoctions (which include flavors like balsamic fig and mascarpone) can be found in 1,500+ gourmet markets in over 40 states and will also be available at Umami Burger at SLS Las Vegas. Not only that, their handmade creations have an element of high-brow; the women have a background in design and real estate, and their treats are named after architects and architectural movements. Here, we talk to the duo about marrying food + architecture, and their quirky, drool-worthy flavors.
On getting into the ice cream biz:
Tash and I were 25 and 26 respectively when we started Coolhaus and had no food and beverage background. I was toying with the idea of culinary school and in the throws of a quarter-life crises, so Coolhaus was the perfect opportunity to cut our teeth in a new industry. I think that has a lot to do with what separates Coolhaus and Ludlows Cocktail Co. from traditional F&B companies. We come at it from a different background and angle (architecture/design for Tash and real estate development/finance for me) and use that to our advantage. We ask a lot of questions and don’t accept the status quo.
Tips for running a successful start-up:
Get your product/service out there, gather and measure feedback, and revise it to make if better. There’s great advice in the book The Lean Start-Up. Also in that vein, action not perfection: Don’t get stuck in analysis-paralysis. Finally, make sure [yours is] a valid business opportunity-meaning you’re filling a void in the market, disrupting one, or reinventing one.
Their career/company highlights:
Employing 70+ team members in three states. That type of community-building and job creation is very important to us. We like to promote from within and like to think we’ve created a culture of empowerment while celebrating everyone’s various passions.
Their business ambitions:
When we launched it was baby steps for us, like let’s just survive Coachella, our first ever event. But soon after that, it really hit us that this could be big business and a fun one at that. Ice cream is a $25b industry. If we can capture 1% of that in our lifetime, then why not, let’s give Ben & Jerry’s a run for their money and see how far we can take it with our wacky ice cream flavors, architectural slant, and roaming trucks.
The architectural influence:
I give Tash all the credit for this. She is an architect (seven years of architecture undergrad and grad school) and was making ice cream and cookies at home and naming them after architects as a sort of comic relief when the recession hit in late 2008. I thought it was hilarious and a fun art project and immediately wanted in.
Craziest ice cream sandwich combination:
Our Peking duck ice cream is pretty off the charts: Peking duck skins and rendered fat, hoisin sauce, Chinese five-spice base and crushed fortune cookies. It’s delicious.
I like our boozy ice creams and am partial to the Bourbon Manhattan ice cream and Gin & Tonic sorbet. Tash is still smitten with our dirty mint chip: fresh mint leaves, brown sugar and semi sweet chocolate chips, which was actually an accident because we ran out of white sugar and were too lazy to strain out the mint. It’s one of our most popular flavors in grocery and retail.
What #belegendary means to you:
It means leaving your unique mark on the world. We both run our businesses with that in mind. More importantly, we want to pay it forward and help other young and especially female entrepreneurs go out there, put it on the line, fail, get back up and overcome and achieve. I’ve given workshops on entrepreneurship and mentor at an after school program once a week. Hopefully we can be role models for this next generation.