The Leadership Driving Coolhaus’ Ice Cream Empire by Jenna Abdou


“The earth is craving people who try to be revolutionary, push the envelope, and take risks,” Natasha Case shared, reflecting on her time as a student at Berkeley. 

An architect by trade, the first step Natasha takes to fulfill this calling is physically drawing her vision. 

“Draw your vision,” she says. “Literally. Put it on paper and then work to create it.” 

After studying architecture for seven years and working as an Imagineer at Disney, you’ll be surprised to learn that when Natasha sketches her vision it’s of ice cream sandwiches, not buildings. 

After a professor negatively remarked that her spec looked like a layer cake, Natasha was inspired to combine food and architecture. 

What started as ice cream sandwiches named after famous architects has evolved into Coolhaus: Beloved, and widely known, craft ice cream. The brand touts flavor combinations like Fried Chicken and Waffles, Peking Duck, and Spicy Pineapple Cilantro with Serrano Chiles. (Yes, you read that right!) 

                            

While Natasha’s story is filled with compelling twists and turns - Such as when she and co-founder Freya Estreller used a free tow from AAA to bring their non-drivable food truck to Coachella - I’m most inspired by her mission to build an all-inclusive, value driven company. 

Whether you’re standing in line at a Coolhaus truck or you're a team member making an ice cream sammie, Natasha’s highest goal is for Coolahus to genuinely celebrate each individual who comes in contact with the brand.

At Coolhaus, it’s a life value that nobody feels left out. 

“I hate feeling like an outsider. I knew when I created my brand that I wanted it to be a place where no one is an outsider. In fact, you’re cooler by association,” Natasha affirmed. 

“To me, that’s the way things should be.”

Celebrating uniqueness is rooted in the crafting of each Coolhaus dessert.  

From the cookies to the ice cream sammies, and Coolhaus cakes (Can you believe that baby!?) every treat is 100 percent handmade. 

              


“What makes Coolhaus so good is that it’s not all industrially the same… There’s always a beauty, or hidden advantage, in a flaw,” Natasha explained. 

The same acceptance and positivity lends to Natasha’s leadership style; The discovered passion that’s surprised her most about this journey. 

“You become such a pliable being because you always have to evolve. You have to be able to cope with trauma and then extreme excitement,” she shared. 

Navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship was especially challenging at 24 years old when Natasha and Freya worked with team members who were older and more experienced. 

Now 32, and with the opportunity to mentor Coolhaus team members, Natasha’s insight to young founders is: Don’t beat yourself up about the things you don’t know. And, be patient as you learn. 

“Embrace what’s good about being younger and inexperienced,” she says. 

“When you just go for it you may not realize all of the rules that you’re breaking. That can be great. Use the naivety as an advantage.” 

You can walk through a wall when you don’t know it’s there.

Despite accepting the unknown, Natasha encourages young founders not to reinvent the wheel and to be open to working with mentors. One of Natasha’s mentors is Bobby Margolis, Founder of Cherokee jeans and now Chairman of the Board at Coolhaus, who plays an important role shaping the brand. 

Seven years in, Natasha’s core learning on how to lead an inspired team is the importance of authentic recognition. 

“It may seem obvious, but you need to take the time and thank people,” she asserts. 

It’s your responsibility to understand what makes each person feel appreciated and motivated. 

“As a founder, you have to be like a motivational speaker and therapist for your company.” 

“You have to be insightful. Figure out where a team member is on a project and whether you need to support them or let them run with it.” 

To build the culture of a lasting business, your relationships with team members should extend beyond the office. 

The Coolhaus team participates in a bowling league, plays on a basketball team, and often goes to karaoke.

Although unrelated to ice cream making, each of these traditions brings the team closer and enables them to achieve their goal of being the Ben and Jerry’s of our generation. 

Businesses that have the best culture are the one’s that really last.

From 2009 to now, Coolhaus has grown to be a team of 70 and has expanded the once stationary food truck to: 


                      

Moving forward, the team’s focusing on expanding to more treats like butters, toppings, and milks, working on new brand partnerships, and possibly raising institutional funding. 

To stay up to date with their adventurous story, flavors, and trucks follow Coolhaus on Instagram and learn more about their story in Natasha’s Beyond the Headline interview


Image credits to Coolhaus, Hyperlush, and Inhabitat. 



Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Michael Serbinis: What I've Learned — Visionary Entrepreneur, investor and CEO and Founder of the new healthcare startup, LEAGUE, Michael Serbinis shares what he learned building three disruptive startups, selling two of them and working with Kimbal and Elon Musk.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.


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