Have you ever wondered how you can create your own product and how to build meaningful partnerships? In this episode, Camille welcomes Deborah Gorman and Nicole Cardone, co-founders of SorBabes, which serves healthy and delicious vegan sorbet bars.
Not that people shouldn’t worry about what they put in their bodies and we obviously are very clear about clean ingredients and things like that, but at the end of the day, it’s a treat and we want people to enjoy it.
Deborah and Nicole share their journey in trying to create and manufacture the right product while taking advantage of each of their strengths. They give their advice on how they made their partnership work and how they were able to overcome challenges with logistics and manufacturing and dealing with an industry that is heavily male-dominant.
So, I think you can’t be everything. So, you can only know what you know, but it’s really nice to start with a good foundation and then start finding other people that are smarter than yourself in different areas and go and keep asking questions.
If you’re wondering how you can build your own product and are interested in creating partnerships with other business owners and buyers, tune into this episode to hear Deborah and Nicole’s tips and tricks in creating a product that people will love and how to scale your business.
My biggest advice would is to be truly honest with your buyer and make sure that they know where you’re coming from, so they can help.
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DEBORAH GORMAN [0:00]
Now, I’m at a point a little older beyond my life where I’m just like, okay, I hope my daughters never have to go through that phase or deal with that. And I hope to create an environment where other women feel good about who they are and what they look like and not have to stress about it and think about it too much because we’re just beautiful in all shapes and sizes, yeah.
CAMILLE WALKER [0:29]
So, you want to make an impact. You’re thinking about starting a business sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We’ll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
Hey, everyone. I’m so excited about today’s episode because we are talking about how to dessert like a mother with the owners of SorBabes, which is a specialty treat that is a frozen dessert with no artificial sweeteners. And it’s considered not a diet, but an ice cream that’s actually good for you and vegan.
So, these two are incredible. I had so much fun talking with them. It’s Nicole Cardone and Deborah Gorman, who started a specialty ice cream sorbet experience in New York City in farmers’ market and how they grew it to a business that is now seen in all of the Costcos. You can grab this at your local Costco and it is amazing, has such a clever taste profile, and it tastes really, really good.
So, let’s dive in. I’m so excited for you to hear how these two have been able to create a partnership that is built on trust and also one that plays to each other’s strengths. And I’m so excited for you to hear how they make it work even being bi-coastal. Let’s dive in.
Welcome everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO. I am your host, Camille Walker, and I am so excited today because we get to talk a pair of lovely ladies that are the co-owners of SorBabes. I think partnerships are so unique and take really special people to make them work. So, today, we’re talking with Nicole Cardone and Deborah Gorman.
And the thing about SorBabes that I love is that it’s a product that is designed to help women especially enjoy the beautiful process of enjoying something sweet and something that’s actually good for our bodies with natural sugars. It’s vegan, dairy-free, and contains nutrients that your body actually needs and wants. So, thank you so much for creating a product where we can feel good about our bodies and enjoy eating something wonderful. So, Deborah and Nicole, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.
NICOLE CORDONE [2:48]
Thanks for having us. We’re so excited to be able to talk with you today.
Yeah. So, Nicole, let’s start with you. You had grown up in Alaska. What part of Alaska? I’m curious because I have family that lives there and talk us through the process of how you moved to the land states, what do they call us?
The Lower 48.
The Lower 48, yeah.
Yeah. So, that’s so cool that you have family there. I was born in Palmer and raised in Anchorage, so born and raised there my entire adolescence. And I moved out to go to college. So, that was really a unique way to spend my adolescence. I was hiking and fishing, but it was definitely a unique upbringing.
And then, I decided that I wanted something completely different. So, I wanted to study finance and I went to go to school in Manhattan and then I spent the next 17 years of my life in New York City. So, it was quite a switch for me, but I liked that. I’m an extremist. I think I enjoy putting myself outside of my comfort zone, which is maybe why I started a business. So, yeah, that’s a little bit of my story.
It definitely sounds like you went from one wilderness to another because Alaska is crazy. There’s moose, bears. My cousin tells me her kids have to wear bells as they walk to school just to keep them safe. She said the moose is what they’re more afraid of than the bears. It’s just announcing their presence and they’re fine. But man, going into Manhattan, was that a huge culture shock for you?
It was, but I wanted that. I felt so secluded from the rest of the world and the Lower 48 all seemed so exciting. If I met someone from a big city like Chicago or LA, I would just be like, “You’re so cool. You’re from a big city.” And I just really craved that.
And it was interesting because when I went to New York, I felt immediately at home. The vibe, the energy, I’m a Type A. I have a ton of energy and I just think that city allowed me to express myself the way that I always really wanted to. So, it was the perfect fit for me.
That’s fascinating. So, Deborah, tell us a little bit about your background, how you got together, and how this happened where you merged your stories.
Yeah. So, I start off in New York City, so quite different from Nicole, which is funny because sometimes I forget that Nicole grew up in Alaska because it just seems like she’s not the person you’d expect to grow up in Alaska. She’s so cosmopolitan, fashionable. It’s funny that you say the energy of New York just fit you perfectly because it does make sense.
