Natasha Case in the CoolHaus HQ. Photographed by Allie Pohl
At what moment did you realize you “had something” with your cookie baking and ice cream making into “cool houses” debuting at Coachella in 2009?
What's so rare and fortunate about our story is that the brand truly went viral right after Coachella. We built a following on the grounds by literally going 'tent to tent' selling the sammies to concert-goers. But the question still remained as to whether we could become a force to be reckoned with outside of the concert walls. On the way home from the festival, Freya powered her phone back on after it had died, and she was getting an email every few seconds saying we had a new follower. She thought we had been hacked and called to tell me, and I told her I had also received media inquiries from LA Times, Dwell, Apartment Therapy, Angeleno, LA Magazine and more. Knowing that we had made operations work even on a most fundamental level at Coachella coupled with that kind of viral PR was a recipe we knew meant we 'had something.' I would say the other major milestone was first getting our products on the shelves at Whole Foods---that proved we could take a gourmet street food brand into a more mature and scalable forum for consumer products.
You have lots of unique and interesting flavors! I love how you use architects names for your ice creams, bringing more awareness to architects and architecture in general. How do you choose the architects names? Is it from your admiration for their designs or that there name goes with the flavors?
I would say it's a combination of both. Sometimes we are directly working with an architect for a special event, activation or ceremony, and we create a flavor in their honor for the occasion. For example, we made 'Peter Cook-ies & Cream' when Peter Cook spoke at SCI-ARC one year, or 'Michael Chocolate Malted-zan' when Michael Maltzan was being honored for his pro-bono design of Inner-City Arts. We knew we wanted to create a flavor for Mia Lehrer, as we are a huge fan of her work, and she is a personal friend; so we created 'Cara-Mia Lehrer,' which we have brought to her offices and for events where she is present. Sometimes, though, we come up with a name based on a flavor we love: Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone became 'Eric Owen Moss-carpone.' Eric Owen Moss found us sampling the flavor at his local Gelson's and was floored! He loved the flavor, and we sent him an autographed cookbook right away.
How do you manage living, working, and soon to be being mothers together?
Freya and I founded and grew the brand together for four years. I will say, though, that even in that time, Freya had a second job for two years of it (real estate development), and then after another two years decided it was time for her to move on from the day to day grind. She took time off and founded her own amazing company: Ludlows Cocktail Co, an innovative RTD spirits and wine brand. So, I think if you are going to work and live with your significant other, having that potential for one to be able to exit a business day-to-day and not have everything fall apart is SO key. The brand has to be bigger than either of you and the two of you together. I also am fortunate to have an investor partner that came in a few years into the business, and I now run the brand day-to-day with him... so I wasn't left on my own when Freya needed to move on. I would say that Freya is the 'first lady' of Coolhaus though! She has my ear for sure, and her advice is so much more helpful now that she has perspective, and I would say the same for myself giving her advice on Ludlows. As far as the motherhood part, we are over the moon excited for that! As an entrepreneur and owner, it's actually one of the most ideal situations for taking a family leave: I can set my own amount of time on my own schedule to be with her and our newborn, and she can do the same for me when I have a child... I am fortunate to have an incredible team behind me, so I won't have to worry when we have our little boy (Remy Leo!) in the world. Also, the whole experience has inspired me to give a generous (by US standards) maternity/family leave to my team... employers should value their team when it comes to their employee's needs to be with a growing family. The employees will be more loyal and do better work because of it!
In your TedX talk, you discuss creating your own social and cultural norms- dream world! What are three suggestions of ways to execute this alteration of idealized norms?
First, I would say to question everything. So much of what we perceive as reality is learned. Don't take anything for granted and really ask yourself, "is this what works for me? Is this who I am?" Next, I would say talk constantly with your trusted circle about these norms and how to shift them. Nobody can make changes without help from their network. Next, don't get discouraged! Change takes time. You may need to engage the same argument 17 times to change someone's mind. But, if you don't have to do it 18 times, that's a change made.
Women raising money and getting funding is extremely difficult in the “good old boys club.” After going through this process (successfully!), any insights or suggestions to fellow female entrepreneurs besides thinking big?!
Thinking big is so important, and I would also say sell them on your brand, your culture, you---don't get too tied down in the numbers of what is there---the right partner will bring so much more to the table than money, and it will be your vision that ultimately knocks things out of the park. Also, work to be profitable, so that you don't get into desperation money raising mode; there is a lot of pressure right now to just spend, spend, spend for marketing, but it's not sustainable growth. Sales can't run a business - it has to be a sustainable brand.
What is the secret to finding great talent to fill in your own personal work gaps?
You've really got to know what you know, and what you don't. Nobody can do everything well. Bring people to your team that you can learn from, but that enjoy your quirks and compliment them well. Think of whom you will want to spend each day hashing out problems with and creating solutions. People do business for people! So much of success at a brand is about culture, so that is a super key touchpoint when hiring. Also, think about incentives and perks that will bring amazing people and keep them around: we, for example, are expanding our corporate healthcare and dental program---it's something I value, and I know my team does too.
What do you like most about being a woman?
I love the challenge of making changes where there is opportunity for women to make strides. I want to be part of that change and the future. I also love surprising people by not fitting into a box of what is expected of women---being more confident, not being afraid to speak up and be myself, being a fiend for numbers---whatever the stereotype may be, I'm proud to break it.
What is an ideal woman to you?
The ideal woman is confident in herself and has a powerful and unique vision, and she is warm, kind and generous in the way she shares that with the world: both men and women (and children!)
Who are you currently crushing on and why?
Heather Hasson and Trina Speer of FIGS.