With flavors like Cookie Butter Blondie, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and Vanilla Malt Cookie Dough, this Brooklyn-based artisanal ice cream company isn’t just making our mouths water. They’re also a woman-run food business that doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality, growth, entrepreneurship, and all-around lady bossing. Now available in over 2,000 stores across the States, we'd say this artisanal ice cream company is one worth looking out for. It’s only natural that we’d go to one of their founders for our Real Woman Report of the week.
CEO Crista Freeman recently gave us the mega-scoop on how she and her partner launched Phin & Phebes Ice Cream out of their Brooklyn kitchen and she tops it off with a cherry by telling us all about how she learned to trust her gut. More sweetness below. And if you happen to see her around Brooklyn, maybe throw a high-five her way, but please don't call her honey.
Words by Crista Freeman, CEO/Co-Founder of Phin & Phebes
What inspired you start Phin and Phebes?.... tell us a bit about your business.
Back in February 2010 we bought an underwhelming that propelled us to buy our own ice cream machine. It just happened that our first flavor was phenomenal. From there we became obsessed with the endless flavor combinations and back then there were no limitations. Ice cream became our escape from our day jobs. During this time I was eating a lot of ice cream and noticed there was this gap between the Ben & Jerry’s of the world and the artisanal higher priced ice creams on the market. Both ends of these spectrums were making ice creams with fillers like conventional stabilizers and corn syrup. The higher end brands were using good ingredients, but they still didn’t have a clean ingredients list. In the kitchen my philosophy about food is simple. I like to make food where the star ingredient shines through and you taste and smell that ingredient. The other ice creams out there were gummy and their flavor profiles were masked by the stabilizers. I wanted to create a product that you could feel good about eating, with clean and transparent ingredients delivering an authentic brand experience to the consumer. Ice cream should be fun and the artisanal brands weren’t offering that experience. So I set out to build a brand with sophisticated and unique flavors profiles that are approachable to the mass consumer, but innovative in taste and concept. I tested the flavors at markets and fairs for almost a year and gave away free ice cream in exchange for surveys. The results were astounding; 98% said our ice cream was better than the current brands of ice cream they were buying and that they would buy our ice cream. We launched our brand in 2012 and you can now find our ice cream across the U.S. in over 2000 stores.
How have other females helped you along the way?
Over time this has really progressed. When Phin & Phebes was just a concept sold at markets and fairs on the weekends we were part of a community of food makers that were all trying to figure out if we could take our love for food and make a business of it. This beginning phase was really just a grinding it out together. Whether it was my dear friend Kari Morris from Morris Kitchen helping us sling scoops when our lines became too long at the market we were both working, or those late nights when we used to hand label our pints for production and I would call on all my friends that happen to be entrepreneurs to help me label into the wee hours of the night. Of course, now our business has changed pretty dramatically and we are much bigger so the way I have receive help is a bit different but the heart, generosity and willingness to do help build each other up has only gotten stronger over time. As a women entrepreneur it can be isolating and extremely hard to raise money. Other women entrepreneurs and investors know this and they are very generous with introductions and have gone out of their way to connect me with investors or advisors that could help my business. Over the past three years I have been extremely lucky to have raised the majority of my investment from female investors. I cherish these investors, they are extremely successful, knowledgable women that are always willing to help and pick me up when I am down. They don’t judge me when something does not go according to plan in our business, but they ask smart questions and push me to keep going, knowing that there is no such thing as failure and you cannot be successful if you are not willing to make mistakes. Whether it is one of my board members, advisors or other women entrepreneurs / friends I know that I can call on them any time to discuss something I am going through. They will listen with compassion, offer to help and speak from gestalt. They don’t place judgement or tell me what I should do or should’ve done, they speak from experience and the result is that I come to a solution on my own by just being able to talk through the issue at hand.
What's your best piece of advice for other women who want to start a business?
This is hard one, because I think one of the most valuable assets of a female entrepreneur can also prevent them from growing or bringing their product to market. Women are known for being more risk adversed and societally it is engrained in us that we essentially need to do things perfectly and not make mistakes. Women typically like to know everything about a specific field or topic before launching into it out of fear they will fail. So my advice would be to more okay with failure, because what is it to really fail? It’s just fear of judgement from others and the judgement you place on yourself. View a mistake or failure as an equivalent step towards an even greater success, because if you don’t become okay with failure how will you learn to grow and pivot your business? I do think women’s more risk adversed mindset is extremely valuable, which is why now women led startup businesses are more successful than startups led by men. I would suggest to just trust your gut more and not question yourself. Women are highly intuitive and every time I have gone against my gut and listened to others advice is when things did not go according to plan. Of course do seek advice, research, test, validate but at the end of the day trust your gut and intuition and know its okay to fail.
Biggest obstacles as a female founder? Have you found that there are less obstacles in 2016/17 for female founders than there were when you started?
I still the biggest obstacle as a female founder is raising money. Still women are not taken seriously a lot of time by VC Firms or male investors. I am consistently asked questions like: Do you plan on having children?, Are you healthy?, Do you plan on getting married? We are called cute, honey, darling, etc. by investors. It can be difficult to hold your own and not made to feel like you are their daughter. This can completely shift your pitch and confidence to raise capital.
How do you support fellow female entrepreneurs today?
Today my main contribution is just doing anything I can help. If they want to get together to discuss their business or concept I meet with them. I will send pitch decks and make intros to investors in my network or make intros to others I think would add value. I am lucky that pretty much all my friends are female entrepreneurs. I am here to talk to them time or day if they just need to vent, I will always pick up the phone. I am lucky that I know the same will be done for me. As my business grows and I hopefully have an exit my dream is to become an angel investor and use my experience and money to help other female entrepreneurs build their dreams.
What are some of your favorite destinations for a girls weekend or weekend getaway? Where are you off top next? Top 5 bucket list places you want to travel to?
To be honest, I rarely take weekend getaways. It is something I am working on. Places I love and would suggest that are a quick flight or drive from NYC.
- Little Compton, Rhode Island
- Tulum, Mexico
- Portland, Maine
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Austin, Texas
I am still trying to figure out where I am off to next. I am thinking Jamaica as a reward once I close my current round of investment and relax knowing that is done.
As for my top five bucket list places I want to travel:
- South America
Can you give us one inspiring quote that you turn to, when times get stressful or tough?
“Be so good they can’t ignore you." - Steve Martin
Photos: Phin & Phebes
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