I grew up in New York City. I always loved food. My grandmother taught me to cook. So, I spent my days in the kitchen testing recipes instead of playing video games or watching TV. That was my happy space. I went to college for art, and then moved to the Midwest.
And then, I always knew I wanted to cook. I had a roundabout way to get to cooking, but I ended up working in fine dining restaurants for many years, which brought me to being a private chef in The Hamptons in the summers. And I knew at that point I wanted to run my own business. I loved working in restaurants. It was really fun, but I was at a point in my life and career where I was like, okay, to be a mom and to be a chef, it’s really difficult.
And so, I didn’t know that was my path, but I really wanted my weekends and nights and go to parties again. And I just didn’t have all that because I was always working. And so, the summer that I worked in The Hamptons, I became very friendly with the house manager of the house that I was living in with the family and it was really great. I made these amazing dinner parties and it was a dream job for me because I could basically go to the farmers’ market, collect all the most amazing produce, it was grown locally, and make these incredible dinners for people that they really appreciated it and they loved the food. So, that was super fun.
But I knew it wasn’t forever. It was a fun gig for a bit. The house manager in the house was actually Nicole’s mother-in-law. So, she actually matchmade us we say because she was like, “You have to meet Nicole. You two are so similar. Nicole’s working on this business. She needs a chef. She needs help.” So, when I got a call from Nicole being like, “Hey, can you help me with some recipes for this new brand?” I had worked in restaurants making sorbet and I had background in that and I loved it. And it was always fun to make ice cream and dessert.
And so, the two of us started working together and soon enough, we just realized, we’re like, “Let’s do this.” The two of us together, we had different backgrounds, different skillsets, yet we have a very similar mentality when it comes to working and our drive was really similar. So, that really made it easy to start a partnership together.
That’s so fascinating. So, Nicole, you’re starting this business, where did that idea come from before you were connected with Deborah?
Yeah. So, I had always loved food. I’m a big food person and I’m especially into dessert. I have a big sweet tooth and I also loved going to the farmers’ market and getting creative. And I was working in finance at the time. And so, I would go to the farmers’ market on the weekends and I got into making fresh homemade sorbets.
And my one example that I remember it was just outstanding is I had gotten these overripe peaches, a whole bag of them because they couldn’t take them at the end of the day and I got a great deal. And I made a fresh sweet tree ripened peach sorbet. And then, I made a homemade cinnamon streusel and I mixed it in. And it was almost this frozen peach cobbler and it was so delicious. It reminded me of a Ben & Jerry’s and I was a Ben & Jerry’s girl. So, I was like, wow, this is great and I shared it with all my friends.
And then, one day, I was craving that and I couldn’t make it. So, I went to the store looking. I’m sure there’s something. Nothing was anywhere near what I was making at home. And I was like, this is weird. All I could find was lemon, raspberry, and mango and they were just super hard, overly sweet, very one-dimensional. And I thought this was weird because so many innovations have been made in frozen desserts. And there’s coconut ice creams and there’s artisanal ice creams and there’s all these different like froyo, but sorbet had always remained the same.
During the great recession when the market crashed, I was in finance. And after a few years, everybody was out of work in my industry and you just couldn’t find anything. And I thought, you know what? Maybe this is a sign. Maye it’s time for me to start my own business. And so, I had this idea, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own, which is where being introduced to Deborah was the perfect timing, the perfect fit.
And we really got lucky because you hear so many horror stories with partnerships and we really didn’t know each other before we got into business together. So, it could’ve gotten really wrong, but fortunately, it didn’t. It was the best thing that ever happened, I think.
Yeah, I agree.
That’s fantastic. I actually was in the mortgage business in 2008 as well. That was the year my oldest was born. And so, the ownership of the bank I was working switched hands I think four times or something. So, I understand that pain of, okay, time to move on to something new.
And I think that that’s what’s so fascinating about those times of our lives in both cases for us at that time and then also recently with everyone as well with the pandemic that these times of recession or hardship or something totally flipping your life upside down really opens up doors for opportunity if you allow it. So, what was it when you two met where you thought, “This is going to work?” How long did it take for you to figure that out?
Not very long. Yeah, it was pretty fun. At the time, it was really fun. We were like, “Okay, let’s go to the farmers’ market. Let’s make a bunch of sorbet and we’ll sell it.” That was not like we were taking a huge leap of faith or something. We’re like, “All right, let’s try doing this.”
So, we started small in that way, but it was a lot of work. Setting up a farmers’ market, getting into farmers’ market, figuring out how to get press. I wasn’t even living in New York actually at the time and I was working full-time actually. And then, I’d come home on my days off and make all the sorbet for the week. And then, we would sell it in the farmers’ markets on the weekends. And Nicole would come out and work in the farmers. It was crazy that first year, but we both just went all in. We just did it.
And I think after that year, we both were like, “All right. We saw some great feedback and we heard great feedback and we really saw people responding to what we were doing.” And it was like we just kept taking another step.
