“You don't know what you don't know until you're in it.”
Says Emily Harpster in our recent conversation about the growth of her ice cream brand, SugarBear Cville.
And she is right. You really don’t know what you’re getting into unless you try it. No amount of planning and studying will make you totally ready (but of course, careful planning and strategizing will help a lot in managing your business)—because some things will always come as a surprise! Before Emily launched her craft food business, what she didn’t know was how fast her brand would grow, how many flavors she could offer, the number of collaborations she would encounter, and how ice cream is an all-season favorite! But all these are sweet surprises Emily welcomed with open arms, and she’s ready for more!
In the third installment of our “Year of ice cream,” Emily opens up with the challenges that come with the growth of a new brand, how she manages all the rapid changes as a solopreneur, and how ready she is to continuously share the SugarBear Cville brand through many more channels.
It’s really a delight to witness a Good Food brand’s growth and success!
Virginia Foodie Essentials:
- One of the nice things about launching a small business in a community like Charlottesville is it’s very community-focused and small-business friendly. A lot of people are in small businesses and are eager to see others succeed doing the same thing. - Emily Harpster
- My confidence and competence have grown a lot. I've been able to unleash my creative part a little bit more because I'm less stressed about making the product. I've figured out how to [make ice cream] in a much more efficient way than I did in the beginning. - Emily Harpster
- You can kind of relax at a certain point. You can let the creative stuff fly a little bit more. - Emily Harpster
- One of the big concepts with SugarBear is that ice cream is a platform and food is a way of building community. - Emily Harpster
- There is a sacrifice and there is a trade-off, but not being on that wheel allowed me some creativity and flexibility to do things with the product that I don't think I would otherwise be able to do. - Emily Harpster
- With new businesses, you know you're making mistakes; you know that you're not getting everything perfect on the first try. But you just gotta keep at it. Like, in writing a book, you just gotta get up and write every morning. Some mornings it's gonna be great, and some mornings it's not gonna be so great. Over time, you build a rhythm and it does get better. - Emily Harpster
Key Points From This Episode:
- Emily Harpster is back on the podcast to talk about the recent improvements of her craft ice cream brand, SugarBear Cville.
- SugarBear Cville is a Good Food brand manufacturing ice cream from locally-sourced ingredients.
- Emily has been able to grow her food brand in part because of support from the tight-knit community of Charlottesville, Virginia.
- During the fourth quarter of 2022, Emily realized that summer is not solely the “big season for ice cream.” With the right retail business connections, ice cream can become an all-season bestseller.
- Playing with seasonal flavors and themes for the holidays has become Emily’s way to keep SugarBear Cville’s product line interesting and enticing all year round.
- Narrowing down the flavors to a standard set plus adding a rotation of seasonal flavors has become a promising strategy for SugarBear Cville to maintain predictable cost controls.
- Since one of the missions behind this Good Food brand is to build community, SugarBear Cville has been active in collaborating with other brands and businesses. She recently did a kitchen takeover with Bowerbird Bakeshop, gave the flavor of the month proceeds back to a local nonprofit, and is currently planning a collaboration with Charlottesville High School through their urban farming program.
- As a solopreneur, Emily is still learning to balance the growth of her brand and the volume of units she can produce and sell. But she has developed systems that work for her now, and she can adapt them as her company grows.
- Emily has outlined her next steps for growth: maximizing her reach in Charlottesville and extending it further, collaborating with the Farmer’s Market, and creating a collaboration in a unique space similar to a retail outlet. She also plans to widen her reach in social media and invest time in organizing her website.
- Like many small business startups, the biggest marketing challenge for SugarBear Cville is time.
Emily Harpster is the owner of SugarBear Cville, a very new, very fun, and very local ice cream brand in Charlottesville, Virginia. They make ice cream from scratch featuring local ingredients sourced throughout Central Virginia.
Connect with Emily Harpster/SugarBear:
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Note: We use AI transcription so there may be some inaccuracies
[00:00:00] Emily Harpster: One of the things that's been really fun for me is I'm getting to the part of the movie where I can layer in some of the other things I've been wanting to do from the beginning. So one of the big concepts with sugar bears that ice cream is a platform and food is a way of building community. I started with a focus on the ingredients.
[00:00:19] Emily Harpster: So trying to use ingredients that are either grown here or made. And now I'm starting to layer in some other pieces of the equation.
