How One of America’s Coolest Ice Cream Brands Was Built — Queer Table

– [Natasha] What’s funny is people will say if Coolhaus were a person, what would you picture? And for some reason I always picture a gay man. (laughs) Even though we’re two female lesbian founders. – We googled “hipster ice cream truck” and nothing came up. – Nothing came up. I also think we just didn’t feel represented on the shelf. Definitely as millennials and definitely as young women, there’s just nothing that really spoke to us and we saw all the Kogi Korean trucks creating a viral following and really getting people so excited, generating a ton of buzz. – Yeah, we found a beat up postal van – [Natasha] With no engine – (laughing)

Yes. – So basically, instead of getting a U-Haul, we got an ice cream truck. – On Craigslist. (laughing) – [Natasha] Alright! We’re all together. One, two, three! (cheering) (clapping) – You caught it! – Coolhaus is a queer-founded and led ice cream company. We are artisanal, unique, innovative ice cream brand known for our pints and sandwiches. We started from ice cream trucks and we expanded to scoop shops and now grocery distribution. We really want Coolhaus to be the household brand of our generation. So, our first date, I brought an ice cream sandwich, although it melted.

The next day she professed her love for me and we essentially started making the ice cream sandwiches. We thought, we really need an amazing, giant event to launch out. So, we reached out to Coachella and we just literally, I mean we just did not stop begging them to let us in. And I think they finally just got so annoyed (laughing) by telling us no that they gave up and said yes. So we’re into Coachella but remember, the truck has no engine. We figured out that if we joined AAA Platinum we got one free 200 mile tow.

So the morning of Coachella, we pretended the truck broke down even though it never drove. – We shed some fake tears (laughing) – [Natasha] And they towed us to Coachella and that is how we launched Coolhaus. – Starting the business and our relationship at the same time was actually really romantic. When we first started Coolhaus, no one knew that we were gay. I don’t think people knew that we were a couple. – Right around gay marriage becoming legal nationally was the time that I think we started to be much more forward with it. We had a publicist for our cookbook, he really asked are you comfortable with me putting the story out there?

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And we said yes. ‘Cause I think you do also sometimes need to make a conscious decision when you’ve already been in business. Let’s actually go and share this story and not wait for people to come to us. And I think that’s also around the time when it started changing. – And times have changed, in general. – [Natasha] So for Coolhaus to come out as a business is awesome. The more comfort you have with your identity and who you are, and sharing it, and making it a non-issue, is great. – [Producer] What was one of the first flavors you created? – [Natasha] Dirty Mint was definitely one of the early ones. That recipe actually calls for light brown sugar in the base and the whole reason for that is that we just ran out of white granulated sugar and we were too lazy to go to the store and pre- on-demand shopping, no Postmates back in those days, no Instacart.

The recipe that we created using fresh mint leaf but we were supposed to strain the mint leaves out and we just put them in loose and we also got too lazy to do that. When it was done we just found that it tasted amazing that way and that’s why it’s called Dirty Mint, not because it fell on the floor but because there’s an earthiness to it almost like a Moroccan mint tea idea. So the lesson in that story is laziness leads to success. (laughing) So in the first year Coolhaus grew a lot and we just really kinda held on to the reins and ran that first ice cream truck as much as we could and got it all over town. I do remember calling Freya like, “Can’t you see this? I can picture this really going all the way.” But I don’t think I knew what that meant in a concrete sense.

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We got to know each other and got close extremely quickly and the bond just became so, so strong. And then I also think in a business for it to work you have to be able to hash it out. So I think because we did have such a strong relationship and so much love, we’re really able to… You have to have fierce conversations but then get to a higher ground. – I think leaving back in 2013 it was kind of a very emotionally-charged moment. I remember we had this dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. – Angelini. – I told Natasha something really upsetting. I said, “I don’t believe in you as CEO of Coolhaus any longer.” There was a huge blowout, both of us stormed, one of us stormed out. – We don’t remember who. – One of us walked home. I got on my computer and emailed our other business partner and was like, “I can no longer work for Natasha.” –

You were truly done. – For the next three to four months after that I literally sat in my bed and watched– – You watched every SVU. – 21 seasons of “Law and Order: SVU.” (laughs) – Freya said to me she didn’t believe in me as a CEO, for some people that could be a relationship-ender. I took that as a kick in the ass to say, “You know what, I could be even better and stronger and I could evolve more to be that best CEO.” And I knew deep down when things are said in the heat of an argument, they’re exaggerated or they’re not always meant. I was leaning on her for a lot of certain responsibilities. When she stepped away I was like, “Okay well I’m responsible for this and I’m gonna learn it.” (laughing) – I’m very proud that she is still our CEO. – Thank you. – And has grown the business since then. – I know you’re proud of me. – [Natasha] First we kinda scaled the trucks, expanded in L.A. but also in other cities, Texas and New York. And then about two, three years into the business we wanted to revisit the channels that we felt we really didn’t even understand, which was scoop shops and grocery. And so we opened our flagship store in Culver City and now we have one in Old Town and Dallas.

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And then we wandered into a Whole Foods and asked, how do we get our ice cream sandwiches on the shelf? And we started in three Whole Foods and really grew that business tremendously to about 6,000 doors in every state and we’re also in Middle Eastern and Asian countries and the Cayman Islands. It’s really cool when you go into a store and you see your product there, especially in stores where you didn’t expect it, like we’re sold at the little market in the Grand Canyon. I remember thinking. when we get on the shelf at Whole Foods we’ll be like, “We’ve done it.

” Thank you so much. Look what we got, oh! Coolhaus has just continued to grow incredibly ever since even that first year. Freya and I like to say we’re “gateway gays.” You can just put the “gay” in gateway. Growing is a huge learning experience and I think the whole key and your coat of armor as an entrepreneur is you really have to just fail fast, but it’s important that you take the positive of it, apply that, and then just you have to say, this didn’t work and live with that and what’s next? If you really look back and think about this wild, wild idea that was a huge risk, that was so tiny and was so out there, and if you could fast-forward from that initial feeling to where we are now, I mean, it would be astonishment. I think it’s a huge honor to be a founder and a CEO and be given the leadership to be able to move the dial and take it where it needs to go. I absolutely love what I do so I’m very lucky.