And I knew when I met Nicole, soon after us working together, and I was like I hope SorBabes is our big success story, but I knew more that we as a partnership could figure anything out from how we dealt with every issue, how we would tackle stuff, how we would talk about situations, how both of our mindsets. So, I knew at some point pretty early on, I remember thinking we can do anything. Between the two of us, we could figure this all out. And I still feel that today.
And yes, also being a mother, we weren’t mothers at the time. It also happened along the way. Actually, Nicole had her first right before we started SorBabes and then she had two more soon after, but I wasn’t a mother until after Nicole had her first three kids. So, we took turns having kids. And I think that also helped too because it was like you always had your other partner to rely on for when you needed to step away for a bit or couldn’t be either just because of hormones or because of not sleeping for five days, those type of moments, someone to back you up, that was really helpful.
We always say we don’t know how people do it but don’t have a partner because I can’t imagine. There are so many things that come up and you’re just like I need someone to talk about, process this with. And it’s not just your husband or partners or people in your life, they’re not fully in it and don’t get the details of everything that’s going on in the business to really help you get to the problem side, so to get to the bottom of the problem. So, I think that we just feel really lucky that we have someone to bounce ideas off of and be there for each other when we need it. It’s a blessing.
I love that so much. And what’s fascinating to me too is have the two of you ever lived in the same state or have you always been doing this in different places?
In the beginning, Deborah was living out in The Hamptons working, but The Hamptons is an hour away from the city and I was in Manhattan. So, we were crisscrossing constantly and she’s from Manhattan. So, her family has an apartment there. So, she was constantly switching her home base. So, we were pretty local. It wasn’t until the business really got off the ground much, much more before she ultimately moved out to Los Angeles and I stayed in New York for a while after.
Okay. So, you’re getting into these farmers’ markets. I have been to farmers’ markets, but I have never produced a product to sell there. Is that a hard process to do to get there and to build a following? I’m sure you’ve developed a cult following because as you’re describing that each dessert, I’m like, “That sounds incredible.” Tell me about that process.
Yeah. I think that it is definitely a challenge because the farmers’ markets, a lot of times, the communities are very closely protecting their community. So, you can’t be local everywhere. So, they only want really hyperlocal people. You had to go through the motions and prove that and you had to go to a committee and they had to approve of you and your product. And if there’s another ice cream there, they wouldn’t want competition. So, you really don’t have a lot of options always.
But I think the harder part was just trying to execute this in New York City. So, nobody has cars. We’re dealing with a frozen product that is deep frozen. You need dry ice. You need transportation. You need huge coolers. The logistics, we used to rent out the back of an ice cream kitchen in Brooklyn. It was like the red eye shift and it was actually how we got our name.
We’d come in at 11 o’clock or midnight and we’d work until 5 in the morning. And we would produce our ice cream there, the sorbet, and when we would come in at night, the ice cream guys would be closing up. And they would say, “The SorBabes are here,” and that was where we’re like, “That’s cute.” So, that’s where the name started.
But just having the logistical strategy around how do you actually do this in New York City? How do you get from Brooklyn with your frozen desserts all the way back into Midtown Manhattan and then from there to different farmers’ markets in the region? We were putting huge tents in the backs of yellow taxis. This was before Uber. So, we’d see a yellow cab, we’d be running with all of our supplies down the street trying to hail a cab in the rain or 500-degree weather in the middle of the city. So, it was definitely a fiasco, I think. Farmers’ markets are great, but they can be a lot more work than meets the eye.
And also, Nicole was pregnant at this time too. So, she was pregnant. And then, I remember one day, I threw my back out. So, Nicole was lifting the coolers pregnant because I literally couldn’t move. I remember trying to get to her tiny apartment. We would store our giant cooler that had all the sorbet in it, a huge chest cooler, and it doubled as her kid’s changing pad, changing table.
It was a huge six-foot cooler and I would just put a pad on top of it, put my kid on top, and I’d change their diapers because it took up the entire room. And I remember we had a little pushcart and we couldn’t get the spokes, but it was the little bolts that goes on the side of them. They’re stuck out a little too far so you couldn’t get it through the doorway and this thing weighed 200 pounds. So, you have to lift it up and turn it to the side and it was ridiculous every step of the way.
And you got your security deposit back in that apartment. Wall scratching there, I remember that being terrible.
Yeah. It was like you just don’t think about the logistics of how hard it is to do something like this. It’s the devils in the details.
There’s two parts of that that I think are really interesting because I think what a great place to start. New York City is the birth of innovation and I could see massive success taking place there because just your access to people. But then, on the flip side, how hard is that to freaking get a big freezer into taxi cabs and no one has cars? That sounds like a logistical nightmare.
So, kudos to you two for pushing through that because that sounds so difficult. So, what was it in that transition of running these coolers around, getting to these farmers’ markets where you started to level it up into a place where you’re like, “We’re figuring out a system?” What was it that helped you in that growth pattern?
The way that we divide and conquer is I do the sales and some of the more business financial stuff because of my background and Deborah does the manufacturing the R&D. She handles that. So, I think really when we went from manufacturing ourselves and handpicking glass mason jars to actually working with a manufacturer, an actual proper manufacturer that could co-pack our product. And I have a picture with Deborah in front of our very first pallet. I think it was 200 cases or something like that.