[00:00:31] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome to the Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift a lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered how did they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?
[00:00:51] Georgiana Dearing: Then we've got some stories for you.
[00:00:56] Georgiana Dearing: Hello, my foodie crew. Welcome back to the podcast. If this is your first episode, then thank you. I'm George Steering and I provide marketing strategy and coaching for good food brands. And today's episode is the third installment in a series of interviews with Emily Harpster from Sugar Bear Sea. She's the owner of a small batch ice cream brand in Charlottesville that is committed to using ingredients from Central Virginia.
[00:01:24] Georgiana Dearing: Emily first caught my attention because she started her good food business as wholesale, only selling her pints of ice cream to shops and cafes as products that they then sell at retail to their customers. You know, many food brands start with one-to-one sales at farmer's markets and pop-up event. And ice cream often starts as scoop sales, selling direct to consumer from trucks or from storefronts.
[00:01:51] Georgiana Dearing: But the product positioning and the language you use when selling to the end consumer is a little different from B2B sales. Making the mental transition to managing wholesale accounts can be quite a leap for some people. Emily's decision to strike out as a wholesale brand made me curious to know more about her and her approach to the good food.
[00:02:14] Georgiana Dearing: Because she started with wholesale accounts. She's solving all the B2B challenges with every decision she makes about her small company.
[00:02:29] Georgiana Dearing: Well, Emily, I wanna thank you so much for joining me. Again. This is the third of four installments where I have been talking to you about your business. Before the listeners who haven't joined us before, could you give a little introduction to say who you are and what you do?
[00:02:46] Emily Harpster: Sure. My name is Emily Harpster.
[00:02:49] Emily Harpster: I am the owner of Sugar Bear Ice Cream. It's a small batch ice cream company that launched out of Charlottesville, Virginia, almost a year ago, and the idea is to make small batch ice cream from scratch that showcases Central Virginia ingredient. And I am wholesale focused, so you can find it in stores in and around Charlottesville.
[00:03:10] Georgiana Dearing: is exactly why I had you on, because I spotted you and saw that you started out as wholesale, which a lot of food brands don't take that direction. But in our first episode, you talked about the challenges of launching a small brand, but you also got to share with us some of the incredible opportunities that you said landed in your lab.
[00:03:30] Georgiana Dearing: And I thought that was that Charlottesville connection for you.
[00:03:34] Emily Harpster: Yes, absolutely. One of the nice things about launching a small business in a community like Charlottesville is it's very community focused and small business friendly, and I feel like a lot of people are in small business and are eager to see others succeed doing the same thing.
[00:03:52] Emily Harpster: And so it's been a really nice positive experience in that way for.
[00:03:56] Georgiana Dearing: That is great about Charlottesville. I have noticed how many collaborations that I see pop up from area businesses. Yeah. But we
[00:04:06] Emily Harpster: talked, it's a tiny spot. for sure.
[00:04:08] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. . Well, we talked the first time before the big season for ice cream, and then by the second quarter, summer was over and you were looking at your product line and talking about simplifying some of it for the coming year and now our past Christmas.
[00:04:25] Georgiana Dearing: And the warm weather's coming up again and the silly season is gonna be here before you know about it. I like that, by the
[00:04:31] Emily Harpster: way, the silly season. That's great. Well, very appropriate. .
[00:04:36] Georgiana Dearing: Well, I mean, summer is like all hands on deck for ice cream, isn't it? Yes,
[00:04:41] Emily Harpster: it is. . It absolutely is. Although, it's funny, my husband, just this morning he was laughing at me.
[00:04:47] Emily Harpster: He was like, because December was my busiest. Oh yeah. And actually last week it keeps getting busier and he was like, people still eat ice cream when it's cold. And I was like, well, yeah, but I just didn't think it would be this much . So I think that I got a little bit of traction around the holidays. And so kind of like the rest of the year, I suppose, things haven't gone exactly how I thought they would in terms of narrowing the product.
[00:05:19] Emily Harpster: I do have it narrowed down. I have identified the bestsellers and I have started to offer those on repeat, but what I have also found at the same time is, My confidence and competence have grown a lot and that has sort of, I've been able to unleash the creative part of it a little bit more because I'm less stressed about just making the product, cuz I've kind of figured out how to do that in a, just a much more efficient way than I did in the beginning.
