Coolhaus

I parked an old postal truck at Coachella and sold ice cream sandwiches out the window. Ten years later, my brand is a huge success — and these are the 5 tricks that made it all work.

Natasha Case, CEO and cofounder of Coolhaus. She launched the brand with her now-wife.
 Natasha Case
  • Natasha Case is CEO and cofounder of Coolhaus, an ice cream brand available in 7,500 stores.
  • She started her business in 2009 by converting an old mail truck into a food truck and driving it to Coachella, where she and her partner, Freya Estreller, sold handcrafted ice cream sandwiches to festival-goers.
  • Now, 10 years later, the brand is a success, and Case is reflecting on some hard-fought lessons she learned along the way.
  • For instance, it takes years to understand who you are, especially as a leader — and having the right people by your side is incredibly important.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be running an ice cream brand that now sells to over 7,500 stores nationwide, I never would have believed you. At the time, I was an architecture student with a budding interest in making ice cream sandwiches.

On a whim, in 2009 my partner and cofounder, Freya Estreller, and I decided to convert an old postal truck into a food truck and drive out to a desert music festival outside of Los Angeles. Our handcrafted ice cream sandwiches were an instant hit among festival-goers, and we knew we had to continue selling them after the event ended. It’s been a whirlwind since that weekend — even when we were both working multiple jobs and things got chaotic, we felt consumed by our passion, and driven to continue growing our business.

Now, over a decade later, I wanted to share the five biggest learnings I’ve taken away from the whole experience — not only in business, but in life.

1. Get scrappy

1. Get scrappy
The first truck.
 Courtesy of Coolhaus

When we were first getting started, our beaten down food trucks often struggled to get from point A to point B. After we decided that we’d make our debut at the music festival, we had to convince our friends to come work with us in exchange for festival tickets. Whether you’re running your own business or not, success in any capacity requires a bit of scrappiness. Being willing to roll up your sleeves, problem solve on your own, and ask for help are all necessary attributes to get anywhere in life.

2. Find the right partners to have by your side

2. Find the right partners to have by your side
Natasha with her partner and cofounder, Freya Estreller, and their son.
 Courtesy of Coolhaus

Running a successful business is all about surrounding yourself with the right people. It’s important to build a team that motivates and inspires you on a daily basis, and to work with partners that support your journey from day one.

As small business owners with little entrepreneurial background, we sought out resources that made the process simpler. We worked withLegalZoom, which was affordable and easy-to-use, to officially set up our business as an LLC. When it came time to find investors, we partnered with those who were willing to let us push boundaries — milkshake and fries ice cream, anyone? In life, too, I’ve learned how important it is to have a supportive network and think about who’s in your corner.

3. Know that life is meant to be unbalanced

3. Know that life is meant to be unbalancedCourtesy of Coolhaus

In the early years of Coolhaus, the business fully ran my days — I devoted 100% of my time and energy to my business to make it as wonderful as I knew it could be. Luckily, I was romantically involved with my cofounder (my now wife!), so it made it possible to be together and keep the business going. Eventually, Freya decided to move on from the day-to-day of Coolhaus — and although that was challenging, it was the biggest and best step for our relationship and the company.

I always say (if you decide to work with your romantic partner, friend or family member) the business has to be bigger than a relationship and the relationship has to be bigger than the business. Now, I feel like I’ve gotten to a place of really great creative and business focus and balance with my personal life. I have an excellent team around me, so I’ve been able to start our family (we have a 2-year-old son and are working on kid number two!) and just enjoy the things I love outside of my love for leading Coolhaus. Although you may come across a few chaotic moments, you have to learn to accept that life is not about a “perfect” equilibrium, but rather how you define your own happiness — and you just have to enjoy the ride.

4. It takes years to understand who you are, especially as a leader

4. It takes years to understand who you are, especially as a leaderCourtesy of Coolhaus

As an entrepreneur, being the face of a brand can feel intimidating, especially when you’re growing over the years. As a leader, discovering your management style takes years, too. In the beginning, it really was a case of faking it until I made it. Confidence is everything — even if you don’t always know what you’re doing, being bold and self-assured will help you become the type of leader you aspire to be. That’s not to say that you’ll always get it right. Leaning in to obstacles and uncomfortable moments are excellent opportunities to learn and evolve. And having the humility to admit and learn from your mistakes will get you a long way.

