When I moved to Los Angeles for college, I discovered a way to combine my interest in exploring a new city with my love of all things sweet: I sought to get to know LA through its many eclectic dessert places. I was particularly excited when I stumbled upon one dessert destination that was co-founded by an alumnus of my school, UCLA.
Coolhaus, which specializes in ice cream sandwiches, started as many small food businesses do today—as a food truck. The co-founders Natasha Case and Freya Estreller premiered their ice cream and cookie business at the Coachella Valley Music Festival back in 2009. Since then, the company has grown rapidly to include 10 mobile trucks and carts nationwide (five in Southern California, two in NYC and five in Dallas), as well as two Southern California storefronts.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting their Culver City storefront. While tasting some of their innovative ice cream flavors (like Whiskey Lucky Charms and Dirty Mint Chip), I spoke to Case about their business.
Can you tell me a little bit about your educational / professional background?
I went to Berkeley and did a concentration in architecture and double minored in urban planning and Italian studies. And then I did my masters in architecture at UCLA. During school, I studied abroad in Italy so that’s where my interest in gelato really developed. I basically started Coolhaus as a side passion while I was working at Disney Imagineering and now it’s become a force to be reckoned with in the ice cream aisle.
How did you come up with the name Coolhaus?
Coolhaus is a triple entendre- named after Rem Koolhaas, my personal favorite architect. Then obviously “cool” is nice and fun but also signifies something cold and house is spelled “haus” so it’s a play on Bauhaus, an architecture movement in the 1920s. The sandwiches are also like little modern houses, as well.
What has been your favorite part about being an entrepreneur and running your own business?
I like how no two days are alike, I’m always kind of up to different things. Going to business development meetings, working on sales and the merchandising, travelling for work. You can also take a break when you need it, not when it’s required.
I really love that you control your own day and destiny and it is what you make of it. If you’rereally passionate and want to make something you believe in then you can make that happen.
What does it mean to not only have created your own job but create jobs for someone else?
I think that’s one of the most powerful things. You come up with a crazy architecturally inspired ice cream sandwich idea and now up to 50 people a year make their living off of that. It’s incredible that people will devote their time to make your vision and your dream a possibility, and you couldn’t do it without them.
What is your favorite culinary creation so far?
Our menu right now, which is called Dessert Island, is pretty awesome. We have a Blue Hawaiian ice cream that’s blue curacao, rum, pineapple, coconut, with a candied pineapple swirl. We have a freeze dried strawberry margarita which is awesome, as well. I love the tropical flavors where you take one bite and it feels like you’re on vacation.
One of your innovative products is an eco-friendly edible wrapper that can be branded. How did you come up with this idea?
I credit that to the architectural thinking because you’re always thinking about how to push the envelope in design school and how to use design to solve a problem.This was about being on the streets of LA and not always having a trashcan.
With an edible wrapper, you soak up all the drippings of the ice cream sandwich and then pop that in your mouth if you can’t find a trashcan. It eliminates waste and helps us not be responsible for trash when we’re leaving a site that we’ve served at. Also, we can brand it with edible ink, which is great.
What are your future plans for Coolhaus?
Well we continue to grow in our retailers and our products on the shelf. We’re launching new Coolhaus deep dish which is like a deep dish ice cream cookie pie. We’re also launching what we call “wookies” which are like an Oreo meets a whoopie pie that are just straight cookies, not even in the freezer isle.
And we’re continuing to add retailers internationally, expanding to Asia and the Middle East and looking into Europe and Australia.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I would say, “Think big,” especially women. Don’t just think about how this going to launch and the day to day. What’s this going to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be in 10 years? What’s your legacy going to be?
It’s so important to think really big and then you can scale it down because you’re going to have to anyway. Overall, my advice: The sky’s the limit.