[00:05:46] Emily Harpster: And so yes, I've narrowed down the product line and there are definitely best sellers, and I know which ones they are, but I'm also still having fun and learning how to play with themes throughout the holidays. And now in February with Valentine's Day and next month, I have some fun things planned too.
[00:06:03] Emily Harpster: And so I think that there is an element of that that's just gonna remain a part of the menu for a while.
[00:06:10] Georgiana Dearing: Wow. So you've really been thinking about your product line quite a bit, and there's a lot that you shared in there that I wanna kind of pull out and ask a couple questions about. And the first one is like, why do you think that you got so busy in like the Christmas season?
[00:06:26] Georgiana Dearing: Was it just popularity growing or your product
[00:06:29] Emily Harpster: line? I think it was a few things. I think over the holidays people tend to have company visiting from out of town. Mm-hmm. or planning fun holiday menus and ice cream is kind of an easy, fun thing to outsource. Mm-hmm. . And it's nice to buy the local option if there is one.
[00:06:44] Emily Harpster: I think that that is part of it. I also think that I have slowly over time gotten a little bit better about sort of the social media and marketing thing. Mm-hmm. that started to kick into gear a little bit more. Yeah. And so I think that has been helpful. And I also think that just kind of like the being in stores where people were going to pick up other things over the holidays was really helpful.
[00:07:07] Emily Harpster: Oh yeah, you're going into Mariette to grab pastries for out-of-town guests and you see the freezer and you're like, okay, great. I'll grab something out of there. I think there was probably a lot of that had to.
[00:07:18] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, so there's a couple different aspects of it.
[00:07:21] Emily Harpster: Yeah, and I think that's part of what's going on this month too.
[00:07:24] Emily Harpster: So, well, two things. When it comes to REBA in particular, this is again tying back to the wholesale focused business model and some of the advantages of it. It's hot chocolate month, and a lot of people know and love hot chocolate month, which is the thing that Marie Beth does every year. There's a different flavor of hot chocolate every day, and people will come in just for.
[00:07:42] Emily Harpster: And they've also reopened their dining room, which has been closed throughout Covid, and so there's just a lot more foot traffic in that one location is one example of what's been going on.
[00:07:53] Georgiana Dearing: So that's kind of market changes that have really caused an increase, like Yeah, I would say so. Yeah. Well, the other thing that you talked about was your flavors.
[00:08:01] Georgiana Dearing: You've narrowed down to what your sort of standard flavors are. How many of those? I
[00:08:07] Emily Harpster: would say there are eight total. .
[00:08:12] Georgiana Dearing: Yes. And then you layer in seasonal flavors, right? Is that what you meant by the That's
[00:08:16] Emily Harpster: exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So peppermints stick at Christmas, for example. Okay. Is the kinda thing I would bring in on a seasonal basis.
[00:08:23] Georgiana Dearing: And so what are you doing right now? We're recording this right around the Valentine's season, so what are you doing now, first one?
[00:08:29] Emily Harpster: Sure. So I love a good theme and for Valentine's Day I'm selling boxes that have four special Valentine's Day flavors. So one is Queen of my Heart, raspberry queen of from Marie be with Raspberry jam from jam, according to Daniel.
[00:08:46] Emily Harpster: I've got Honey Pie, which has pieces of salted honey pie in it from the pie chest, which is another Charlottesville favorite. I've got Call Me Old Fashioned, which is sort of an ice cream play on the old fashioned cocktail, and it uses maple with whiskey from Spirit Lab distilling. It has whiskey stoked cherries, and a little bit of orange and bitters in the mixx.
[00:09:06] Emily Harpster: Oh, and then chocolate covered strawberry is the last one in that box. So those are sort of the, some of the theme flavors for this. .
[00:09:16] Georgiana Dearing: I'm curious, where are you sourcing your strawberries? It's such a hard thing to do this time
[00:09:20] Emily Harpster: of year it is. Well, and local strawberry. So my secret with that one is it's actually strawberry jam.
[00:09:26] Emily Harpster: So what I decided to do was to try and recreate what it feels like to bite into a chocolate covered strawberry. So it's got that nice jammy strawberry sweetness to it, and then big chunks of dark chocolate. The chocolate kind of falls off when you take a bite. So there's big pieces of it mixed into the ice.
