How digital payments help move ice cream out of the freezer section

Two friends are disrupting the ice cream business, one pint at a time.

True Scoops founders Shelly Marshall and Kelly Williamson pose together next to packaging for their ice cream products.

Most people like ice cream.


For Kelly Williamson and Shelly Marshall, it’s more of a love story — a love for the frozen treat and the nostalgia that comes from scooping up your favorite flavors. They love ice cream so much that they met at a Penn State ice cream course in the middle of winter. They became instant friends.


“It's three degrees, negative windchill factor, and we’re taking an intensive course about ice cream,” Kelly laughs. That’s how their entrepreneurial meet-cute began.


Both friends went on to run their own ice cream businesses. Shelly, who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, opened a shop in Brooklyn called Island Pops, inspired by Caribbean native fruits and flavors. Kelly took another route, catering corporate parties and weddings with her signature ice cream sundae bars around Boston.


Then 2020 hit. As events and retail shut down, Kelly closed shop for good, and eventually connected with Shelly again. “Shelly had this idea for a powdered ice cream mix, just like cake mix or brownie mix,” she recalls.


Making ice cream from scratch, they both knew, could be time-consuming, required a long list of ingredients, and took major skills. “It's definitely an advanced type of recipe to make,” says Kelly.


Recipe-testing a shortcut version while she was out of work “created a new itch” for Kelly.


“I was able to bring a certain set of skills and perspective to this business idea.” From their respective cities, they set out on a journey, together this time, to create an ice cream kit that family and friends could make together at home. They launched a successful crowd-funding campaign, applied for grants and accelerators along the way, and bootstrapped as much as they could.


Going digital

In January 2021, True Scoops, a DIY ice cream and toppings mix that requires no ice cream maker, was born.


“We're taking ice cream out of the freezer,” says Kelly. “You think of all the innovation that's happened in ice cream, and it's still within the freezer space of a grocery store. We're taking ice cream to places where people wouldn't expect ice cream to be.”


The powdered mix — available online to share with friends and family — requires just half & half and an electric mixer. In 5 minutes (and a bit of time to freeze!), you have chocolate, vanilla or strawberry flavors and toppings of your choice. There’s even an ice cream sandwich option.


Digital payments make it possible for True Scoops to run their business and reach a national audience online. 


“We have to pay invoices for vendors, for contractors, our manufacturer, everything, says Kelly. “To do it digitally, just makes everything so much easier than through paper checks. Nothing's worse than sending a check and waiting for it to get cashed. And then, it randomly gets cashed at the worst time. Now it's just a click of a button.”


With online payments expanding to flexible options like Buy Now, Pay Later, Kelly and Shelly make sure they’re meeting customers where they are.


“There are so many different options for digital payments now, which is awesome,” says Kelly. “We add them every time a new payment option becomes available because if that's what people are going for, we want to be part of it.”


More than the average pint

Shelly recalls making ice cream with her grandmother in Trinidad using fresh coconut from the coconuts in their backyard. Kelly was born and raised in New England, who has her own nostalgic moments about ice cream. They realized that everyone has a story, a distinct flavor or memory or feeling that comes attached to ice cream.


That’s when it hit them: They weren’t just selling ice cream but an experience, a memory.


“This isn't a convenience product, because you could just buy a pint of anything else at the corner store,” says Kelly. “This is a creative moment for friends and family to do together. We're on a mission to bring friends and family together and do it creatively through ice cream,” she adds.


They learned along the way that part of the experience is the packaging. People are familiar with a pint more so than a food-safe pouch, which they used to originally launch. They quickly pivoted to packaging that was familiar to their customers and reinforced that feeling of nostalgia.


“The idea of success to me, it's the little things. It's reading a good review or just hearing how excited people are about it or what a great idea they think it is. When an adult or a kid is like, ‘Wow! "This is really good! I had so much fun making this!’ That, to me, is all I need.”


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Tag: Digital commerce

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