Capital Ice Cream Calls for Ice Cream Capital

In 2009, New York ice-cream-of-the-month club MilkMade opened, delivering members two pints of uniquely flavored ice cream for $30 monthly. Perhaps due to natural, local ingredients and creative flavors like Maple Pancake and Brie Mine, the startup was popular, and founder Diana Hardeman built demand through social media. In 2013, MilkMade had plentiful fans and potential but was wanting in capital; thousands were on the waiting list to join, but without the resources to serve more than 300 customers, MilkMade’s growth had stalled.

In the hopes of increasing the company’s capacity, Hardeman looked to crowdfunding, which raises small amounts of money from large numbers of people without sacrificing equity. Using the platform Kickstarter, she launched a campaign she called “Lickstarter,” with the goal to raise $45,000 to purchase new equipment. The tactic made sense for this business, which already had solid awareness and a long waiting list. Hardeman further engaged and grew the company’s social media audience on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter, which drove traffic to the Kickstarter page.

In one month, the campaign exceeded its fundraising target. Not only did its monetary goals come to fruition, but it helped spread even more awareness — a kind of free marketing.

Read more about the monetary and marketing success of the campaign in Gosia Glinska’s article “Ice Cream Startup Licks Its Capital Needs Through Crowdfunding Campaign,” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series. A senior research associate at Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Glinska is co-author of the original case with Darden Adjunct Lecturer Meghan Murray.