Who’s that cover star? Yeah, that’s right – it’s Robyn Sue Fisher! Read more about her approach to growing a company and keeping “your specialness.”
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR MISSION IS JOY
CONSCIOUS COMPANY, SEPTEMBER 2016
by Meghan French Dunbar
“MEET THE CONSCIOUS ICE CREAM BRAND BUILT ON LOCAL INGREDIENTS, LIQUID NITROGEN, AND JOY. ITS FOCUS ON QUALITY IS HELPING IT GROW FAST — BUT NOT TOO FAST.
Robyn Sue Fisher, founder and CEO of Smitten Ice Cream, likes inventing things: a machine that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream on demand; a company to sell that ice cream; a new vocabulary to describe how that company runs (one example: “We don’t have a ‘sourcing manager,’ we have a ‘hunter and gatherer,’” she says); and perhaps most importantly, she’s inventing a new definition of success for herself, one that prioritizes quality over quantity, purity over profit, and community above all. We spoke with her about growing in a smart way, failing fast, and the lessons she’s learned along the way…
One thing that we find with entrepreneurs is this sense of persistence even in the face of insurmountable odds. What do you think gave you the courage to keep going for those two years that you were developing the Brrr machine?
RSF: “The [thing] that kept me addicted to it was I needed to know if it would work. I was totally fine with failure as long as it was brutal, obvious failure. If I half-assed it and didn’t really know the answer, I’d always have that “what if” in my mind and that would beat me up over the rest of my life. Comfort with failure is a huge advantage. Otherwise, there’s a tendency to hold back a little bit so that there’s always an excuse. But if you’re comfortable failing, you can go all-out.
What is the mission of Smitten, and what are your core values as a company?
RSF: The mission of Smitten is joy, which is really fun to say. We have in parentheses underneath that, in small type, “We also serve the world’s best ice cream.” But that’s not our mission. Our mission is joy and it’s rooted in four different values, which we vet every single decision through.
Those values are, first and foremost, “make people’s day.” That’s both internally and externally. Our Smitteneers — we don’t say coworkers or employees, we say Smitteneers — we care about each other and also the guests who walk through our doors. We don’t call people “customers,” we call them “guests,” because we believe it’s not a transaction, it’s an interaction — that’s a totally different approach from just serving ice cream.
The second value is “commit to being the best.” Again, everything’s internal and external. Internally that means that all of us show up every day trying to give our personal best. Externally, the whole reason Smitten is doing this is that we’re proving that ice cream can and should be better. We’re saying, “Screw the status quo.” We’ve all gotten so used to the status quo that we don’t really know what we’re missing, but we’re missing so much. We’re out to prove just how great ice cream can be.
The third value is “think like an entrepreneur.” It’s important to us that everyone involved in the company, from our Brrristas to what we call our COW team — we don’t use the word “corporate” because I hate corporate stuff, so we call ourselves the COWs; it stands for “corporate or whatever” — our philosophy is “self-deprecating”: we work for everyone else, and our org chart is flipped on its head so I’m at the very bottom and our Brrristas are at the top. “Think like an entrepreneur” applies to everyone, and our Brrristas throughout the shops see so much more than the COW team does, so a lot of the ideas on how to improve or how to develop new offerings come from them. I make sure that I make time for idea sessions. We also believe that there is no endpoint. We’re not like, “Okay, once we get there, then we’re done.” It’s a constant evolution of who we are.
Our fourth value is “be genuine,” which is plain and simple.
Read Conscious Company’s full article here: This Is What Happens When Your Mission Is Joy