5. Bumps in the road are inevitable

5. Bumps in the road are inevitableCourtesy of Coolhaus

The main thing I’ve taken away from this journey is to expect roadblocks, no matter how well you plan. The nature of running a startup is that you’re going to have obstacles, whether it’s a broken-down truck or getting turned down by investors. By embracing challenges and taking setbacks in stride, you’ll realize just how capable you are — whether in the workplace or outside of it.

At the end of the day, if your side hustle or passion keeps you up at night, if you have a compelling story, and if others believe in what you’re doing, it’s worth pursuing. Whatever you’re doing in life, trust your gut — there will always be discouraging people you come across, but with a little grit, self-confidence and the right team, you can succeed.

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Food truck permits parked for now

MB passed first reading expanding number of trucks from six to 20

MB food truck

The 2018 Myrtle Beach Food Truck Festival was for two days. The 2019 festival is slated for April 26-28 off Ocean Boulevard between 8th Avenue North and 9th Avenue North. More than 15,000 people are expected. It’s free to attend.

Myrtle Beach City Council passed the first reading expanding the number of permitted food trucks in the city from six to 20, increased the locations where the food trucks can do business and decreased the permit fees.

As the lid is lifted again on the food truck ordinance, old arguments bubble up.

Heather Gray, general manager of The Market Common, urged city council members to reconsider the 20 permits and the distance food trucks can set up near restaurants. She said numerous food trucks could harm the business of traditional brick and mortar restaurants and the ability of building managers to rent out restaurant space.

“I’m asking you to be mindful,” she said, “of the restaurant owners and their investment here.”

But this time the investment issue isn’t limited to brick and mortar types.

Food truck owner Kerry Ragland of Kurbside Katering asked the council to reconsider including food carts in the expanded ordinance because the investment average is “$2,000 or less” and he fears the 20 first-come-first-serve permits will be given to carts and not trucks.

Food trucks operate with clearance from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. They are, basically, mobile kitchens. A food cart is more mobile and can fit into smaller areas on private property.

While passing the first of two readings on the expanded ordinance, the council asked Planning Director Carol Coleman to come back in a few weeks with a few clarifications.

Coleman said the city adopted a pilot program last year that allowed only six food trucks in the city restricted to highway commercial zones and to be at least 500 feet from existing brick and mortar restaurants.

The planning commission reviewed the pilot program, held public hearings and conferred with food truck operators to submit the expanded pilot program ordinance in the Tuesday council meeting.

Coleman said the expanded areas the trucks may be allowed include entertainment areas such as city parks and near Grand Strand Medical Center.

She said the ordinance cuts the distance between a restaurant and a food truck to 300 feet, which represents half a city block in the downtown area.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said the program has been a success and moves the city closer to its goal of being progressive and bringing life to public areas.

“When we did the food truck festival, there were a lot of restaurants that were concerned that it would hurt their business,” Bethune said. “What they actually found out was that it increased their business and we’ve seen that happen in other cities. I think that when we look at being a progressive city and revitalization, we have to consider some of these things that other cities do very successfully to attract people to our downtown.”

The food truck festival is not associated with the ordinance as it is a special event. The city council approved a special event permit and the city’s co-sponsorship of the 2019 festival during the Tuesday meeting. The festival is set for April 26-28. There were 41 food truck vendors at the 2018 festival and the list of 59 vendors is growing, city leaders pointed out.

“I think the two can complement each other and I think this adds to what we’re trying to do with our revitalization and being progressive,” Bethune said. “That’s just my two cents.”

Coleman said she will return to the city council in a few weeks with specific city parks where food trucks will be allowed and she will clarify what size city blocks are in the downtown versus the Market Common area.

She reminded the council that each site a truck wants to set up to do business has to be pre-approved rather than an ordinance that allows food trucks at any city park.

She said food trucks and food carts differ from ice cream trucks and shaved ice carts because the carts aren’t subject to as many restrictions as food trucks. Most ice cream trucks, she said, serve pre-packaged ice cream and fall under different regulations.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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FRESNO’S PRO CULINARY GIVES ‘MIDDLE-THIRD’ CHEFS A SPACE

Photo by Edward Smith Mike Cook calls himself a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. He opened Pro-Culinary with Matthew McComas and George and Adam Temple.

Published On February 15, 2019 – 4:26 PM
Written By Edward Smith

The pitch Mike Cook at Pro Culinary gives to newly graduated culinary students is they have two options if they want to continue in their field. One, get a corporate job working $13 an hour, he says, or the second, open their own restaurant with $500,000 that might not last a year.

Wanting to provide a third option, Cook and his business partners opened a full-service commercial and commissary kitchen.

