LGBT Entrepreneurs Succeed in Ice Cream

How These Food Creators Find Success in Family Business

When I started to round up LGBT-owned specialty food companies, Stonewall Kitchen and the award-winning artisanal cheeses from Rogue Creamery and Cowgirl Creamery immediately came to mind.

Then the trend became clear: gay and lesbian couples are especially sweet on ice cream.

Scream for these 3 awesome ice cream businesses that are adding rainbows of creativity and deliciousness to our lives and the food scene while thriving despite the stress a family/couple business can bring.

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Shop

Big Gay Ice Cream Shot
The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck landed with a Big Gay Ice Cream brick and mortar shop. m01229 on Flickr

Gap partnered with Big Gay Ice Cream for Gay Pride in 2015, and transformed its midtown Manhattan space into a Big Gay Ice Cream pop-up print and ice cream shop, complete with ice cream cart, unicorn murals, and rainbow sprinkles.

The soft-serve ice cream to which Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff added a fabulous flair hit the streets of New York and Twitter in 2009 as the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Now more down to earth, Big Gay Ice Cream has traded in its truck for brick-and-mortar shops — already found on the USA Today list of Best Ice Cream Parlors In The World.

They've opened in Philly and are strategically testing new markets with pop-ups, the duo plans to expand the brand. Next step: Los Angeles! Interestingly, not West Hollywood.

The book: Big Gay Ice Cream Book

Coolhaus Architecturally-Inspired Gourmet Ice Cream

Coolhaus founders Freya and Natasha at Expo West
Freya and Natasha founded Coolhaus the ice cream truck and went on to open a shop, launch a product line, produce an ice cream "cook book" a family business, as they are romantic partners too. Susie Wyshak

I'll never forget the day I had my first Coolhaus mint chip ice cream sandwich, in a chocolate cookie, at a food truck festival in Los Angeles.

Since that first bite, a few years after couple Natasha Case and Freya Estreller started building their homemade cookies and ice cream into "cool houses" — tapping into their passions for architecture, real estate and clearly ice cream.

They debuted in 2009 at the Coachella music festival in a bling-free old postal van. Fast forward several years of adding trucks around the country, launching ice cream products from pints to ice cream sandwiches.

The Next Best Thing to Being in Business Together

As Coolhaus matured, Freya architected a clever new company called Ludlow's Cocktail Co. Borne out of a brainstorm on a hot summer night, the company makes ready-to-eat alcoholic jelly shots. Ready made for all your airplane drinking needs! (Here's a video of Freya pitching Ludlow, as she did successfully on Shark Tank.)

Natasha keeps the Coolhaus ice cream business thriving, while Freya continues to be involved as an active board member.

This new arrangement, Natasha says, has been a great, sustainable answer for us on balancing personal and business. "We have more of a boundary now — we are excited to catch up at the end of the day about the updates of our two brands instead of already knowing exactly what happened in each other's world."

Plus, the little bit of distance makes Freya's feedback and insight on the business actually more helpful and valuable. "She has a better perspective, and it makes it easier for us to turn off the business conversation when we decide to," says Natasha.

The Book: Coolhaus Ice Cream Book: Custom-Built Sandwiches with Crazy-Good Combos of Cookies, Ice Creams, Gelatos, and Sorbets

Phin & Phebes Ice Cream

Phin & Phebes and Expo West
Cutting loose on the trade show floor. Phin & Phebes

Phin & Phebes got its start in that classic way, at home, like so many specialty food businesses. Partners Jess Eddy and Crista Freeman were noodling around with fun ice cream flavors like Coconut Key Lime, Banana Whama, Goat Cheese Caramal, Caramal Brownie Boom, Ginger Cookie Snap, Maple Bacon Pecan.

They happened to be in Brooklyn, artisan food central, the perfect place to test. They did so at the Brooklyn Lyceum Fair. People loved it.

Less like the other two ice cream companies, that kicked off with food trucks, Crista and Jess have had a plan focused on selling at retail. (Coolhaus sells their goodies at retail too as well as in their own shops.)

For scalability (having come from the tech world) they decided to work with a co-packer to produce their ice creams, based on their recipes, and tapped into AngelList and CircleUp to raise funding from angel investors.

Working together has highlighted how important alonetime is to keep the partnership strong, both in business and in love.

Ice Cream is Seriously Fun and Serious Business

These stories of couples taking their passions for food, fun and each other are really stories of good new-fashioned entrepreneurship.

The thing is ice cream is tough. Read about the resilient Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and the multiple slams from listeria issues. Ultimately, for now anyway, the company contracted with an ice cream co-packer to produce their ice creams.

The fact that her fans are standing by ready to buy just shows the power of a great, authentic brand and ice cream people can't wait to get their hands on.