JULY 2019 | GENTRY | 93
ROBYN SUE FISHER Founder and Chief Brrrista, Smitten Ice Cream
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Robyn Sue Fisher’s passion for ice cream runs deep. “Ever since the age of 3, my mom used to tell me I had two tummies, and one was solely reserved for ice cream,” she says. After earning her MBA from Stanford and wondering what would excite her about going to work every day, Fisher trusted her tummy, so to speak. “Let’s tackle something I love and make it better,” she says of the decision that led her to her current role as
In 2007, when she set out to make ice cream better, Fisher uncovered unfortunate industry practices. She points to factory-made, thousand-gallon batches requiring stabilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives for 18-month shelf lives, as well as elaborate distribution chains and repercussions on the environment. “It’s supposed to be something that is good, and it’s not. My goal with Smitten was to turn things upside down and inside out and rethink it such that we could actually make ice cream true.” In rethinking the production, in using high-quality ingredients and a backyard’s bounty of seasonal flavors, and churning it to order, Fisher arrived at a product, as she says, “all about taste, not all about shelf life.”
New technology played an early and integral part. “We invented the technology that now has six patents that automates the process of making ice cream in less time than a latte,” she says. “It was really a decade long process of invention and iteration and refinement to figure out how to make something robust and safe and create an unparalleled product consecutively every single time.”
Today, the Brrr®, amid a cooling cloud of liquid nitrogen, can freeze ice cream in just a minute and a half. The result is the smoothest scoop you can find. Smitten Ice Cream, which Fisher first started selling out of a wagon on the streets of San Francisco back in peak-recession 2009, now has six shops in the Bay Area and Southern California as well as delivery and catering services. “Our goal is to disrupt the category so we’re just beginning,” she says of what’s to come.
Women working in tech, business, and funding here in Silicon Valley are a key part of future growth. “I think it is a really momentous time in history because I feel, more than ever before, the uproar and supportive web of women helping women in a way that I have not experienced in the past decade,” says Fisher, who is now a mentor of other women who are trying to start companies. The proof is in—in this case—the ice cream. “I have 11 female investors as of a year ago and before that I had all male investors,” she says. “That’s a big difference when there are women who are organizing together to create syndicates to invest in women.”
Fisher, as a mom to two young sons, often speaks at her business school alma mater on work/life balance, a term she calls, well, certainly not true. “My favorite quote is that it’s not worth trying to juggle all the balls,” she recalls. “You’ve got to figure out which balls are glass and which balls are rubber. In other words, you’ve got to drop some.” Whatever you do, don’t drop Smitten’s Chocolate Grenache.
It’s truly divine. —JENNIFER MASSONI PARDINI