Photo via Pro Culinary
Photo via Pro Culinary

 

Pro Culinary officially opened its doors Thursday in Downtown Fresno. Cook hopes the 2,300 square-foot building provides a space for the “middle-third” of chefs and caterers who’ve outgrown the cottage industry, but aren’t yet ready for their own space.

Members rent out professional kitchen space and a brick-laden, modern tasting room for clients who want to take their business to the next level. There is cutlery and plenty of serving dishes available for events. They have refrigerators, mobile stoves and ovens, and enough space for two clients and eight staff to be working out of the kitchen at the same time, with another four kitchens “coming soon” – once the City of Fresno approves the new additions.

Everything in Pro Culinary was designed with a purpose, says Cook. The tables and the dividers between them are all on wheels to easily rearrange for events. Retractable extension cords hang from the ceiling for a chef needing a stick blender in a pinch. They’ve even plumbed in lines in the sink to quickly dispense water and detergent in the correct ratios for cleaning by Department of Health standards.

“Nobody has this kind of firepower in the Valley,” Cook said.

What Cook calls their “flagship” is a tasting room that can seat around 40 people comfortably. Members can use the space for anything from pop-ups restaurants to giving brides-to-be a place to sample a caterer’s food.

“You can bring your clients right here, you can cook right there,” Cook said.

It was there that Pro Culinary held its soft opening on Feb. 9 where friends and family of the partners arrived as well as some notable names including Craig Scharton, who is known for his work with the Downtown Fresno Partnership, and H. Spees, a member of Mayor Lee Brand’s administration.

In 2012, Cook said he and business partner Matthew McComas began working on the idea of a commercial kitchen in the Central Valley.

Cook was a teacher for Fresno Unified School District and McComas was a physician’s assistant. They met at a restaurant in Clovis and got to talking about their experiences in the culinary industry. Despite all the background each of them had in restaurants, they both concluded the money was in catering.

Catering is an easy way for chefs to get into the industry with little overhead, said Wayne Fox, division manager of environmental health with the Fresno County Department of Health. But in order to serve events legally, one of the requirements is that chefs work out of approved spaces. The same goes for food trucks.

In Fresno County, there are about 460 food trucks ranging from hot-dog carts to 10-wheeler full service vehicles. Additionally, there are 116 caterers in the county beside the restaurateurs who are already approved to serve outside their space, according to the Health Department.

Getting the idea off the ground took the duo six years, with plenty of road bumps.

“Every time we got close, we ran out of money,” Cook said.

To fundraise, Cook and McComas opened up Trendy Pasta Co. on Mariposa Street in Downtown Fresno. With the restaurant they paid rent, Cook said, and with their catering business, they grew a nest egg.

But soon after, they found investors in George and Adam Temple, who own the space where Pro Culinary operates.

Cook bills himself as a “culinary agent,” and his ideal client is the professional who wants to move a step above working in people’s backyards serving hot dogs without a license, he says. These are the people “turning down money because they don’t have a facility.”

The agent part of his job includes farming out potential clients for members. Going out to bridal and trade shows are great places to find customers, Cook says. For certain members he even offers plans that include dish washing, saving people hours of work for which they would otherwise have to pay. He offers help developing menus and price points for people who haven’t gotten that far in their business plan.

“Just because you’re a great chef doesn’t mean you have a great business acumen,” said Cook.

“I’m here to fill that gap,” he added.

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Former Gov. Brown’s street vendor bill forces Avalon staff’s hands on food carts

Former Gov. Brown’s street vendor bill forces Avalon staff’s hands on food carts

CATALINA ISLAND—Crescent Street, known as Front Street by locals, might be seeing a few new street vendors in the future due to bill passed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 17, 2018.

The bill, known as SB 946, decriminalizes street vending on sidewalks. Members of Avalon’s City Council were less than thrilled about this since city staff, in the past, took measures to avoid overcrowding by street vending.

Brown’s mandate decrees California cities can no longer ban vending in parks, cities cannot determine where vendors operate (unless there is a health, safety or welfare concern) and vendors are no longer required to ask local business owners for permission to sell competing goods.

In June 2018, council members had rejected a proposal by Jerry Dunn, who filed a permit to sell Scoop’s Frozen Lemonade from a cart near Green Pleasure Pier. In a report to council members, one of the reasons for the rejection was due to public outcry that the vendor would be competing with local ice cream shops near the water that pay high rent costs.

Council member Pam Albers mentioned the city of Los Angeles might be taking measures against the bill and recommended that Avalon should consider looking into options for “no vending zones” on Front Street.

