2018 has been a big year for Frankie & Jo’s. We opened our second scoop shop, created 25 seasonal flavors, launched a Pint Club, and have grown a strong management team to prime ourselves for a successful growth. Our two co-founders, Kari Brunson & Autumn Martin were also named the vegan ice cream world's "Most Influential Duo" by Cherrybombe Magazine. So, we thought it would be a good idea to sit down with the duo and ask them to reflect on the past two years of revolutionizing minds about ice cream and plants.
Where did your original ideas for plant-based ice cream come from? Did people encourage you or did you receive a lot of push back?
A: My desire to create a vegan ice cream came from my being allergic to dairy, and not being able to find a delicious, creamy and rich ice cream that didn’t have a lot of gums in it. I knew that there were so many people like me out there, not eating cow’s milk for one reason or another, but still wanting to enjoy an amazing ice cream. I received a lot of push-back. Most investors I pitched to did not think a stand-alone vegan ice cream shop would survive, as there would not be enough people interested. HA!
Why do you think vegan ice cream has had a bad rap?
K: Traditionally, vegan ice cream has been very icy and made from soy or coconut milk, resulting in a flavor that is not neutral, nor as creamy as one would expect from a cow ice cream - due to the low-fat content. So, the flavor, texture and mouthfeel have been lacking. To make up for the thin and icy mouthfeel, most, if not all companies, have used a starch or a gum to thicken the consistency. Our challenge has been to create a vegan ice cream that has no gums or starches, a high-fat content and an insanely creamy, rich and full texture and mouthfeel. And we did it!
How did you two meet? Did you know who each other were before?
K: We knew of each other from around town, and officially met while on a women’s entrepreneurial panel in 2013, and the same panel in 2014. Then, in 2015 when Autumn was building Hot Cakes capitol hill location, she would frequent my cafe, Juicebox. Autumn decided to present the early idea of Frankie & Jo’s to me - I loved the idea, the two became business partners, and the rest is history.
What about your personalities made you confident that you would be great business partners?
A: Well, we treated their coming together very seriously. Before signing anything, they sat down and wrote out their ideal job descriptions: what they are good at, where they lack, what they liked to do, and what sucked their energy. Amazingly, it was clear the fit was perfect. They both had desires that complimented one another and continue to this day, to live by the original manifestos they wrote and swear that by honest and real communication, they have been able to be amazing business partners to each other and for the company.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
We strive to create magic every day both with our ice cream and our customer service experience. Our team is wildly creative and we all receive so much inspiration and energy from one another. Wanting to be more than excellent at what we do drives us to think outside of the box and do things with ice cream that are wildly unexpected. We get excited about ingredients not traditionally found in ice cream, but maybe in an apothecary or the savory kitchen, or growing wild in the desert or forest. We see no limit to how people enjoy ice cream, not only the base it is made with but also the ingredients that bring it to life.
What is one moment/experience when you realized this is what you were made to do?
K: The moment we first witnessed that people had no clue they were eating vegan ice cream. The moment when (Aran Goyoaga’s son) had an ice cream cone for the first time in his life. Every day when we hear that we have made someone’s year because they finally get to eat ice cream again.
What has been the largest roadblock or difficulty you have experienced so far in your own professional life at Frankie & Jo’s?
A: Trying to grow our company while also maintaining our integrity. We want to share the magic of F&J with the country, but want to grow slow, thoughtfully and with intention - it is often hard to raise money for growth when going against the grain of traditional expansion.
What work are you most proud of?
We have built an extremely loyal team, many of which have been with us since day one. We have spent a lot of time this year working on our company’s culture and how to work as a collective unit while also maintaining our own personalities and skill sets. Fun fact: Two of our original opening scoopers from 2016 now work on our management team and our first employee Amy Brown is now our Director of Northwest Operations.