[00:09:41] Georgiana Dearing: Well that's, see, you're getting very playful. I see
[00:09:44] Emily Harpster: that. It sounds, yeah, it's like the more, it's like the fun part. You can kind of relax at a certain point. I mean, not like relax, relax, but like you can kind of let the creative stuff fly a little bit more, I think after a few months in.
[00:09:55] Georgiana Dearing: And how many hands do you have now?
[00:09:57] Georgiana Dearing: Is it still just you? Still Just me. . . That may be the other reason why it's getting busier. ,
[00:10:05] Emily Harpster: right? you a little bit of that. Working on it. I'm working.
[00:10:10] Georgiana Dearing: So the next question I had for you, I have a little list of the listeners they'll know. I always try and prepare mm-hmm. , but I wanted to know about what other things have progressed for your business since we spoke.
[00:10:22] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah.
[00:10:22] Emily Harpster: One of the things that's been really fun for me is I'm getting to the part of the movie where I can layer in some of the other things I've been wanting to do from the. So one of the big concepts with Sugar Bear is that ice cream is a platform, and food is a way of building community. I started with a focus on the ingredients, so trying to use ingredients that are either grown here or made here.
[00:10:47] Emily Harpster: And now I'm starting to layer in some other pieces of the equation. So for example, this past month, I also did the first collaboration, or kind of like a kitchen takeover with Bauer Bird Bake Shop, where the owner came over and made a couple of flavors in the ice cream kitchen. Just sort of ideas that he had had that were sort of representative of what they do in that bakery.
[00:11:09] Emily Harpster: And that was really fun to have someone else in the kitchen with sort of a different approach, different skillset, different set of experiences. Um, what flavors were those? Those were really fun. So he did peanut butter miso. With peanut butter miso, rye cookies, and toasted sesame. Oh. And then he also did a golden milk, so he did two flavors.
[00:11:31] Emily Harpster: Oh, wow. Yeah, and they were like very, very, very delicious. And so that was a lot of fun. I'm hoping to do more of those and I'm starting to talk to some folks about stuff like that. Also, talking to Charlottesville High School has an urban farming program. Okay. And now is the time when lots of people are doing garden planning, including the urban farming program.
[00:11:52] Emily Harpster: And so there are some high schoolers here that I'm gonna work with that are gonna come up with a flavor. They're gonna grow the ingredient, and then I'm gonna make it, and we're figuring out the details now, but they're gonna help me with marketing. I'm not sure what that's gonna look like. We're gonna figure that out.
[00:12:07] Emily Harpster: that kind of stuff is really a lot of fun. So we'll see where that goes. I was able to loan out my old machine to one of my favorite restaurants here in Charlottesville table. Because they are launching a gelato program as part of their dessert menu. And so to be able to help them out and just kind of talk through some of the details has also been really just a lot of fun.
[00:12:30] Emily Harpster: And then the last piece is I was finally able to launch a flavor this past month where the proceeds could go back to a local nonprofit and was kind of a way to give a platform or a little bit of tiny bit of visibility for them. And that's something that's near and dear to my heart since I used to work at a nonprofit.
[00:12:47] Emily Harpster: Starting to do more of that too.
[00:12:49] Georgiana Dearing: Well, what flavor was that and what was the organization?
[00:12:53] Emily Harpster: That was Honey Pie. So all the proceeds from that flavor are going to an organization called Ready Kids here in Charlottesville. That does all kinds of great things in the community. They do counseling for kids, they do work with early childhood educators, and when I met the owners of the Pie Chest a couple years ago, it was because they were doing a board game drive for ready kids to make sure that kids could have board games as gifts over the holidays.
[00:13:19] Emily Harpster: And so I thought it would be nice if in using their ingredient, If the proceeds went back to an organization that we both knew and loved, and that was the one that had connected us in the first place. So, oh,
[00:13:29] Georgiana Dearing: that's full circle. You came there.
[00:13:31] Emily Harpster: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So I'm looking forward to figuring out more things like that.
[00:13:36] Georgiana Dearing: Well, have you managed the balancing act of growing and production, or is that the thing that's making you crazy right now? ?
[00:13:44] Emily Harpster: Yeah. I thought I would be in a different place than . Now, like I still haven't had time to deal with the labels and packaging situation. I got halfway through a website redesign, and then I got pulled into production.
