Let’s talk ice cream. Let’s talk bad ass women. Let’s talk UCLA.
Everything about last night was extraordinary. For those of you who didn’t see my post a couple weeks prior, UCLA Bruin and Coolhaus CEO Natasha Case put on an incredible event with the UCLA Alumni Association Los Angeles Westside Network last night. This event was the second in the Westside’s Distinguished Speaker Series but the first in Young Alumni’s new Bruin Foodies; we couldn’t have asked for a better entrepreneur to kick things off.
Natasha was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 this past year, and boy does she deserve it. Case embodies the young, hip business woman, inspiring the room with her stories of how she got started, where she stumbled and how her company has become one of the leading innovative small dessert businesses, growing significantly to include 11 mobile trucks and carts and their pre-packaged ice cream sandwiches can be found in 1,500+ gourmet markets in over 40 states. Not to mention her two brick and mortar shops (in Culver City and Pasadena). To think she only graduated from UCLA a few years ago, this amazing woman has certainly accomplished a lot. And she isn’t done yet.
Coolhaus recently delved into the world of pints and bars, bringing their funky flavors and farchitecture (food + architecture) to more consumers in cooler ways. The brand also makes chocolate bars, truffles, and drinks that you can get at their store fronts. And now, the ever popular Umami burger has announced they are partnering up with the Queen of Ice Cream to sell Coolhaus pre-packed sandwiches in their restaurants. According to Food Republic:
Umami Burger will begin pairing its handcrafted burgers with a rotating selection of ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus at all its California locations. While the two chains will eventually create new and exclusive flavors together, Umami Burger will start off by featuring six fan-favorites, including our personal preference: salted caramel ice cream with Snickerdoodle cookies.
Natasha Case is what I call an exceptional Bruin; she personifies the UCLA optimist spirit. Having graduated from the UCLA School of Architecture in 2008, Case founded Coolhaus in 2009 with partner Freya Estreller. They launched their architecturally-inspired, gourmet ice cream sandwich food truck business at the Coachella Music Festival where they built a loyal following that rapidly grew via social media, winning the hearts and taste buds of an eager foodie audience. Since then, Natasha has been named a Forbes 30 under 30 and Zagat 30 Under 30, as well as being featured in many national publications and TV shows.
Taking the kind of leap that Case has done would scare most people. Heck it would scare me. I asked her what it felt like to sort of throw away everything you had planned for your life (presumably to be an architect like her dad) and start somewhere completely different. I think most people shy away from following dreams because of the fear of failure. Natasha had this to say:
If there’s something your passionate about you can start it on the side and take calculated risk. I had a full time job for the first months of Coolhaus… My mentors have also been important; to have someone guide your vision and also allow you to use your strengths is so important.
Guests not only got to listen to Case speak, but the Q+A session allowed alumni to really ask some tough questions, mainly about what it took to be so successful in an often devour-some culinary world. Afterwards, Case put on a live ice cream making demonstration where she showed the audience how to make Lucky Charms and Jameson Whiskey ice cream. Like she said “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Natasha ended the night with a really great mention of her UCLA experience and what coming back means to her. It was crazy to see how connected she was to the University; her father attended UCLA before her and Case’s first job ever was as a ball girl for the UCLA Women’s Basketball team when she was 15. Here is what she had to say:
On a final note, I just want to say how exciting it is being part of an Alumni community. To me the UCLA community has been incredible. My first job ever was as a ball girl for UCLA basketball. To be able to come back and share this with you is a magical thing.
The audience ended the night by getting to pick flavors to make a funky ice cream sandwich. Nastaha mingled with her family and other Bruins to answer more questions, tell stories, and watch the group nosh on her delectable desserts. It was really a night for the books.
Having people like this come back and share their story is so fulfilling. I want to thank Natasha and Freya for taking the time to be a part of such an enjoyable evening. I had such fun getting to know the two of them throughout the night, and hopefully will bump into them in the future.
I jotted down some of my favorite quotes from the night. Check out the list below:
On expanding into New York…
We like to hang out in New York. Let’s have a business there.
On the book opportunity…
There are certain opportunities that come from plugging in to certain communities.
On expanding into Austin…
What Austin has brought to is a great music connection.
On the decision to open a brick and mortar…
There are only so many cities where we can open trucks…Brick and Mortar is really an investment into a community.
The community of Culver City has been amazingly supportive. I can’t believe how much ice cream they eat.
On penetrating the pre-packaged market…
You need to maintain branding, maintain pricing, and grow the product line.
Distribution and markets have changed. Whole Foods has been very supportive. They know my story. The cashiers know who I am. You can’t buy that type of support.