It was a really short pallet. Usually, pallets are way higher than that. It’s like a little cute pallet. We were so proud.
I took a picture. After the picture, we were looking at it and being like, “Are we ever going to sell all of this? This is so much.” It’s so funny to think about that.
And now, we sell truckloads sometimes. So, there’s 24 full big pallets that go on a truckload. So, looking back, it’s like that was so cute.
Yeah. It was like a precious moment where we had no idea how far we were actually going to take it.
So, you were packing them in glass jars? How did it transition into a handheld bar from mixed sorbet? What was that?
Okay. So, first we really wanted it to be unique and special and we were selling at farmers’ markets. So, we were modelling it after a homemade jam and that was more the experience, very artisanal experience, that we were selling and it was extensive. To make the small batch sorbet that we were making out of fresh fruit from the farmers’ market and making really unique flavors and all that, I think at the time, there was a pint, which at the time felt really expensive.
We were also in The Hamptons and people were buying five pints at a time and it was great. So, that’s where we started. And then, we realized the glass was not sustainable. We thought we could scale up with this. There were so many reasons, logistics and frozen and glass just don’t really go well together. There’s so much danger also of fragments. It’s just not going to work out.
And unfortunately, we had to move on past that and packaging is so tricky. If you’re starting with a new product, we both care so much about the environment and care about our impact and sustainability. And so, figuring out a package that we could use that good for frozen was so difficult. And so, we started out, we had a plastic container that was recyclable that was clearer. It was really important for us to see through it. And so, that we used for many years. So, that was in markets. So, we grew with that product. We worked into 5,000 stores or more in 2019.
And then, in 2020, we liked pints, but pints, they’re not easy to eat all the time. You have to get a bowl or you just eat it directly out of the pint, and then you eat the whole thing. And then, there’s other products that are out there that are low calorie that don’t taste very good that you could eat the whole pint and not feel too bad about it, but that wasn’t our product. We were making an indulgent delicious sorbet made with real ingredients and not any alternative sugars like just real whole fruit.
And so, we decided that we actually wanted a single-serve option and we went through a bunch of different options. We tried cones and it was really hard to get cones to stay crispy. We were thinking of a bunch of different things and ultimately, we made some dipped bars and we really loved that because you get those layers of flavors.
So, all of our sorbets are about layers of flavor and texture. So, when you bite into one of our bars, because they’re actually dipped in a flavored coating and it’s like chocolate and white chocolate with different delicious flavors and there’s also crunch mixed in. So, there’s actually crispy bits that are actually made from popped quinoa. And so, that when you crunch into it, you get that bite of crunchy delicious flavor of the chocolate, it melts in your mouth, and then it follows up by the really delicious sorbet that’s either fruit or nut butter, creamy like caramel, you get all these layers of flavor.
And that to us really delivered on the experience that we wanted for SorBabes of how to taste our product. And it was a nice package which you grab out of the freezer. You want to give it your friend, just less mess. We just are so busy and we also just like to know you could eat something and finish it and it feels good and you don’t have to think about it too much.
So, that’s how the bars came to be. And also, when they started selling, they started selling so much better than the pints. The pints were doing fine, but these just out of the gate were doing great. And so, we were just like, all right. We focused and this was where the pandemic hit unfortunately. We had to let go of our pints because we were having a hard time getting manufacturing because everybody, all of the manufacturing plants, there’s slowdown because they couldn’t keep up.
There’s just so many reasons. There was a bottleneck and sales of ice cream unfortunately and fortunately for some companies but not for us went up like 150%. I don’t know if it was 150%. I don’t know if it’s exactly that number. It was a lot.
It was like threefold.
Sales went up 50%. So, that was a huge jump for just demand on the ice cream and there’s only so many manufacturers in the country. So, we were in a position where we didn’t have anybody to manufacture our products. So, we had to itemize or downsize our SKU rationalization. So, we decided to focus on the most best-selling products that would sell the most potential. And that’s how today we ended up with four delicious bars that we’re super proud of.
We do miss our pints. People ask for them all the them. The pints were so good too and some of those flavors, I feel like they’re my babies. But that’s how we ended up. I hope it’s not too long of a story, but that’s how we started with pints and glass jars.
And also, as far as the environmental impact, we felt that there’s less packaging and it’s more recyclable. So, we have boxes that are made out of cardboard that are recyclable. The sticks are made out of wood. And then, you do have that little sleeve, we’re still working on even more sustainable ways of making the plastic sleeve more biodegradable, but these are the things that where it’s less impact versus the plastic container or a paper container that’s lined with plastic. So, we can’t recycle that. It’s not biodegradable. So, that’s how we ended up with bars.
That makes a lot of sense and this is over a course of years.
It’s like ten years.
