Selling ice cream is a childhood dream for many. For some, it’s a job with a steady paycheck. But for entrepreneur Robyn Sue Fisher, it’s an all-consuming passion and a way of life.
Armed with an MBA from Stanford, an aptitude for invention, and a desire to leave the corporate grind, the self-described ice cream fanatic launched Smitten Ice Cream in 2007.
Her quest: to deliver the freshest, purest, and best-tasting ice cream, anywhere. Operating as a genuine challenger brand with goals exceeding resources, Robyn eschewed the ice cream industry's focus on shelf life and mass distribution, opting instead for quality, flavor, and freshness.
Not a simple task.
Inspired by her lofty goal, Robyn delved into the science behind ice cream production. She identified the gritty texture of mass-produced ice cream to be the result of too-large ice crystals that formed due to recrystallization or temperature fluctuations that cause the ice cream to melt and then freeze again, resulting in a bland taste.
“The ice cream industry has been heavily hit with food science to extend the product’s life,” said Robyn. “I encourage you to read the back of the label and see these additives that don’t add to the taste—just the shelf life—and are hard to digest.”
Her solution? Invent and patent the stainless-steel machine that uses liquid nitrogen to churn her fresh ingredients, crafting a Smitten Ice Cream scoop, made to order in about 90 seconds. Appropriately called the Brrr machine, Robyn’s revolutionary technique was an instant crowd-pleaser delivering a fresh-tasting product and the personalized experience.
“Ice cream churned to order with the freshest, purest ingredients, before their eyes,” said Robyn.
When first starting her business, Robyn was strapped for cash—so she strapped the Brrr machine to a Radio Flyer wagon and took to the streets of San Francisco, joining the food truck craze and quickly gaining a loyal following on social media. Today, Smitten Ice Cream has ten brick-and-mortar locations around California. The current expansion is targeted to California, though recent media attention has made Smitten a national sensation and attracted many visitors from other states.
The shops always offer six flavors at a time: three crowd favorites including their best-seller Homemade Cookie Dough and three new flavors that are rotated each month to provide a unique experience for their frequent visitors. Smitten has a talented pastry chef Brooke Mosley, who turns out the new flavors, usually based on the season or feedback from guests.
No matter the flavor, Smitten always uses organic milk and freshly picked fruits and vegetables, all from west coast farms.
Despite her rapid success, Robyn never forgets her company’s humble beginnings and strives to maintain the quality not just of the ice cream, but also the startup culture she values. For instance, customers are called “guests” and servers are “brrristas.” Robyn emphasizes that Smitten is not just about the deliciousness of the product, but also the overall experience of eating ice cream crafted specially for each guest.
“We’re creating a super high-quality ice cream experience with joy and warmth,” said Robyn.
With their bespoke approach and dedication to a superior ice cream experience, Robyn and her team of Brrristas are revolutionizing the ice cream industry—one scoop at a time.