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Spotlight Sundays: Karen Diep, Ice Cream Entrepreneur

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Studio Sophy is pleased to present its first Spotlight Sundays feature.

Karen Diep is a good friend, a "culinary Magellan", a fearless go getter, and an inspiring young entrepreneur. Combining her love for homemade ice cream and pop-up businesses, Karen started Caraway Ice Cream in the summer of 2014 with graphic designer Lisa Ly. Her story is a humble one, but her dreams are anything but small. Currently an undergraduate student at Cal Poly Pomona, Karen is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology, minoring in Culinology and Microbiology.

1. What is Caraway Ice Cream? Who is involved?

Caraway is a pop-up ice cream delivery service featuring a not-your-grocery-store line of unique ice cream flavors made by yours truly. I create and make these flavors myself and I work with my graphic designer, Lisa Ly, who designs the labels and all the other graphics related to Caraway.

2. What gave you the idea to create Caraway Ice Cream? How did you start out? What makes it the ice cream so special?

I have a love for making ice cream and I think that homemade ice cream is seriously out of this world. Anyone who’s had it has said it: Homemade ice cream is the best! I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and it seemed like ice cream would be a great sell and thus Caraway was born. It was out of a passion and out of a sense of need to share this amazing ice cream with everyone.

My flavors aren’t your plain vanilla and chocolate and I don’t condone that sort of thing but I want to make ice cream flavor that are different with the best ingredients possible. Last year, we featured two flavors: Sweet Corn with Wildberry and Bourbon Ice Cream with Peach and Pecans. This year I plan to feature three flavors all unique and all 100% awesome. These flavors stand out and make heads turn but they also make people swoon and lick their spoons with delight which is what I want for Caraway.

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3. What have you learned from your venture so far? What were your the biggest challenges?

A LOT. Before Caraway, I had no personal accounting experience, selling experience or marketing experience so going into this I learned what it feels like to plan, prepare, and execute all your ideas. Of the hardest things to do, for me, it was the “selling part.” I am not much of a salesman so putting myself out there and introducing my product was a real challenge. I have a lot of pride in my ice cream and I feel it is a great ice cream with wonderful flavors but my shyness can get in the way and keep me from truly showing people how good my ice cream really  is. There is no easy remedy for this but to just put yourself out there and let the whole world know. I mean, it’s ice cream, what’s the worst they can say about it?

4. What are the best and most challenging parts of running a startup?

I’ve always been an idea person and the best and most rewarding part for me is the ice cream making part. I have to plan, experiment, and test all my flavors and I have to do this all before we do our run in the summer. It’s mostly research and a lot of asking and answering like: “Does this taste good?” “What does it need?” “Do you think people will like it?” This is especially challenging when you’re making “weird” flavors that are often not too familiar with people. But, when I finally get to make and deliver all the pints of ice cream to my customers, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences in the world.

Making the product is often the easy part but once you know what you’re selling the hardest part is figuring out how to sell it. To who? Where at? How? There often more questions than answers and the only way to answer them to just plan for the worst and hope for the best. That’s all you can do.

5. Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?

Entrepreneurialism is a mindset. Anyone can do it you just have to have the guts and enough hustle to do it. It’s 90% hustle and 10% hard work because you’re constantly trying to figure something out. If it’s not the product, it’s the money and if it’s not the money it’s the hows and whys and wheres and whens. Entrepreneurialism is almost like a special kind of stupid. It’s a personal commitment and that’s something that can’t be learned or found in your blood, it’s just something that you do.

6. What do you plan to take away from this experience?

I wanted to take on Caraway to see what it would really be like to run my own business. Of the many things I’ve learned, I feel the most valuable lessons is self-sufficiency and problem solving. I’ve learned to get through issues by using my own smarts and my own instincts. I’ve learned how to keep track of money and at the same time how to save money while not sacrificing the quality of my product. Then last of all, I’ve learned how to develop and sell a product and the fact that I love doing that. It’s a thrill to create something new and an even greater thrill to see others enjoy it. I’ve learned that creating new foods is what I want to do and I think that actually figuring out what you want to do with your life is an amazing gift which is one that Caraway has given me.

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7. What is next for you and Caraway Ice Cream?

Expect amazing is all that I can say, for Caraway at least. This summer I’ll be going to Spain for six weeks studying Spanish so expect me to return with a stomach full of jamon and speaking fluent spanish! As soon as I get back, I’ll be diving straight into work and churn out pints and pints of ice cream for all of our Caraway fans after our Pre-Sale.

Caraway is just a seed and I hope to expand in the future with an actual storefront and sell the ice cream by the scoop but I must work out all the details first and see if Caraway really is a viable, sellable product. Of course, I will have to graduate college first so only time will tell what will happen to me and to Caraway!

8. When and where can we order?

We are currently running a campaign on IndieGoGo to raise funds to help cover the initial expenses of running Caraway. The campaign will end on May 31st and we can use all the help we can get! Please contribute here: http://igg.me/at/caraway2015/x/10144560. After the campaign, we will go into a short period of preparing as we gather and deliver all of our perks to our contributors and then begin finalizing all the smaller details of the run.

Our Pre-Sale will begin on August 1st and end on the 22nd where you can buy ice cream pints and sandwiches of which will be delivered to you! We will then distribute the packages for two weeks from August 23rd to September 5th. For this run, we can only sell and deliver the pints to people living in California as we cannot afford to ship out of state, sorry non-Californians!

For updates, like us on our facebook page where you will find out what our next flavors will be and any other specials going on here: https://www.facebook.com/CarawayIceCream

Make an ice cream dream a reality. Contribute now!


Photos and graphics courtesy of Lisa Ly, Graphic Designer, Caraway Ice Cream