Disappointed by an ice cream sandwich experience at a festival a few years back, Missouri-native, and avid baker, Cathy Greene devised a culinary experiment—pairing her own freshly baked, made-from-scratch cookies with all-natural ice cream. Right away she knew she was on to something big—something that would ultimately turn into her own business, Cathy’s: Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Cathy is also a part of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.
We recently sat down with Cathy to discuss the inspiration behind her business, what’s surprised her the most about the Impact Program and the powerful advice she’d offer fellow entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to create Cathy’s: Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches, where did the idea come from?
I came to Cleveland for law school, so I’m not a native Clevelander, but I love this city now! While I was waiting for my bar exam results, I was working for my husband in real estate, and I started thinking about what I’d really like to do. I enjoyed baking, and I love ice cream—I’m totally an ice cream connoisseur!
One day, we went to a festival out of town and I tasted an ice cream sandwich there. There was one problem with it—it was frozen. So I thought to myself, “Gosh! This would be so much better if it was freshly baked!”
So, I came back home and made an ice cream sandwich fresh in my kitchen, and when I tasted that, I knew this was a match made in heaven.
What separates Cathy’s from your competition?
There are so many things that separate Cathy’s from any other ice cream place. One thing would be our flavors. Our cookies are made fresh in our store, they are our recipes and you will see us making them when you stop in.
We outsource our ice cream, but we have really unique flavors—white chocolate truffle, carrot cake, banana pudding—that you won’t find anywhere else in Cleveland.
Beyond having an amazing product, there’s no other place that is specializing in ice cream sandwiches. And the vibe in our store is different too. We’re not what you would think of in a traditional ice cream shop, we’re more modern and upbeat.
What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program? Any surprises?
The Impact Program has been absolutely instrumental to my growth as a businesswoman and a leader within my organization. I’ve found the importance of leading with a vision, of knowing the vision and disseminating that to the people that need to know it.
I’ve learned a lot about being strategic. If you get so busy working in your business, you can’t work on your business. I’ve learned the importance of stepping out from scooping and baking and serving my awesome customers to really being able to lead my organization, so it can last in perpetuity.
One thing that has surprised me is how collaborative the other businesses are in this cohort. We really like to support one another—one night, (Communion Social Lounge) randomly came in and bought ten ice cream sandwiches. Acts like that are so important.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who need help?
The greatest advice that I would offer to every single entrepreneur, no matter what level you’re at, is to always believe in yourself. Do not underestimate yourself or your capabilities and know that you have what it takes to succeed.
You have to stick with it, you have to be determined and you have to have tunnel vision in order to achieve what you’re looking to achieve. The number one thing you can do as an entrepreneur is always, always, always believe in you.
What are your future plans for your business?
This is my favorite question to answer! Our first goal is to perfect our East 4th location by refining our systems and our crew members. We want to make sure everything is flowing and properly operating. And then at that point, that’s when we’d like to scale in Cleveland, and even outside the state of Ohio.