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The following is a summary of the interview with Molly Moon. For all the details and a few surprises, be sure to listen to the full interview!
Molly Moon Neitzel always had a soft spot for ice cream. When she was a child in Boise, Idaho, her grandparents spoiled her, and she ate ice cream almost every day. When she graduated high school, and moved on to college, she also graduated with her ice cream habit and supported herself by working for the Big Dipper, an ice cream shop in Missoula, Montana. There she noticed how an ice cream shop could become a community gathering place where everyone has a good time. She carried fond memories from her experience at the Big Dipper as she graduated college and moved on to a career in fundraising and politics for the music industry.
But politics were burning her out and Molly needed a career change, so she stepped back and tried to figure out what else it was that she really knew. The answer was simple: Ice cream.
Molly Goes Into The Ice Cream Business
So in Summer of 2007, Molly wrote a business plan. She would open an ice cream shop in Seattle. She had strong ideas and purposes for the business and she made sure to include them in her plan. From the beginning, she planned to offer 100% health care coverage for all her employees, to use the most local, organic, seasonal, and fresh ingredients she could get her hands on, and for everything that came out of her shop to be compostable. These elements of her plan were especially important for her because they are true to her personal values, which she believes should extend to the company’s persona.
She approached her business plan from a feasibility standpoint. She included all the costs, and wrote the plan very conservatively. She asked herself, “What is the bare minimum I can make?” She penciled all the numbers in and looked at the numbers. They worked.
May 2008 was the opening day of her Wallingford location, her first ice cream boutique. She prepared for it by hiring an amazing publicist with whom she worked directly. She also mobilized her personal network (a rolodex of about 600 email addresses). Molly claims that: “your personal relationships are the most valuable things you will ever have.” And they proved to be very valuable to Molly Moon. On opening day, she had a line-up down the block in front of the shop, around the corner, along that side of the block and around that corner again. A lot of the people there to support her were part of those valuable personal relationships she had been able to nurture over the years.
And her sales during her first Summer? They were three times what she had projected.
Molly Moon Ice Cream Expands
It was no surprise that in the Spring of 2009, Molly Moon decided to open a second Seattle ice cream shop, her Capitol Hill location. Again, she was met with success. In the Spring of 2010 he diversified the business a little and launched an ice cream truck. People could now book the Molly Moon truck for weddings, community events, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it.
So what makes Molly Moon ice cream boutiques so successful? Molly has a few ideas. The first thing she’ll point out is how important the atmosphere is. She wants each Molly Moon’s ice cream boutique to be a community gathering place. She pointed out that Seattle was lacking in multi-generational gathering places. That is, gathering places frequented by people of all generations. She paid attention to the neighborhoods that lacked such a place. She also considered what the average local person would want. A fun time, great customer service, vibrant and fresh music, and a social atmosphere where neighbors could meet and talk.
Molly Moon also knows how to run a business smoothly without burning herself out. She still finds her work fun. She’s not one of those entrepreneurs that spend sixty plus hours a week in the business. If someone else can do something, they do it. Her focus is on creativity and growth. Molly has a sort of simple creative genius about her. When deciding where to open a third location, she was deliberating between three different neighborhoods. Her solution? She has the ice cream truck parked for one month at each of these locations. Whichever brings the most business is most likely to be the next location. She even turned it into a bit of a game, letting people know that their business will help them gain a Molly Moon ice cream boutique in their neighborhood.
And that’s not all for the ice cream company, Molly Moon has many more ideas in mind for her business. As long as it stays fun, she plans to continue growing the business.
Molly’s Advice For Fellow Entrepreneurs
So what advice does she have for entrepreneurs starting their own business? “Write a business plan”. She also says that if the numbers don’t look good, then don’t do it, be conservative, and stick to the plan.
With a good plan, dedication and the business “know how” Molly has demonstrated, she was able to make four times her projected profits! And the best part of it, the energetic young entrepreneur is thrilled to report that she loves her job. It’s fun. Her days may involve a lot of emails, business meetings, and phone calls, but they also include long lunches, hanging out, working out. In short: low stress and a lot of fun.