[00:14:01] Emily Harpster: I have done a few things that have made me a lot more sane that I wish I had done sooner. Over the summer, I was making deliveries to vendors every. I switched to biweekly, and I can't tell you what a game changer has been. It's just more runway to get the ingredients to make the ice cream to remake the ice cream if I make a mistake, although that's happening less frequently than it did in the beginning.
[00:14:28] Emily Harpster: Ooh, I wish I had done that. So much sooner. , we
[00:14:31] Georgiana Dearing: talked, you had started with a very small piece of equipment, so could you have made enough product to last that biweekly schedule?
[00:14:41] Emily Harpster: I don't know. It would've been a test. . .
[00:14:46] Georgiana Dearing: So your equipment has been enough now to support that and you have some predictability in usage rates?
[00:14:52] Emily Harpster: Yes. It's much more predictable. The system is much more figured out. And that has helped immensely. I sort of think back on those early days, and not that I'm out of the early days, but those first few months were like, not chaos exactly, but like sort of mild chaos, , . You don't know what you don't know until you're in it.
[00:15:12] Georgiana Dearing: So yeah. So are you seeing your accounts growing? Like you talk about Mary Bet and that Christmas was busy. Busier than you expected. Are you seeing that like they're purchasing more and more over time, or is it just the constancy that's happening?
[00:15:32] Emily Harpster: of, it varies depending on the location. I would say some places have been pretty steady.
[00:15:37] Emily Harpster: I think Marie Vet has grown over time. I think it takes a while. To get some traction for people to realize that that's an option or to go to, just to look in the freezer even when they walk in the door. Mm-hmm. . Um, I have also had, I think my biggest growth has come from some new accounts, and I think those have grown.
[00:15:58] Emily Harpster: A little bit more rapidly because I already had some traction in brand recognition, like it just didn't take as long. Mm-hmm. for the orders, who are these new accounts?
[00:16:07] Emily Harpster: Batesville Market is one. They've been amazing. So
[00:16:10] Georgiana Dearing: that's like a shop as opposed to Mary Bet is like a cafe.
[00:16:15] Emily Harpster: Exactly. I think people, it's more likely that you're going to get supplies grocery, I mean, it sort of depends cuz they do a bunch of creative things there too, like events and things like that.
[00:16:25] Emily Harpster: And then Foods of All Nations is another one, which is a local grocery store.
[00:16:30] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. . So those are a little more traditional grocery. Yeah, in that it's a shop, although they're boutique in that they're very specific to what they're carrying. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you were doing partnerships with the distillery and wasn't there a winery as well that was carrying, are they still selling for you there?
[00:16:51] Emily Harpster: Yes. Yeah, both. Actually. I just dropped some ice cream sandwiches off at the distillery last week, and the winery has continued to place orders and actually just over the winter, They're so kind. They're doing Alpha Gatos now, so I'm selling them pints of vanilla and they're scooping them into the A Gatos, and then I'm gonna do another event with them next month.
[00:17:13] Emily Harpster: We did one over the summer and it was really fun, I think, for everyone involved in everyone who came that was in ice cream and wine tasting . Yeah. And so we came up with kind of a fun paired menu, and I think we're gonna do a version of that.
[00:17:31] Georgiana Dearing: So all of this account growth and your product development is all still very personalized.
[00:17:37] Georgiana Dearing: It's still very much you and your connections. So what do you think, how do you expand that? Or are you rethinking your boundaries of the size of your business? Like what is your next idea for sort of growing your business?
[00:17:52] Emily Harpster: There's a couple. One I think I have far from tapped out the local Charlottesville market.
[00:17:59] Emily Harpster: Mm-hmm. . I think there are still places that I have on my wishlist or radar where I feel like when I am ready to like can reach out and there's still places to go. . Mm-hmm. . I also think that I'd like to try the farmer's market this year. I got a little spun around last year and it was more than I felt like I could handle, but I do feel like I'm at a good point now where getting the name out there is gonna be really, really helpful.
[00:18:25] Georgiana Dearing: So that would be setting up a booth at the farmer's market and selling onesie twosies to the people who are paid. Yeah,
[00:18:33] Emily Harpster: just bring a cooler ice cream. Keep it simple. Mm-hmm. , see how it goes. And then I'm also trying to figure. I have said and will maintain forever and ever that the idea is not to have a scoop shop with this particular model.
