Eyescream & Friends, a different concept of ice cream shop
At the latest edition of EADA Startup Day, the International Master in Management participants listened carefully to the startup adventure of Joad López, a 35 year old Dutchman who after finishing the EADA International MBA in 2010 started thinking about the idea of setting up a creative business that was scalable through a franchising model. The inspiration came to him after he tasted a Taiwanese ice cream called shaved ice cream, the texture of which was halfway between an ice cream and a sorbet. It quickly occurred to him to import this to Barcelona maintaining the traditional Taiwanese way of making it but replacing the raw material with Italian based ice cream, which was more akin to Western tastes.
He was all excited about this business opportunity and discussed it with one of his colleagues on the EADA master, the 34 year-old Venezuelan, Federico Mendoza. Together they began to draw up a business plan and in this way came closer to the dream they shared during the master of setting up their own business. They decided to change the name of Taiwanese shaved ice cream to “shaved gelato”. But that’s not all. They gave free rein to their creativity and added a great variety of topping and sauce options –around 20 all in all-, such as marmalades, liquid chocolate or dulce de leche. But, as if this weren’t enough, they decided to add two sugar eyes to these enormous mountains of ice cream and turn them into small monsters and this is what has become their main identifying feature. In fact that’s how they got the idea to call the company Eyescream & Friends.
Joad López created three years ago Eyescream & Friends, a franchisable business model with a strong branding and concept wrapped around a unique product called “shaved gelato”
Once they had defined the product and come up with the company name they developed a franchising model, the first store of which would be in Barcelona, the city where they lived and which has a lot of tourism. They chose to set up shop in the Barceloneta district in Carrer Joan de Borbó 30, very close to the seaside. But they both agreed that the best thing would be for each store to have a profile of its own, more in tune with the design of other shops in the vicinity.
Once they had their marketing plan adapted to a franchising model they opened up their shop Barcelona in September 2012. “Starting up a new business is always complicated, and more so at that time when the country was in a deep economic crisis”, Joad pointed out. Among the main difficulties he could think of he highlighted “their lack of expertise concerning food sector businesses in Barcelona, the difficulty of finding the right location for the first shop, coming up with a company name, all the licensing issues around importing foods and the legal complications in each country for setting up franchises”. To which he added “the fact that their product was a very seasonal summer product and the possibility that people would reject an ice cream with a different texture and appearance to what they were used to”.
The right location of the first shop, the licensing issues around importing foods or legal complications for setting up franchises were some of the main difficulties at the beginning
In addition to this, as in the case of any entrepreneur there was the issue of financing. “We had to turn to friends and family to save up the money we needed to get the project off the ground, because the bank loan option had been turned down right from the start”. “And now” he stated with a bit of irony “it’s the banks that are coming to us”.
Light at the end of the tunnel
After a great deal of effort, dedication and investment, in mid 2013 they finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when sales started picking up, and they received a lot of recognition on the social networks. They began to get requests coming in –up to 172 in two months– to open up franchises in other countries. What’s more, that year they were awarded one of many prizes they would receive for their original business proposal, the prestigious ‘Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2013’.
Last year was the business’s consolidation year as their sales rose 80% above 2013 figures and their franchise model was ready to open shops in other countries. Their challenge this year is to further increase sales by 46% and open up in Dubai, “a market with enormous potential”, Joad claimed.
Looking back, this young entrepreneur considered that “it was worth all that effort because I was able to show that my business idea was viable and because I fulfilled my dream of starting up a business”. And the advice he gave to International Master in Management participants attending EADA Startup Day was this: “If you want to open up your own business that will contribute value or address a need go ahead and do it”. To which he went on to add “it will surely take a while before you get a monthly salary, you will have a lot of doubts about what are the best decisions and you will put in a lot of hours. But, in the end, when you get over all the initial difficulties and you see that you are slowly making headway, you will feel very pleased that at one point you decided to chase your dream”.
In the following video you can see some comments of Joad López about his experience in running his own business: