Since I started Tipping Cow, I knew that I wanted to stay away from the traditional standbys of ice cream, and make exclusively unique and offbeat flavors. My mantra when coming up with flavors was always "anything but vanilla."
The fact remains, however, that people like vanilla. It is absolutely delicious and is a popular flavor for a reason! How was I to make a version of this flavor that everybody loves and yet remain true to my vision for Tipping Cow? So my challenge has been to make vanilla ice cream less "vanilla."
Our vanilla buttermilk ice cream is the perfect middle ground! It has the versatility of traditional vanilla, but the buttermilk gives it its own distinct flavor that you cant get anywhere else.
My Take Away: For your product to be special, you really don't have to reinvent the wheel; instead just focus on making the ordinary extraordinary. Take something that is already great and make it your own!
Tipping Cow is launching a social media add campaign to capture its brand identity of offbeat ice cream for offbeat people. This first mini commercial (a mere 7 seconds) was designed for platforms like Reddit and Vine, where you only have a few seconds to get people's attention.
Check it out below!
My Take Away: Have fun with your brand image, and don't try to force anything. If you are an offbeat, creative eccentric, (the description I prefer to use for myself rather than "weirdo,") run with it! Let Your brand be a reflection of yourself, and you'll have a much better time promoting it.
During the process of establishing Tipping Cow, I am constantly being reminded that although I am an entrepreneur, I am also a child. In starting a business, I am entering into a realm of adult things, like taxes, insurance policies, licensing, and all other sorts of grown-up madness that I don't know the first thing about. The other day I was feeling infantile, looking at insurance policies and understanding none of it. I called my mom and litterally opened with the line "Mom, I need an adult."
Every step along this process has brought new hurdles that I've had to learn how to jump. Little things, like putting a new plug on my ice cream maker turned into an entire electrical rewiring project to prevent my 220v appliance from burning down my 110v kitchen. Not knowing anything about anything electrical, I was blindsided. I was so excited when I had found a kitchen to rent and a batch freezer that I could afford, that I didn't realize that their voltages would make them incompatible.
The consequence of not knowing anything is that you learn a lot; it's really not such a bad deal. I made the mistake of buying an appliance with a high voltage, and as a result got to learn how to rewire an outlet (as well as learning the lesson to always check for voltage compatibilities). I feel extremely young and inexperienced every time I make one of these mistakes (mostly because I AM young and inexperienced) but every time I learn something unexpected, so it feels like a fair trade.
My Take Away: Messing up really isn't the worst thing If you are venturing into a field that is new to you, you're not going to know everything. There will be surprises, there will be mistakes, and there will be questions that you don't know how to answer. Every problem is surmountable, however, so accept that and move forward!
Trying to manage a new start-up can be extremely demanding of your time, energy, and brain power. Personally, I have gotten completely consumed by it, always asking myself, "What should I be doing right now to help Tipping Cow? How can I bring more people to the website? Get more customers? How can I improve my image? What should my next Twitter or Facebook post be?"
There is always something that you could be doing to improve your business. Always, always, always. And that is precisely why it is important, every once in a while, to do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Yesterday I did nothing, and it was everything I ever dreamed it could be. I had been needing a day to relax and get my mind away from Tipping Cow, but it was hard to justify taking one because I just kept thinking of a thousand things that I could be doing. I did it, however, and I'm so glad that I did. I carved pumpkins, put up halloween decorations, watched Clue (still the greatest movie ever made) did some long overdue laundry, and enjoyed a thoroughly business-free day.
My Take Away: Take a day off! Don't forget to relax every once in a while a do something that YOU want to do, rather than what you think your business wants you to do. You'll drive yourself crazy if you don't (I was getting close)!
About a month ago, I posted what I thought were going to be Tipping Cow's "official flavors," writing it on our website, on facebook, on twitter, and frankly onto my own consciousness, solidifying my vision for what I thought that Tipping Cow should be. I was pleased with them, and I stood strongly behind them all, feeling that they represented my best work; they were, after all, the products of months of thought and labor.
For these months, I had been experimenting with flavors and ingredients, playing around with combinations and applications, until I had "settled" on eight flavors that I loved. I had told myself that these were the flavors that I wanted to start with, and to use to build my brand, but I had a lot of trouble shifting my thoughts away from coming up with new ideas. Literally the day after I posted Tipping Cow's flavors, I came up with the idea for a Raspberry Rosemary ice cream, which I was super excited about. I couldn't just shove down a great idea each time it floated to the surface of my mind!
As much as I love and stand behind the flavors that I have under my belt (and I mean that in more ways than one), I know that I can come up with something even better. I've been playing around with browned butter, chai, butter milk, and dark stout, because there are so many fun things to make with all the crazy flavors out there! So my Products page is officially a work in progress, because if I'm doing my job, it will be changing constantly.
My Take Away: Don't get too comfortable and don't get stuck! You can always improve upon your product, and no decision has to be final if you don't want it to be. I wasted a lot of time thinking "Oh, well, I should probably establish these flavors in the market first before I start worrying about any others." But why? Chances are, I'll make something that I like better than a few of these, so why not see if I can?
So this kid tells an awesome story that I needed to share:
This is a boy and his date to his Junior prom. When he didn't find a date because all of the girls had already been asked, he didn't just sit it out, but took a fish instead.
Strange? Maybe. Genius? Definitely.
All of the other boys at the prom wanted to step in for a song to dance with his fish date, leaving him to dance with every girl at the prom in turn.