[00:18:46] Emily Harpster: But I do think that there is the possibility of doing sort of a unique collaboration in a unique space, and I'm sort of in the middle of trying to figure that out, which is, as anyone who's been in it knows, like finding a. It's not so easy, especially when you have a very specific vision for what you would like to do.
[00:19:06] Georgiana Dearing: And so, so are you saying like you would have a, there'd be maybe in some place there'd be a small freezer and someone would be scooping sugar bear ice cream? Not necessarily. It would be no
[00:19:15] Emily Harpster: scooping. Yeah. It would be more like a retail outlet, like it would be a place where you could come to. Buy ice cream cakes, pints, half pints sandwiches out of a freezer, and at the same time purchase other dessert items.
[00:19:30] Emily Harpster: So sort of like a treat house. I think the basic concept, what we're trying to piece together at this moment
[00:19:36] Georgiana Dearing: in time, Oh, so just kind of putting a freezer into a different business. It's like just a little tiny. Yeah. Just something simple. Yeah. Yeah. Just tucking an ice cream and cold treat. .
[00:19:49] Emily Harpster: Yeah, . And, well, I know that like baked treats, things that go together is sort of the idea.
[00:19:54] Emily Harpster: We'll see where it goes, but it's really been on my mind just figuring out what a sustainable model for local ice cream looks like. Cuz I think it, the environment has changed a lot. . Um, and even just over this past year, the prices of things, cream, eggs have been That Right. Has been kind of wild. Like it has been for a lot of, yeah.
[00:20:16] Georgiana Dearing: so there's also inflation, chickens, have you heard that? Inflation chickens, right. people, people putting chickens in their backyard. . Yeah.
[00:20:26] Emily Harpster: I just like figuring out how to build a business that's gonna weather those types of things is really, you know, this was born coming out of Covid too, so it's.
[00:20:36] Emily Harpster: Been very much on my mind trying to be smart about these kinds of
[00:20:39] Georgiana Dearing: choices. So for just a second, can we revisit that point you made about not having a scoop shop? Only because I think sometimes other food businesses think they need to grab every way to get their food out there. Yeah. And tell me why you don't want a scoop shop.
[00:21:01] Emily Harpster: cost thing, honestly. Mm-hmm. , um, it's cost and it's a commitment and it's a quality of life thing. I worry about paying for staff. I worry about paying for all the overhead things that come with having a physical location. And if I'm being really super honest, like I have young kids and I worry about being tied to having to be in a scoop.
[00:21:22] Emily Harpster: Six o'clock on a Saturday night. I completely understand. Wanting to grab every opportunity. I really do. And it's just not the stage of life that I'm in where that, like the cost benefit works out on that stuff. Well, you, so I'm trying to see if I can do it a different way. Yeah.
[00:21:39] Georgiana Dearing: Wait, you paused there to gather your thoughts and then you started naming all the things I was gonna jump in with and that is, scoop Shop is different.
[00:21:47] Georgiana Dearing: It's a retail store or a restaurant feeling, and it has all those other. Management issues. Mm-hmm. where manufacturing is different, right? It is. And wholesale sales are very different. And I think I have seen this happen where people think, well, I'm already cooking. I can just serve it. And I'm like, oh, it doesn't really work that way.
[00:22:07] Emily Harpster: That's so simple. Yeah. . Yeah. And I definitely know that I've seen it and I know that it's not so simple. It's part of.
[00:22:15] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. And some of that math is the square footage rental on a space and successful retail space. Mm-hmm. has a different cost than manufacturing space like, Having warehouse space that you can set up a commercial kitchen and your freezers is a different overhead cost than on the walking mall or Yeah.
[00:22:36] Georgiana Dearing: Near another destination where someone is going to come in and say, oh, let's have a scoop of ice cream.
[00:22:42] Emily Harpster: Right. It is super different. And I think the other thing about having that more restaurant like retail space is you. I feel like you end up putting yourself on the hook to move a certain number of units per month to cover your costs.
[00:22:58] Emily Harpster: And don't get me wrong, like there is a sacrifice and there is a trade off, but not being on that wheel, for lack of a better way of putting it, like is also allowing me some creativity and flexibility to do things with the product that I don't think I would other. Be able to do, to take some risks. And I do see some value in that.
