As their tagline promises, Cold Comfort Ice Cream has been “Doing whatever the hell we feel like since 2010”. Sticking to her outside-the-carton thinking has served Owner and Founder Autumn Maxwell well over her 10+ years of success. But creative thinking and coming up with ideas has never been a problem for Maxwell–something that’s glaringly evident in the breadth and amount of flavours she churns out (Olive Oil with Balsamic-Honey Ripple, for example). The biggest challenge she’s faced as a business owners so far has been sharing the load of her responsibility,
“Giving up control is a scary thing when you are dedicated to upholding high levels of quality and are used to doing everything yourself.” But thanks to an incredible team beneath her, and a little time to get used to the idea, she’s learned the value of delegation.
We sat down with Maxwell to find out how she turned her small-batch ice cream hobby into a full-fledged business, and learn how she learned the art of letting go.
Why did you create this business specifically? Why didn’t you settle for working for an established shop?
I worked various types of jobs for other people over the years – from camp cooking to home health care to booking European tours for bands—I always just wanted to be someone’s right-hand-woman or an assistant extraordinaire—I never saw myself as a leader, and I never had a burning desire to have a job making ice cream. I guess all that time I was in training to be the boss; I’m still getting used to that concept.
How did your hobby evolve into your business?
I started making ice cream at home while working at a small restaurant (Devour) as a server. The owners let me run my ice cream as dessert features, and people really liked it, so I started doing home delivery (making two pints at a time) until word of mouth had made demand so great that I had to buy a bigger machine and the rest is history!
What has been the most difficult challenge that came out of COVID-19?
The hardest part of COVID was at the beginning in March—when we didn’t know how the virus behaved—a it was a real roller coaster of emotions and new challenges and questions presenting every day – what is the right thing to do? How do I keep my employees and my customers safe? Is this the end? We took the time we needed to figure things out and responded quickly with extra precautions, and we closed our shop and moves ice cream sales to our new touchless take-out window Can Canteen. Meanwhile, we hired Bidgood Strong to help us remodel our shop to be touchless as well and to include more locally made products to support our community during an inevitable extended pandemic time.
What helped you adapt and survive?
The renovation in the fall cost us the same amount as the deficit we ran in November and December, however, we are very fortunate to be in the business of providing cold comfort to people during times of stress; Ice cream is a relatively affordable indulgence and people need treats when the sky is falling. Needless to say, it was an emotionally trying year for all of us, but all things considered, we came out stronger in the end. I feel terrible for all of the businesses that aren’t so lucky and have had to close their doors.
What has been the biggest challenge as a business owner?
The biggest challenge as a business owner has been learning to let go of responsibilities and entrusting people to help me. Giving up control is a scary thing when you are dedicated to upholding high levels of quality and are used to doing everything yourself. It took years for me to feel comfortable delegating tasks to others. Thanks to the wonderful individuals on my team I am finally starting to enjoy some time off to pursue other interests and I am most grateful for them.
What has been the biggest benefit of being a business owner overall?
The biggest benefit of being a business owner? Our motto says it all: Doing Whatever the Hell we Feel Like Since 2010 (in the most inclusive, respectful, crowd-pleasing and community-supporting way possible, on the traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples).
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