It's a great anecdote, but it's also really applicable to any entrepreneur. Things don't always work out the way that you originally planned; I know that they certainly haven't for me. At these times, adaptability is everything. When your vision comes to a roadblock that seems impassible, step back a bit to see the situation from a different viewpoint.
I'm currently facing an issue with making my vision profitable while maintaining the integrity of the brand that I've created. I need to find a way to make my product less expensive to make, without jeopardizing our brand's homemade quality or its commitment to using whole and natural ingredients.
It is not a problem which I have yet overcome, and I think that I really need to step back and reevaluate my current approach. Buying cheeper ingredients just to cut a few cents off of each dollar isn't the way to do it. The solution is out there, and I will find it; I just haven't looked at the problem from the right angle yet.
My Take Away: Take a fish to prom. Things don't always work out in the most obvious ways, but with a little ingenuity and a bit of insanity, get yourself where you want to go.
While I am adamant that getting some honest feedback from your friends and family is invaluable, there is sometimes nothing better than hearing what a complete stranger has to say about your work.
I recently participated in the West Parish Church's chocolate fair to support the Re-mission Mission, bringing with me my Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt ice cream. The event was set up in a way in which no one really knew who brought what, and everyone was just enjoying the food and each other's company.
As a budding entrepreneur, this gave me a unique opportunity to hear what people thought of the ice cream without knowing that it's maker was sitting right next to them. It was great, because no one had to lie or sugar-coat anything!
I heard a lot of encouraging things, but honestly my single favorite moment was when a little girl, couldn't have been older than 6, took a bite of the Dark Chocolate & Sea Seat ice cream. Wincing, she spit it out, scrunched up her face, and gasped "It's salty! Why is it so salty?!" I died laughing. It was great.
Kids don't bother with tact, and neither do strangers; and if you can get a kid who is also a stranger to tell you how they feel, it is like a perfect harmony of brutal honesty.
It's not all bad, though; when I got home, I had received an email from a family who had won a raffle of an assortment of Tipping Cow ice creams:
We just love your ice creams!!! One is better than the next!!!!!! We won the raffle at West Parish Church in Andover and just wanted to let you know how great your product is.
My Take Away: Get yourself some honest opinions. The worst that will happen is that a little kid will put you in your place, and the best that will happen is that a complete stranger will make your day! Thanks Grangers!
It is no shock to anyone that, as a food startup, testing and tasting flavors is an unavoidably important step. No surprises, it has also been my favorite step. It's great; I get to eat 10 flavors of ice cream in one sitting and call it work. Tough life.
A funny thing happened though: just as many restaurant chefs get immune to certain flavors (salt of course being the most common), I was becoming immune to certain elements of my ice cream. Luckily, I had not fallen into the restaurant chef's trap of over-salting everything (in the case of ice creams this would be particularly disgusting), however I has no longer phased by the intensity of the flavors or their richness, having tried them each so many times. I found that each time that I went to make the ginger berry or strawberry basil I wanted more and more flavor, always adding more ginger and basil respectively, until, unbenounced to me, they were way too strong, the flavors all but slapping you in the face when you ate them.
Which is why you need tasters: friends or family selfless enough to dedicate themselves to the grueling task of eating some of your ice cream every once in a while and telling you what they think. A fresh perspective is worth so much when developing you own food product (or any product for that matter).
It is surprisingly easy to fall so in love with your own creation that you brush off any critique that you don't agree with, and choose to only hear the positive feedback. I have certainly struggled with this. I have worked really hard on developing my flavors, and when someone says that they don't like one, my gut reaction is to say "well what do you know?" I am protective of my work, however when I stop and listen to what they actually have to say, it is when I have learned the most.
My Take Away: Throw your pride away and listen to your friends. They are the public, and that's where your consumer is. In all fairness, they may not be your target market, but they will be able to tell you what tastes good when you are no longer able to be impartial.
Everything needs to start somewhere, and Tipping Cow started right on my living room floor. My "home office" currently consists of piles of papers, boxes of labels and pint containers, and a lot of patience from my roommate, Kaitee.
Tipping Cow is like a living creature, growing, and creeping across the apartment, slowly engulfing any available space.
It started in the kitchen:
-I monopolized the stove top as I first tested recipes.
-Then, naturally, these batches needed to be frozen (the successful ones, anyway, which didn't get chucked in the trash); so the freezer was packed with pints of ice cream, being made way faster than we could eat them.
-When the freezer just couldn't hold any more, and it was literally overflowing with ice cream, I had to get a box freezer...which had to go somewhere.
So it then moved to the living room:
-The box freezer set up shop right in the center of the living room, in the way of everything, and right next to the piles of labels and empty pint containers.
-Making the labels is also a whole process which spreads itself out ALL over the floor, making it impossible to walk around the apartment.
Not sure where Tipping Cow is going to find itself next, but it will surely find itself a new home soon, it is running out of space here!
My take away: A new business is like a gold fish. (Bear with me through this metaphor, it has a point.) When you put a gold fish in a small tank, it stays small, because it has no room to grow. Put it in a bigger tank, and it grows bigger to fill that tank. A new business is the same way. It wants to grow, but can't if you don't give it the space and attention that it needs. I am going to keep giving Tipping Cow more and more space and see where we can go. I'll keep you posted :)
About This Blog
Starting a food business has been exciting, rewarding, stressful, terrifying, and without a doubt the most fun I have ever had. I write here to share with you my struggles and successes in this journey.
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