The Scoop on eCreamery? It’s Thriving and Collecting New Honors 6/1/16 05/31/16 10:27:22 PM
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Becky App (left) and Abby Jordan demonstrate their “sprinkle smiles.” As they say, “We’re here to make ice cream dreams come true.” – Photo courtesy of eCreamery
The Scoop on eCreamery?
It’s Thriving and Collecting New Honors
By Dan McCann
The Daily Record
Chocolate cake ice cream with brownie bits and fudge swirls.
Banana Toffee Praline Crunch.
A good ‘lead’ is supposed to grab your attention; Bonus points if it can also make your mouth water. It helps, of course, if the subject is eCreamery Ice Cream & Gelato, the Omaha-based ice cream innovator recently named the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Small Business of the Month for June.
Both a brick-and-mortar parlor and nationally recognized e-tailer, eCreamery has been grabbing attention (and making mouths water) since its opening in 2007 – vaulted by a spate of high-profile endorsements, a 2012 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and a very viral selfie that included customers Sir Paul McCartney and billionaire Warren Buffett. Above all, owners Becky App, Abby Jordan and Mark Hasebroock, founder of Dundee Venture Capital, attribute eCreamery’s success to one simple truth: they sell ice cream, and people of all walks of life love ice cream.
“The concept of a personalized ice cream gift is the perfect combination of egoism and hedonism – both of which are strong trends in our culture and economy,” App said.
Over the last nine years, eCreamery has grown from a one-shop operation with three full-time employees – to a three-location operation with 11 full-time and 18 part-time employees. In addition to its bustling neighborhood parlor in Dundee, the eCreamery enterprise includes a commercial kitchen and frozen distribution area in Millard, and eC headquarters at 64th & Pacific with offices for customer service and marketing.
“We have managed our growth by expanding slowly and with partners we could trust,” App explained. “With surges in press such as ‘Shark Tank’ and Oprah, we were deliberate to expand ‘accordion style’ so we could grow our operations with the sharp spikes in demand but could also efficiently retract as the spikes declined. When we could see the long-term trends, we could create more permanent operating structures to align with ongoing, stable demand trends.”
What hasn’t changed over the years is the product – custom-created or best-selling ice cream and gelato flavors that can be purchased onsite in Dundee and now at Omaha-area Hy-Vee stores – or ordered online and shipped to customers across the country.
“We remained committed to making high quality, small-batch ice creams. What does ‘small-batch’ mean? It means that significant time, care and heart are poured into each and every ice cream pint by an actual ice cream chef – not an assembly line,” App said. “It’s made fresh for our customers, and you can taste the difference in every bite.”
The bulk of eCreamery’s business (about 80 percent) flows from its website, www.ecreamery.com, which features a four-step creation process. Customers can design their own desserts from 35 flavors, 40 mix-ins, unique packaging choices and their own titles. Online orders are custom-made, packed in dry ice and shipped across the country. With gift options for most occasions, eCreamery is busiest around Christmas, but Father’s Day is a close second.
“We’ve shipped everywhere, from the White House to Hollywood Boulevard,” App said.
eCreamery has created branded custom flavors for financial advisors and sports teams; health care, nuclear power and international trampoline companies; Ivy League schools, and the Kardashians. She and Jordan call ice cream “the universal language.”
“People have grown up with it being present at celebrations and other special moments. There is a strong emotional connection to it, and the idea of a person or an organization using it as a vehicle for their message is compelling.”
The genesis of eCreamery can be traced back to 2006. Serial entrepreneur Hasebroock opened the parlor as a Ted & Wally’s, one of many projects intended to revitalize Dundee.
The only problem? The Nebraska weather and the Dundee business environment in 2006 were tough for an ice cream shop. The long, cold season combined with a then-lack of daytime traffic and parking left the parlor severely in the red that first year. That’s when Hasebroock, the original investor in eCreamery, had the idea to sidestep the obstacles – by harnessing the reach of the Internet.
“Ship ice cream? Everyone thought he was nuts – except Abby and me. And that’s when we entered the eCreamery.com picture,” App shared. “Abby and I had worked together in Borsheim’s marketing and corporate gift departments. We had learned what we now call ‘the power of a personalized gift.’ … We believed the emotional connection to America’s favorite dessert was nationally strong enough to position it as a gift product. Turns out, we were right.”
For all of eCreamery’s success, App said marketing and advertising remains the company’s biggest challenge.
“The online gift market is extremely competitive, and we are always creating new ways to help people think of sending an ice cream gift for the next gift giving occasion,” App said.
She recalled, “When we began, we thought we would grow quickly via pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO). But no one was even searching for ‘ship ice cream’ eight years ago, so it made finding customers very challenging.”
eCreamery’s marketing budget was limited to $30,000 the first few years – difficult for launching a new product. So, it began shipping samples.
“Who said ‘no’ to free gourmet ice cream? No one,” App said. “Media exposure in print publications such as Rachael Ray, The New York Times, Oprah, Martha Stewart and eventually our 2012 appearance on ‘Shark Tank’ gave us the national exposure to educate America that ice cream gifts existed.”
App said eCreamery is thrilled to enhance its exposure with the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award – and equally thrilled about the future. It recently partnered with area Hy-Vee stores to launch a new grocery-store line of eight best-selling flavors.
“We are inundated with requests from our customers who live in west Omaha to have easier access to eCreamery ice cream for their own enjoyment. And, we’re here to make ice cream dreams come true.”
Given its success, eCreamery is also here to support local non-profits and spreading the word about the good work being done in Omaha. The eCreamery Community Partnership Program – and special Community Partner Flavor – help spotlight the work of a different non-profit every month.
“Each organization designs a unique flavor that best represents them, and we churn it fresh for the month. Customers can choose to order the flavor by the scoop from the dipping case or purchase a pint to go,” App said.
eCreamery donates $1 from each pint sold to the featured organization. During the month, it also offers a single day of “Scoops of Support Day” when 10 percent of daily weekday sales are donated.
For App and Jordan, the reward of helping others is compounded by a triple-dip of satisfaction that comes from hard work, innovation – and success.
“It is rewarding to think we envisioned and created this new concept from nothing to something pretty significant,” App said.