Council members reluctantly approved a resolution for sidewalk vendors in Avalon for the purposes of having some guidelines in place, but scheduled further discussion in the future for a more comprehensive program regarding street vendors.

Vendors wishing to operate on Catalina would need to submit name and contact, business place, a seller’s permit, Avalon-approved business license, encroachment permit, show proof of liability insurance and proof of compliance with Los Angeles County Health and Safety Department.

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New program to turn Austin’s homeless panhandlers into downtown street vendors

New program to turn Austin’s homeless panhandlers into downtown street vendors could launch by end of summer

For more than two decades, Alan Graham, chief executive at Mobile Loaves and Fishes, has helped shape the community’s response to helping the homeless through innovative shelter and resource initiatives.

Now Graham wants to target panhandling by lifting the barriers between the community’s poorest individuals and entrepreneurship. A new program he hopes to launch by the end of summer would provide willing homeless community members with backpacks and carts filled with ice cream or water bottles to sell throughout downtown.

It would be a way to turn back time, Graham said, to the days when he first moved to Austin in 1976 and saw no panhandling, but rather men and women selling goods and trying to earn a living.

“Today, through occupational licensing regulation, we have virtually outlawed entrepreneurialism for people who live in extreme poverty,” Graham told the downtown commission Feb. 20. “The only remaining bastion of entrepreneurialism is the First Amendment right to beg.”

The program aims to cut down panhandling downtown by between 50 and 80 percent. With the right crowd, Graham said a person participating in the vending program could make $20-$30 per hour.

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo, who represents almost all of Austin’s downtown area, said she is “100 percent supportive.”

“I believe it’s a well-thought-out program and one that empowers individuals to be their own business person and interact with people who can benefit from a cold drink or snack in the Austin summer heat,” Tovo said.

Tovo said the city has food-handling and food-sales licensing regulations “for good community reasons” but said she is interested in having further conversations about them.

Crucial to the program is a partnership with the First Baptist Church of Austin. Graham said Mobile Loaves and Fishes would set up a 40-foot shipping container in the surface parking lot on the other side of Ninth Street and turn it into a home base for the vendors. The vendors will each have either a backpack or a mobile cart with Mobile Loaves and Fishes branding. Graham said he hopes the program will find enough success for wider expansion throughout downtown.

“It would make our town a cool place to be where men and women are running around, being purposeful and economically driven,” Graham said.

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The Killer Cost to Party Rental Companies

“Why isn’t my party rental business making more money?” you may be asking yourself. After all, the party rental industry is a $5 billion industry and it’s only growing. Business owners are looking for ways to get a bigger piece of that pie. Of course, there are many ways to grow your event rental business, but one of the main things to look at when you want to increase your margins is what is already costing your business the most money. Ask, “How can I reduce that cost” or “How can I amplify my ROI on my current costs?”

When it comes to what is costing the event rental businesses the most money, the answer is simple: Wages.

“Wages are estimated to account 35.2% of total industry expense in 2015” according to the IBIS World Industry report.

The reason is that this industry is complex and requires a lot of jobs. However, when you examine the list of duties IBIS World reviews, it’s easy to pick apart the areas where you can cut down on human labor and transfer duties elsewhere. They list the following as the top needs for human resources:

  • Assisting with transporting equipment
  • Setup, tear down, and storing equipment
  • Administrative work
  • Sales
  • Marketing

While the first two jobs listed are clearly jobs that require human effort, all three of the others could be greatly reduced in terms of the human lift with the help of technology.

Administrative work often includes things like counting inventory items to see what you have in stock, or comparing quotes and contracts to avoid double bookings. With inventory software like Goodshuffle Pro, you’re completely crossing these time-consuming tasks off the to do list. Other admin tasks include following up on billing (automated through Goodshuffle Pro), filing contracts (automated through Goodshuffle Pro), and marking items in and out of inventory as they’re being repaired or laundered (all possible with Goodshuffle Pro!)

Sales tend to take more time in this industry because of the time consuming process of building and sending quotes and following up with clients to collect payment. Goodshuffle Pro helps you build quotes in seconds and takes online signatures and payments. This allows more time for your sales team to focus on selling big clients and less on these more tedious tasks. Plus, with the Goodshuffle Marketplace, your sales team isn’t having to build a quote because the consumer does it themselves! You receive a fully baked shopping cart and all you need to do is hit “approve”.