[00:23:19] Emily Harpster: Hasn't been fully played out yet, of course, but that's part of the working
[00:23:22] Georgiana Dearing: through it piece of the equation. Do you have a written plan somewhere
[00:23:27] Emily Harpster: that you were I do. I wrote it like a year and a half ago. , and it's not . Yeah, I guess I kind of need to rewrite it or just
[00:23:37] Georgiana Dearing: revisit it. Right. Some of it may be true.
[00:23:39] Georgiana Dearing: Go a certain way and then they never do. Oh no, they never do .
[00:23:43] Emily Harpster: It's so hard too, cuz with the new business, you know you're making mistakes. You know that you're not getting everything perfect on the first try, but you gotta. At it, like they say to write a book, you just gotta get up and write every morning.
[00:23:56] Emily Harpster: In some mornings it's gonna be great. In some mornings it's not gonna be so great. Over time it does, like you do build a rhythm and it does get better, but it's also kind of a vulnerable feeling that I think a a lot of people have. So anyway. Well, you
[00:24:10] Georgiana Dearing: seem to be heading in a direction that seems pretty consistent from the last two conversations we had.
[00:24:17] Georgiana Dearing: So you maybe like, sorry, like bumping off the guardrails a little bit. , but that's okay. That's pretty much the nature of business, and so you've been reaching out and making these sales calls and making connections within your community. What do you think is your biggest marketing challenge like right now?
[00:24:39] Georgiana Dearing: What's your biggest challenge? Right, as we speak today?
[00:24:41] Emily Harpster: Right now? Yeah. My biggest marketing challenge is time. I was talking to someone else who, owns a restaurant a few months ago, and we were talking about how there's like kitchen brain and there's marketing brain. When I'm in the kitchen doing production, it's like a moment to moment, where's this ingredient?
[00:24:58] Emily Harpster: How do I mix this, turn off that machine, turn on this one. And then I'm not necessarily in the frame of mind to compose a complete sentence. . No kidding. . And so like make, finding that dedicated space to build a plan and implement the plan is really not so easy. Yeah, that
[00:25:18] Georgiana Dearing: is, you kind of have to have it on your calendar, like marketing time.
[00:25:23] Georgiana Dearing: Like a consistent marketing time. and then fill that with work because it's not gonna be like, it's
[00:25:30] Emily Harpster: the thing that always gets pushed.
[00:25:32] Georgiana Dearing: It does, yeah. And it's why I use Mondays because I, and a lot of people use Fridays, and what happens is your week just like ratchets up mm-hmm. , and you're using Friday because you have to finish everything that you started.
[00:25:47] Georgiana Dearing: Yes. Yeah.
[00:25:49] Emily Harpster: Identify with that statement, .
[00:25:52] Georgiana Dearing: So I start with Mondays and try and put marketing first so that it gets done, right? Yes. I say I do. I plan it that way. . . But yeah, and that's what I talk about is Marketing Mondays being the day like, let's do that and get that working. Well, what's your next step for growing your sales?
[00:26:11] Georgiana Dearing: Marketing is part of it, but you're still marketing when you're out there making those connections. So what's your next step for growing your sales?
[00:26:19] Emily Harpster: Yeah, good question. So one is to continue to work on social media and to become more consistent about that and to build a program. The approach to date has been sort of an ad hoc, whenever I can cram it in, but I know mm-hmm.
[00:26:31] Emily Harpster: that I have seen the few times when I've made an effort to be a little more strategic and considerate about it. It does matter and it does pay off. So I do wanna invest some time in that. I think the website is another place if I can. Redesign and polish it up a little bit and make it easier for people to buy ice cream online.
[00:26:51] Emily Harpster: I think that would be helpful. I've also noticed this month, in the very beginning, I wanted to sell sampler packs, and then it got complicated and I finally come all the way back around to that. And I know that there is an interested and an appetite for that because the Valentine's State boxes that I made sold.
[00:27:09] Emily Harpster: Three times and quick, like I kept making more and then I kept selling. So , I think that there's this market there for sampler boxes, basically. So I think doing a little bit of a push around the launch of those would be helpful. And then making a point of. Continuing to get out there and network and reach out to people, whether that's other food people, other nonprofit people, just to really make an effort to kind of make the rounds and just put myself out there and say hello and see where it goes.
