Rebuilding After $40M Ice Cream Company Loss: A Couple’s Journey

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Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna, the co-founders of Ample Hills Creamery, experienced a rocky journey while building their ice cream business. Starting with a push cart, they eventually opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn in 2011. At its peak, Ample Hills was valued at $40 million with multiple locations and an online store. However, costly business decisions and strategic missteps led to financial troubles, and the couple filed for business and personal bankruptcy in 2020. In June of the same year, Ample Hills was acquired by Schmitt Industries for $1 million. Now, a year later, Smith and Cuscuna have opened a new ice cream shop called The Social and partnered with investors to reacquire the Ample Hills brand for $150,000.

Smith, a former Syfy screenwriter, and Cuscuna, a former teacher, took a risk by opening an ice cream shop. However, Smith’s passion for making ice cream and the joy it brought him led them to pursue this venture. With the help of high-quality ingredients and unique flavors, they quickly gained popularity, attracting long lines of customers and even catching the attention of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. To meet the high demand, Smith and Cuscuna raised $19 million in funding and built a large factory in 2018. However, they faced several challenges, including overspending on custom packaging and equipment malfunctions that resulted in wasted product. Despite their mounting problems, they were blindsided when their investors refused to provide additional funding, leading to bankruptcy.

After the bankruptcy, Cuscuna took a course for entrepreneurs looking to restart and connected with a business advisor who became an investor for their new ice cream shop, The Social. This time around, they have a small group of knowledgeable investors who prioritize profitability and have relinquished the CEO role to focus on marketing and creativity. In a surprising turn of events, they were able to reacquire the Ample Hills brand for $150,000 after it went back on the auction block. Currently, Smith and Cuscuna are focused on nurturing The Social and Ample Hills, with both shops bringing in roughly $350,000 in revenue in July. They plan to approach growth slowly and focus on building their brand while ensuring efficient operations.

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