Yeah. I think it’s interesting. That’s why I love talking to business owners when they’ve been in business for this long because it’s such a journey of figuring out what works and then reevaluating and saying, okay. Really what is doing the best and sometimes it’s having to let go of those things that you really love, like you said, your babies, but knowing in the long-term the success of your business overall is focusing on what is it that the people want and what is the best consumable product which is awesome.
So, getting into Costco was a huge landmark for you guys recently. So, talk to me about how you got into Costco and thank goodness you did because now most of us will have access to it here on the West Coast where we didn’t.
Yeah. No, Costco was great. Oh my gosh, I’ve been knocking on their door for I would say at least four years, going through the motions and it’s not an easy account to land. And I really have a lot of respect for the way they go to market with their products because they know their consumer or their customer, their shopper very well, and they don’t provide a lot of options. They have a few really good options.
And I’m a huge Costco shopper. So, with three kids, you have to be, but I don’t question the items they have on the shelf because I know if it’s there, it’s good. And so, it meant a lot to us just validating as well the product that we’d created when all the buyers were like. “Wow, this is amazing. This is the best.” It was just a great process.
And I feel like the way that they go to market is different than retail. So, our experience has always been with big conventional and specialty retails across the country. But Costco’s club and value, so it was a little different with manufacturing, different with ordering, different logistical situations. So, it was nice to now have broken through that barrier and know that we can also perform on that level. And so, yeah, it’s just been a huge boost for our business.
That’s so exciting. Getting into Costco for anyone who’s listening, what would you say are the first best steps to take if that’s something that you have a goal is to get into Costco?
First, I would say, they will not take you if your business is very small because they don’t want to represent more than I feel like it’s 10% of your actual sales because what they don’t want is for them to be responsible for making or breaking your business. So, again, a lot of respect for Costco and the way that they handle their vendors.
But they knew that we were still a relatively small brand and they knew that we had never worked with Costco before, so they held our hand through the process and said, “Don’t worry. Don’t get a broker. Don’t waste your money on a broker. We will help you through this process.” So, that was really nice.
And I think that it’s not that complicated, but there are a lot of things you can do wrong and really lose your shirt if you’re not careful. So, I think just having a big open communication with your buyer about your position, don’t be shy or embarrassed that you’re small and inexperienced because they don’t expect everybody to be Nestle.
And part of the reason why they liked us I think is they want to bring in these newer, smaller brands because they realized that these artisanal products are some of the best-tasting products out there. So, my biggest advice would just be to be truly honest with your buyer and make sure that they know where you’re coming from, so they can help.
Tell me about the process or the experience of being women-owned business in the field of desserts and ice cream and are you a minority in that space? Talk to me about that.
I think we were more so when we started ten years ago. Especially in New York City, it felt like a really masculine heavy industry with all the distributors and all. There was a lot of intense energy there too because New York City is such an expensive market, expensive but also could be really profitable if you own it and run it.
So, there’s just all this turf war type of stuff going on in New York City that we experienced a lot of that we early on would get some comments like, “You girls are too nice for this” or just like, “Are you sure you’re up for this? This is a tough road.” And for us, that was just like, “Yeah, bring it on.” We were just like, “All right. We could take it. Come on. We’re ready for this. Nobody’s going to scare us.”
And so, I think through the years, we’ve worked with a lot of different people and I think it’s been interesting to look through it with that lens. I try not to let gender dictate too much of a scenario, but I do think we were of the minority and I think being with SorBabes where it was almost some interesting moments where people didn’t really get our name or we had to be like, “It’s not like a sexy thing. It’s like we’re just two women making sorbet and babe is a term of endearment that we use for our husbands. It’s not gender specific.”
And so, I think there’s always been interesting moments of that, but also, I don’t know, you use some of those moments to your advantage as like anything. You play with it and have fun and it makes part of our brand unique because we represent the female perspective in an industry that is heavily male. There weren’t very many brands. Women are the primary shoppers in the supermarket, but most of these brands are designed by men and they don’t really get their consumer a lot of times.
I’ve talked to the women who have been in these board rooms that were like there were a bunch of men in the board room and I’m talking about a CPG product that’s on the shelf in a grocery store like, “Have any of you ever been to a grocery store and shopped for your family?” And not a single guy in the room have, but they’re making decisions for that and this woman’s like, “Let me explain it to you.”
So, I think there are times where you definitely feel that way where you’re just like, “This is not what the consumer wants.” But now I think everyone’s more savvy. There are more women in those business meetings. I think it has changed a lot over the years and it’s really lovely to see that and to be a part of that.
But there’s always moments where you’re just like, “Okay. We got to up the playing field here so it’s a little more fair.” And we’re really listening to more feminine perspective when it comes to eating and appreciating food. And our goal was really to make a product that’s for everyone, but being SorBabes, we really focused in on our female consumer and know what we like to eat and what they are gravitating to.
Yeah. And actually, to your point, so that was the business part of it, but I think as women going into the dessert industry, we looked at the way women not even were shamed but almost would shame themselves over dessert and it was like this bad secret. If you had a sweet tooth and you want dessert, but you’re at a restaurant, don’t be the first person to be like, “I want dessert.”