As for marketing, tons of small business owners struggle to educate themselves about building a website, SEO, and Google AdWords. Many are spending far more money than they should with very low results in terms of attracting new clients. What if you had a beautifully designed, e-commerce enabled marketing page on Goodshuffle.com that took your orders, marketed your brand (with direct links to your own site and your phone number) that cost you nothing for the added branding, marketing, and SEO? You’re basically hiring a marketing consultant and salesperson for $0.

If you’re already spending 35% of revenue on your employees, it’s time you got the most bang for your buck. Increase sales without increasing your staff. Starting at just $59/mo, you’ll be adding the cheapest salesperson you’ve ever had while increasing results from everyone from your drivers and installers, to your office staff.

Karen Gordon


Karen Gordon is the VP of Growth for Goodshuffle, an online marketplace for event rentals. She loves unique events, live entertainment, and puppies.

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What New York City Needs Is An Uber For Food Carts

I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy.

It’s a basic economic idea that we’re not too keen on people collecting economic rents. It’s a very strong corollary of that that we really, really, don’t like people being able to collect economic rents from manufactured scarcity. It’s not exactly desirable but understandable and probably, in the end, efficient that people are able to collect high rents from land in Manhattan. There’s isn’t all that much land in Manhattan after all, lots of people want to be there, so we’ve high demand and low and fixed supply. However, we weren’t all that happy when the right to drive a taxi cab in Manhattan cost $1 million a year.

That million was the capitalised cost of the annual rent that could be charged by the owner of a taxi medallion. Two 12 hour shifts, each rented out at some $40,000 for the year. Capital value: $1 million. The only reason a medallion had a value was because not enough were being issued. Medallions thus had an entirely manufactured scarcity value and that $80,000 a year was a purely manufactured economic rent. There was absolutely no benefit to anyone whatsoever other than the lucky owner of that medallion.

Along comes Uber which disdains even thinking about a medallion and we get this:

uber

This is, in economics, A Good Thing. We have reduced (in fact, are in the process of destroying) that rent arising purely from the artificial scarcity. As a result of someone, purely by means of owning an artificially scarce piece of paper, not getting that $80,000 a year either consumers or drivers are $80,000 a year better off. Hurrah!

Now, we’ve seen that happen: so, we should now be on the lookout for areas where we can do the same thing. Do we have an artificial scarcity somewhere? A scarcity caused solely and only by a paucity of permits being issued? That scarcity enabling the owners of the permits to scrape out an economic rent for themselves at no benefit to anyone else? That is, an economic rent that we’d be just delighted to go destroy?

Well, yes, it appears there is. Food carts in New York:

Even for bosses like Sharif, financial autonomy is not guaranteed. Though Sharif owns the actual food cart—“I built it three years ago,” he said—a portion of his earnings is sent to “a guy in New Jersey.”

According to records obtained by Crain’s through a Freedom of Information Law request, that guy is in all likelihood “Mr. Q.” While Sharif owns the food cart and his own vendor’s license, it’s Mr. Q who controls the mobile food vending permit—a tiny piece of adhesive plastic that makes this cart more than just a griddle on wheels. Without it, Sharif has no business.

Hmm.

“I own 35% of the cart,” Steve said proudly. “When I started 20 years ago, they paid me a salary.” It was unclear if Steve bought or earned a share in the cart; it was also unclear who “they” are. Like most of the vendors interviewed for this article, Steve wasn’t keen to elaborate on his business.

One thing is certain: The name on the permit is not his. Either like Sharif, Steve leases his permit from the legitimate owner—for upward of $10,000 a year—or that’s why he’s ceded nearly two-thirds of his business to silent partners.

People doing this is illegal of course but economics happens whether the law says it may or not.

So, what would we like to happen here? Quite clearly, we’d like the people doing the work to be getting the money, or perhaps the customers getting 50 cents off that ‘dog with everything. What we don’t want is someone who cornered the permit market to be making $10,000 a year off the fact that the city just won’t issue enough permits. Now, it’s not entirely obvious how we’re going to gee up the hot dog stand business with a piece of software but that’s not quite what I mean here by “Uber”. What I do mean is destroy the artificial restriction on supply generated by not issuing licences to all who desire them.

Thus all we really want is for New York City to issue more food cart licences. Forget all the guff and gubbins we get told about not enough room on the streets, potentially too many vendors and so on. If that happens then consumers benefit which is just fine. What we know is that the current restrictions create that rent for people who are doing absolutely nothing. And we really just don’t like rent capture from artificial scarcity.

So, yes, that’s what we do need: an Uber for food carts in New York City. Let’s go and destroy the leeches and parasites and allow the market to rip free.

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