“I was a Brownie, and I remember selling cookies and making gingerbread houses out of Girl Scout Cookies,” says Girl Scout alum Natasha Case. “That was the first time I brought architecture and food together.”
Years later as a 25-year-old architect with Disney Imagineering, Natasha thought the corporate world might not be for her. She and her now-wife, Freya, decided to blend Natasha’s love of building with her love of ice cream. The upshot? Coolhaus, an architecturally inspired ice-cream sandwich business.
Today Natasha runs a national brand that continues to innovate in terms of flavor and building a brand with purpose. Coolhaus partners often with mission-driven organizations to develop unforgettable treats (carrot cake ice cream with cream cheese frosting, anyone?) that contribute to worthy causes.
But before she could get to a place where she was dreaming up and creating candied pastrami ice cream for Passover and French ice cream for National Mustard Day, Natasha had to embrace the concept of “minimum viable product.”
“Minimum viable product means starting small,” she explains. “When we moved into grocery stores, we only started in three Whole Foods—but it’s OK to start small and get it right. Growing a consumer base means building the loyalty, and that’s a better strategy than casting a wide net.”
“Women [often strive for] perfection, but in business ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect,’” Natasha says. “Ultimately, the pursuit of perfection is paralyzing.”
Read on for Natasha’s best advice for challenging perfectionism in entrepreneurship.
- 1. Get comfortable with failure.
“When you’re starting a business, it’s not like a homework assignment where you get an ‘A’ or an ‘F,’” says Natasha. “Of course, if you have investors, you want to give them a return. But there are going to be a million failures along the way, and if you’re going to be in business you have to accept them.”
“I can tell you I have had so many failures and needed to pivot or discontinue a flavor. I’ve had tons of those. But handling them well is a sign of success.”
“The grocery store transition was huge for us. We were totally not ready, totally not funded. We had to build, measure, learn. But we then had something to react to. And it [the grocery store presence] is 93% of the business today.”
- Lean into confidence.
As an entrepreneur, Natasha sees women she mentors struggling with confidence at a few key points. One is when it comes time to reach out for investments.
“There’s still such disconnect [for many women] on the money and financing side. Men feel like they have the best idea and you should give them everything they ask for … and women feel like they have to earn it and prove it first,” she says, noting that this trend does seem to be shifting for the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
“If you want investors,” says Natasha, “you have to know that you are the artist and the genius who is creating the value. Writing a check is easy—[any investor] can do that. You have to know that they [investors] are lucky to be a part of what you’re doing, not the other way around.”
- Define success on your terms.
“Success is more of an abstract thing than how many ice cream sandwiches you sell. For me, it’s ‘do you have control over your day and your time?’” says Natasha. “It’s also having a team of people who can be experts on the things you’re not an expert on.”
For Natasha, success is also about creativity—being able to whip up fried chicken and waffle ice cream with maple swirls, for example. And that mustard ice cream? “It was “eerily addicting,” she laughs.
Natasha values being able to collaborate with people she’s excited by and support causes she believes in as well. This past spring, Coolhaus partnered with Black Girl Ventures, an organization that creates access to capital for women of color, to launch Currency Cake, cake batter ice cream swirled with cream cheese frosting and pecans. All proceeds from sales of the new flavor supported a grant for startups founded by Black and Brown women.
Last year, Coolhaus donated proceeds from sales of its EnjoyMINT flavor to the Okra Project, an organization that brings meals and other resources to Black transgender people.
“I’m more interested in showing up for work every day if I am mission-based,” Natasha explains. “Even on a rough day, the partners you work with make a difference.”
- Look at the big picture—not just the bottom line.
Natasha also emphasizes the importance of zooming out and looking at what success can do for your whole life rather than just your professional one.
“Success can give you space to think about what you want,” she says. “And if you want to go play tennis in the middle of the day, then why wouldn’t you?”