It’s just this thing. And then, we saw all this diet culture where it was all about eat a whole pint and still feel good about yourself because there’s only 100 calories in the whole pint. And you’re like, “Is that a healthy way to enjoy something that your body is saying that you really need or you just had a really stressful day and maybe a piece of chocolate is going to make you happy?” Eat that chocolate and feel happy, girl. Do what you go to do.
And I think that we felt a little bit of that pressure in the world like, “Are you diet? Are you vegan? Why is it that I should get your product?” We’d be like, “Because it tastes good and it makes you feel good. It makes you happy.” And if you want dessert, I think we should eat it and not really have to think about all that stuff.
So, not that people shouldn’t worry about what they put in their bodies and we obviously are very clear about clean ingredients and things like that, but at the end of the day, it’s a treat and we want people to enjoy it. So, I think that coming at it from a female perspective just in marketing the way we talk to our consumers as well is probably a little different.
Yeah. I love that you brought that up so much because I think a lot of times, there is a stigma around dessert and if and why you should be eating it or what that experience should be like or what it should mean to you especially for women.
I remember when Oprah came out with promoting Skinny Cow that she was like, “This is amazing. It’s a treat. I can finally eat. I don’t know how much it is, 100 calories, 150 calories.” And the industry, their product just shot through the roof because it was like, “We’re getting permission to enjoy a treat now,” where it’s like, of course, you can.
But I think that because she had given it that stamp of approval, it really did open up this floodgate of like, “We can have treats that are under a certain calorie amount or whatever.” So, I love that yours is more about let’s enjoy it and have it be really good for you, especially in America, where so much of our food is just chockful of things it shouldn’t be. So, I appreciate that so much that you’ve created that product because we need more of that.
And just giving diet culture just a middle finger, not to be crude. We’re done with that. That was just so the 90s or whenever it started and has probably been going on. But it’s just the industry, it feels like being in control by the stuff that women should just feel good about their bodies and be who they are and enjoy something. It’s so much waste of our time.
When I was younger, all the hours I spent obsessing about what I was eating and dieting or this or that and I was like, what other things could I have been doing? There are so many better things I should be thinking about and using that precious time.
So, now I’m at a point a little older beyond my life where I’m just like, okay, I hope my daughters never have to go through that phase or deal with that. And I hope to create an environment where other women just feel good about who they are and what they look like and not have to stress about it and think about it too much because we’re just beautiful in all shapes and sizes.
We have better things to do with our time.
Absolutely. I love that. So, talk to me about motherhood and being a business owner and partners in separate states. What are some tips and tricks that you have done to keep your head on straight and keep the business going and having meaningful time with your kids? Tell us the best things that you’re each doing now. And I know that you’re not perfect, but give us the real juice. What do you do?
Yeah. It’s funny. I feel like Deborah touched on this earlier, she said we decided and maybe unintentionally, but it was we couldn’t be pregnant at the same time. It’s like that is just not going to happen. You’ve got to be able to balance it out. And I think it actually has continued to work for us in our favor that we had children at different times. Not many years apart, but just at least a year or so because you know, you’re a mother, your kids need different things at different ages.
And when they’re very young, it's much more physical. There’s so much demand that I think it can be really hard to give your all to a business and then you’re very stressed because part of it too is not only do you have your own guilt because you want to be a bigger business, but then you also feel obligated to your partner. You don’t want to let your partner down.
And so, it’s like there’s a lot of that and I think for me personally realizing that this whole idea of balance is a myth. It’s just an illusion. It’s like, there’s the balance. I just passed it. There’s the balance. It’s gone. It’s on the other side. So, it’s either more family or it’s more work.
But what’s great is that I think that having Deborah and me, we’ve been doing this together now for 10 years and we’re pretty much in sync. And for the most part if I’m working a lot, she knows that maybe she can spend a little more time with her family and vice versa. And we give each other a little bit of that give and take. I wish there was a perfect formula. I wish I can give some words of wisdom to all those mothers out there struggling with it all, but I feel like it’s tough. It really is.
Also, we’ve hired really good people recently and I think that has made me feel a lot like take a little bit of time to know that. I think it’s hard. I think of the early days and we did everything. We really didn’t have money to hire anybody and that wasn’t an option for us.
So, I think now we’re at a point in our business where we can bring on people. Some of them, we pay more than ourselves because that’s how we need to invest in the business right now. And so, it’s like how do you figure out how to get help in ways that you just know you can’t do everything, but also to be available when you need to, to guide these people and to be able to delegate and give them good guidance so that they can move forward with the business when you’re not always available?
And I think I mentioned before the time difference because we live in different coasts, so sometimes it’s hard for me in the morning because I’m like, I’m behind. I’m three hours. I’m running at my desk and I’m not a great morning person. Nicole knows this. I need all the time to wake up. So, I get to my desk and I’m always like, “What’s going on? What did I miss?” There’s a little bit of that.
But at the end of the day, I have three hours of quiet time which is really nice for me because I can just get the work done that during the day I’ve been on calls or just been chatting with the team. And then, it’s quiet at the afternoon and I can focus my time. So, I think that just being able to balance your schedule that way and also bring people on that can do the things that you don’t really need to be doing all the time is really great.
