A while back, I reviewed Lucky Cat Rolled Creams. Spoiler: it’s amazing. This weekend, I interviewed Hannah Slamen – one half of the founding couple. She spoke to me about franchising, being spontaneous, starting a small business and more! Let’s get to learning.
Hannah previously worked for a non-profit and as a freelance photographer before that. “I was ready for a change, professionally. I was burnt out, my husband was like ‘we should open an ice cream shop.’ He wouldn’t stop talking about it, and a friend showed us a Youtube video of this style of ice cream. I kinda got hooked watching it, it’s fun to watch!”
Starting an ice cream business because it’s fun to watch might seem like a big leap, and it is. In fact, that spontaneity is what Hannah thinks makes a great entrepreneur!
“In my many years since college, I’ve realized that you have to keep changing your dream and not being so set on what you were going to do when you were in your twenties. Being able to change and to be excited for those changes is a big one, and always say ‘yes.’ If an opportunity presents itself, I go for it. If it doesn’t work out, at least I tried.”
An entrepreneur’s ability to react to changing conditions makes or breaks them. How does she know if she’s ready to expand or move on? “We’ll play that by ear. We’re currently negotiating.”
Playing things by ear happens to be how she moved to Birmingham. “I grew up in Sacramento and in middle school we all walked around with baggy pants and dark lipstick, a bunch of middle class white kids acting like we were gangsters because it was really cool and trendy, and our parents hated it! I am a child of the early 90s, and I love Snoop Dogg. I like a lot of NWA and Snoop.” After finishing high school, she received a scholarship in synchronized swimming at UAB, where she met some of her current mentors. She still loves rap, and I won’t judge – I put about half a terabyte of Eurobeat on when I write!
What’s challenging and what isn’t
The toughest thing about being a pop-up isn’t scheduling or finding a location to set up. “Every place we’ve been, we’ve known somebody, so that’s been the easiest part! And you’re asking to come serve ice cream, so nobody has turned me down.” Nor is finding flavors difficult. Hannah’s husband loves to cook, and Hannah takes much of her inspiration from finding interesting ingredients at the grocery. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, but it’s all in good fun: “For the most part we play. Our kids don’t like most of our flavors!”
One flavor Hannah is particularly proud of is cardamom. “It’s the best. I have this love affair with cardamom and was really intent on making it work.” I haven’t tried it before, but that’s probably what I’ll get now that I know cardamom is the “flagship” flavor. My own rule is that if someone is really confident in something so out of the ordinary, it’s probably great and I should try it.
For Hannah, the toughest part about being a pop-up is tracking and meeting demand. “I get nervous every single time. I really want to deliver a good product and a good experience, and sometimes I’m looking down that line and I realize I didn’t bring enough for everyone in that line. And it just crushes me. I know they’re waiting, I start counting, and I’m like ‘that’s where I’m gonna run out.’ And that’s hard.” The pop-up at Pepper Place is a particularly great example. The line stretched across the parking lot!
“Talk to everyone”
Finding a balance between cost-effective stocking, cargo space, and not running out of ingredients might seem like a tough balancing act. But Hannah and her husband Greg aren’t going it alone. “My advice for entrepreneurs is to reach out to as many people as you can. Talk to everyone. It has been amazing how much information has come my way by just talking to everyone I can.” Everyone from former synchronized swimming teammates to restaurateurs to fellow ice cream store owners has offered Hannah advice for settling in to the Magic City.