[00:27:41] Georgiana Dearing: Well, tell me where this is podcast. We don't have your products in front of you, so can you describe these sampler boxes again, like what's the quantity and how is it packaged?
[00:27:52] Emily Harpster: Sure. So it's four six ounce containers. Okay, so six ounce container. For most people that's, it's about half a pint. It's a little bit less than half a pint, but just sort of visually, that's what you can imagine.
[00:28:04] Emily Harpster: They're tucked into a nice white box and there are liner notes when, so when you open up the box on the inside, you can see a description of each of the flavors and where, oh, okay. The ingredients came. and yeah, it's something I knew I wanted to do from the beginning. I just like got pulled in a million different directions and never quite came back to it until now.
[00:28:25] Emily Harpster: So do you
[00:28:26] Georgiana Dearing: do any kind of point of sale for these places that carry, like do you have a clinging that goes on the outside of the freezer space or anything like that?
[00:28:36] Emily Harpster: Yes, I, well, I don't have cling, but I have little laminated signs that go not in every. But in some of them,
[00:28:43] Georgiana Dearing: like the so little shelf talkers that describe what the product is.
[00:28:47] Georgiana Dearing: Is that what you mean?
[00:28:48] Emily Harpster: Yeah. It's like a, so like in Batesville for example, they have one of those freezers, like the sliding door on top freezer where you look down and in, and the ice cream's in there, and I have a sign on the top of that that lists all the flavors and says that you can follow me on Instagram to learn what's coming in a Marie bed.
[00:29:05] Emily Harpster: I have kind of a pride, here's how much pints are and here's how much this. That kind of thing. Okay. I wish I had done that sooner. , didn't. It was a blind spot. It just was like, I didn't, I was so focused on other things, it didn't occur to me. When did you
[00:29:20] Georgiana Dearing: start doing, how far in
[00:29:22] Emily Harpster: to visit? Um, be honest. It was like December, no, it was January.
[00:29:27] Emily Harpster: It was last month. I just . Yeah. So when I work with, she's like, do you think people might wanna know how much it costs? it. Well, that's very logical. . It's a queen idea,
[00:29:41] Georgiana Dearing: so, well, you've been selling it all along . Oh no, I thank you for sharing that one, cuz that's a good one. It happens all the time though. It happens all the time.
[00:29:52] Georgiana Dearing: Didn't occur to me. So tell me, you've got all these like good things going. What's the next project that you're taking on? We talked a little bit about your samplers. Is there something else or is it just keeping the buyers going? Um,
[00:30:06] Emily Harpster: so it's mostly keeping things going. It's looking for creative space, it's doing the boxes.
[00:30:12] Emily Harpster: And then I've also been having a lot of fun playing in the kitchen, making ice cream cakes. So there'll be a new product will be added to the lineup soon. Ice cream cakes. Fancy ice cream cakes. Yes.
[00:30:24] Georgiana Dearing: How big? How are you talking about six what? Six inch. Six inch. Oh, that's so good. Yeah, it's
[00:30:30] Emily Harpster: two little fancy ice cream cakes, so that'll be something.
[00:30:33] Emily Harpster: Well, that
[00:30:34] Georgiana Dearing: sounds very exciting. I've just, like you said something earlier about your competence and confidence growing, and I can tell you that it's expressed just through the, your conversation and the way you're talking about your business. I can see that this has been fun to watch that kind of growth for me.
[00:30:52] Georgiana Dearing: Yes. But appreciate that you've let us come along on the ride and you've been so open sharing all of the stuff that has happened. Could you please help our listeners find you, tell us where you are before we wrap up.
[00:31:07] Emily Harpster: Sure. So the best place to find me is on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out my website at www.sugarbearseaville.com.
[00:31:19] Emily Harpster: And yeah, thanks for having
[00:31:21] Georgiana Dearing: me. Sure. Thanks for coming. I've really enjoyed it. Same. I also wanna thank our listeners for coming along with us. If you enjoyed this content, please hit that like or share button. It is the easiest thing you can do to support small businesses, and please also subscribe to the Virginia Foodie wherever you stream.
[00:31:41] Georgiana Dearing: And you won't miss another bite of good food marketing. Thanks for listening, and if you wanna learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My email@example.com. If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at. VA foodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.