I’m really thinking about also with motherhood, I just feel like there’s benefits to owning your business. I think about it all the time of, would I rather be working for someone else a mother or be my own boss as a mother? And I think I go back and forth. Ultimately it is better for me because of my personality to be working on my own. I would always be thinking about it that way and I’d never really be able to clock out and just leave my work because I’d always be problem-solving off hours.
But to know that I can step away and that I can control my time and say, “Okay, I’m not going to work for these four hours because I need to spend time with my kids or I need to take care of when they’re sick.” My husband and I can physically take care of our kid if our kid’s sick and call Nicole and tell her what’s going on and she’ll cover for me. I’ll do it late at night. There’s a way to do that with our jobs. So, that’s really helpful.
And then, there’s moments where it’s like, yeah, it’ll be really great to have paid leave. We’re such a small company, but things like that where it’s like, okay, there’s benefits of having a corporate situation where you can actually walk away and have a kid and be that focus for four months and not have to think about work.
But I think you have to know your personality and what you want in life and how you work. And if you need to clock out at 5 o’clock every day, then owning your business is probably not for you. You need to be able to work at weird hours and do things when things come up and that’s just how it is. I don’t know. We just make it happen. Half my world is just I don’t know how I did all that, but somehow my kids are thriving or doing okay, not always thriving, but they’re hanging in there. I’m sometimes able to exercise, not every day. But it’s just things like that where you’re just like moving one foot in front of the other.
I also think having supportive husbands too. They have learned over the years that they have to deal with our incredible levels of stress and pressure that we put on ourselves. And sometimes, they interject and they’re like, “Okay, this needs to calm down or whatever” or they’re like, “Okay, I see you need your space. I’ll take the kids and you just take care of what you need.” So, it’s like you got to have all the support around you too.
I agree with that 100%. I’m curious. Do you have a management online system that you use to keep all of your people communicating with each other? How have you managed to keep tasks in order of who’s doing what as a team?
So, actually what’s interesting is when Deborah brought up the team thing, I hadn’t really thought about it, but it has been a very unique shift in this past year. We’ve hired quite a few people and we’re used to doing everything on our own. So, now shifting from I’m doing it to delegating and managing is a whole different process, yeah. And so, we have been working with different, I think we use Slack, definitely Google Docs.
Dropbox, but we just send documents all the time through that. And so, that’s been helpful. Nicole and I, I feel like we’re a little bit dinosaurs because one of our team members keep trying to get us to use, she’s like, “Let’s use this new program. Let’s try this one.” And we’re always like, “Okay.” We end up texting her, “I don’t know. This is too much. I don’t have time to learn this. I’m too busy.”
So, I think it’s just really funny. I haven’t gotten into Slack per se or I don’t know Monday. There’s a bunch of them. People are saying great things about them. I just feel like maybe as we grow, Nicole, we do need to focus on one program that we stick with.
Yeah. I think right now, we have a team of six and not everybody is full-time. So, it’s a little easier to manage. But I do think as we grow beyond that, we’re going to need something more consistent, so yeah.
Yeah. I think that’s fantastic because as you’re growing, those are things you figure out. And honestly, I’ve found that if I found someone that can manage that system for me, even if I’m texting, messaging them, then take that and put that into the system where as you’re learning how to use that as a team leader, it takes some time and then having someone, their brain works in that way more than yours does, which is certainly the case for me, then you can get into using a system into a flow where you can trust that as a main hub for everyone else since its not writing your business in your head. That’s so cool.
And I think that’s so awesome that the two of you have found a way to connect and work with each other and really play to each other’s strengths. What would you say as advice for someone going into a partnership how to communicate that’s effective for you to grow a business together?
It’s so interesting you ask this because I do think one of the reasons why Deborah and I are so effective in problem-solving is I think that we really trust each other’s opinion. I may come in like, “This is what I want to do” and she may come in with someone totally different. And I’m like, “Wait. That’s not what I want,” but yet I’m like, “Wait a minute. If she really wants that, I know she’s super smart. I know she’s got the same experience as me. She’s got a great perspective. Let me hear her out.”
Sometimes, she totally convinces me. I go from being 100% in one position to like, okay, that makes sense and I switch. So, I think that really knowing and trusting your partner, allowing them the space to change your mind because you trust their opinion I think is really important.
I love that.
It’s funny too because we have such good debate conversations. There’s never an argument. And if we ever did, we know we have people to call to help us figure it out situation. So, I always feel like we never worry about that. That’s never a worry. And I think a lot of times, if we come into these conversations, we’re like, “I think we should do this. I think we should do that.” A lot of times, we just go through pros and cons. Maybe not that officially, but go through it and go through all the reasons. We talk about it and usually we agree at the end. There are very few times where we don’t agree on something, which is it means we feel like, okay, we’ve come to a good conclusion. We know what to do. We’re moving forward.
And I think that to go back even further to that, before you start a partnership with someone, I think too really look for someone who’s got different skillsets than your own. When I met Nicole, she’s a finance person and she’s really amazing at balancing our cash flow every month, finding the right manufacturer, making sure that we’re okay financially to go to the next step and she’s learned how bank relationships, all those stuff where I went to art school.
I didn’t have that background. I can figure out manufacturing. I can do all those other stuff where Nicole didn’t have that background and recipe development. I taught myself to be a food scientist. I’ve just gone down that path and we both have creative minds so we meet in the middle in this good way where we get each other, but we also can go off and do our own thing and then come back.
So, it’s not like you’re having two people with the same skillset that are trying to go after because then it gets awkward. You just don’t know when you still need more people to do the other things. So, I think that’s really where I felt it’s been really great is just we both know what we’re good at and then dividing up the work was obvious in a lot of ways. So, we knew who could do what.
And then, yeah, just find someone smarter than yourself. Nicole, I think she thinks I’m smarter. I think she’s smarter. So, that’s great. So, I just think you find someone who you really think brings a lot to the table and you know that you can rely on them and ask them good questions or also just know that you don’t feel weird about asking other people for help.
I think both of us have learned over the years how much asking for help is a good thing and we’ve just reached out to people in the industry and gotten some really great advice from different mentors. So, I think you can’t be everything. So, you can only know what you know, but it’s really nice to start with a good foundation and then start finding other people that are smarter than yourself in different areas and go and keep asking questions.
That’s fantastic. I think that’s such good advice because it’s really finding your zone of genius and discovering what your lane is so that you can support each other in those positions of what it is that you’re managing. So, really good advice. I think that this has been an incredible conversation. I appreciate you guys for sharing so much of your journey and everything else.
And the one last question I want to end on is, is there a time where you had a failure in your business or a big struggle? I know we talked about he pandemic a bit and that we dove into a little bit. Is there another time for you as a partnership where you were able to tackle a problem together and what did you learn from that?
Which one? There’s so much.
There’s so many. It wasn’t even as much pandemic-related, it was during that time. I still think it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever gone through was having a change in manufacturing and moving to a manufacturer right before the peak season.
We had all these purchase orders to fill and the manufacturer just wasn’t able to produce the product and the stress around trying to troubleshoot and work with them in the factory on the floor was during the pandemic. So, the travelling was really challenging, family was really challenging, everything. I think Deborah and I both aged at least another five years in a two0month period because it was so stressful.
And I think that when you go through things like that and you do survive and you do look at it from the other side, you realize also how much it strengthened your partnership. You almost have more trust in the other person because they didn’t waver. They were there the whole time. Maybe they didn’t know exactly what to do, but they didn’t give up. They didn’t dump on you. You know what I mean? It’s just when you realize you can go through these kinds of things, I think it makes you stronger. So, yeah, I can’t imagine anything harder than what that was.
Yeah. It was 2021, it was during the pandemic, so it was definitely related to that. So, yeah, having no manufacturer in the middle of demand for ice cream going up.
How did you choose someone? What did you do?
We were out of stock for a while.
We were out of stock. So, we didn’t have product for a bit. Some of our customers stood with us and waited. They held the shelf space for us, which we’re forever in debt to them. We just respect them for that. And then, we did find a manufacturer that wasn’t really able to make our product. So, that was a headache to live through. And then, ultimately, we found a manufacturer, but they couldn’t squeeze us in until after season. So, we had to basically tell the stores during ice cream season we didn’t have product.
And then, eventually in the end of July, we were able to then start restocking shelves and we had product move into stores. And then, since then, we’ve found actually the third manufacturer that we’ve going to in the last two years. We had two, one that couldn’t do it for us, second one wasn’t quite appropriate for us, and the third one now feels like a really great partnership and we’re super excited.
So, that’s something to have a manufacturer you feel like you can grow with has been a very important step in our business that’s appropriately sized for us is really great. So, we’re in a good place now. So, we feel really confident moving forward, but it was a really harrowing couple of years.
That’s an amazing example. And I don’t know if the two of you have read the book Shoe Dog. Have you read that?
You need to start that right now because it’s the story of Nike and his experience of going through manufacturers and having really interesting experiences of disloyalty and trying to find someone who wasn’t quite the right fit. They couldn’t make the product quite right and then having to transition and rebrand.
And it’s so fascinating to me because it was finding the manufacturer that was able to facilitate the growth that they were able to do that they switched from being called Blue Ribbon to Nike. It happened by accident. And so, it was going through this manufacturer struggle that they were able to create a product that they loved and obviously we know what happened with them. But it took years and years to get there.
And so, your story reminds me so much of them. You’re in such a wonderful place. I think that you’re just in such a good spot of getting through that struggle of who’s a good fit for us? How do we find a product that we love and being able to push forward? So, I see nothing but incredible things for you too and I’m so grateful that you’re able to come on this show today.
Thank you so much for having us. Your kind words and encouragement, I feel like it’s always helpful talking with other people too who run successful businesses and it’s just nice to meet other people that are doing similar things. So, thank you again for the opportunity.
Thank you. This was really fun.
All right. I’ll talk to you all soon.
All right. Thank you.
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