CREAM founder gives us the scoop
Everyone loves ice cream sandwiches
CREAM founder and co-president, Gus Shamieh, tells us the whole story. My sweet tooth and interest in food trends led me to him, as I was interested in learning more about their success in the frozen treat industry.
Where did the name CREAM come from?
Q: Where did the name for CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me) come from?
A: The name CREAM was one of three other options. It appealed to the younger generation, was easily identifiable, and most of all fun. We tested it out on friends and family and the response we got was all positive.
How it all started and what happened next
Q: You and your family began making cookie sandwiches as kids. Did the idea to turn it into a business happen early on or did the opportunity present itself later?
A: The idea was born in our family when my sister and I were kids. Ice cream sandwiches became a staple in our family and everyone, including friends and family, loved them, however there was no consideration of turning this family tradition into a business venture until the economy turned in 2008. When that happened, the family sat around the dinner table, over a big bowl of spaghetti actually, and threw out different means of obtaining an income. Someone said ice cream sandwiches and we thought, hey, we love this so much, everyone around us does too, so why not give it a try. And here we are almost 5 years later.
Q: Did you open a small cookie stand or truck first?
A: No we did not. We found a location in Berkeley, CA and were nervous because two stores that had massive corporate backing had both opened and closed in that very same location. While nerves were definitely present, we were confident in our product and decided to take a great risk.
Q: You guys already do catering, but are there any plans for a CREAM pop-up truck?
A: Maybe one day =)
Q: During CREAM’s early years, you were opening a business while simultaneously attending Law School. How did you manage to be successful in both, and what has your road to success been like?
A: My family and I started CREAM as I was graduating from University of San Francisco for my Bachelors degree. As CREAM began to grow, I recognized that the law was a significant factor in expanding the company. I wanted to be able to think, write, and analyze like a lawyer and decided to pursue my law degree while the business continued to grow. I would not be successful in doing both if it weren’t for the unconditional support and love from my father, mother, and sister. It has been a wild journey but one that I am happy I have pursued. I am beginning my final year of law school and look forward to what the future has in store for me, my family, and CREAM.
Q: Your menu offers vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options, was there a demand for it or did this happen on its own? Are there any plans to expand this menu?
A: We recognized that there was a large segment of the population that could not enjoy full dairy products or gluten products. One of our core principles is for every person who walks into the door to enjoy the product, and we couldn’t fulfill that mission without appealing to those who have certain dietary constraints. We are always listening to what our customers want. We added a new soy ice cream flavor (soy blueberry) because customers wanted a different option. The possibilities to expand that segment of the menu is always present.
Mastering Social Media
Q: CREAM has a huge following on social media, was this something that you guys encouraged guests to do or did it happen naturally?
A: My sister played a large role in this aspect. When we first opened, she put her camera to use and started our social media pages. Being a part of the social media generation, we were avid users of various platforms and encouraged customers to share their experiences with us. As more people became familiar with our brand, our social media presence grew exponentially. We have tweets, instagram posts, and facebook messages from CREAMers all around the world. I think people want to share their experiences at CREAM with their friends, and in that regards it takes a life of its own. People want to spread the happiness to their circle and want others to enjoy our products as much as they did and that is one of the most humbling feelings one could have.
Q: What is the craziest creation you’ve seen someone make at CREAM?
A: Someone once got a 6 stack ice cream sandwich. It was incredible. He even finished it! It was a fun bonding experience with our customers as people gathered to take pictures of the sandwiches being made and him eating it.
Q: What food trends are you into right now?
A: I am really into mixing the sweet with the salty. I know that this trend has been around, but exploring within CREAM’s menu options is fun. We offer a salted caramel flavor ice cream, but are looking for various ways to incorporate sea salt with our flavors. Initial customer trials have been positive and I have personally enjoyed tasting all the samples!
What does the future holds for CREAM? Principles guide the way.
Q: In a world overcome with food trends, you guys are dominating in the frozen treats industry. How have you managed to stay on top and what sets you apart from everyone else?
A: I strongly believe that our 4 principles have set us apart. The first is premium products. We did not want to offer customers sub par products because that is not what my family and I stood for. We wanted to serve the best possible product which leads into principle number 2–affordability. When my sister and I were kids, my mom and dad would find it difficult to justify spending almost $40 on dessert. We did not want any family to experience that and so having affordable pricing was incredibly important to us without sacrificing the quality of our product. The third is to treat every customer with courtesy and respect. We do not want customers to feel like this is any other store where they are not treated as they should be. We have instilled the importance of this principle in our team members and hold this principle near and dear to our hearts. Lastly, is the atmosphere of our CREAM stores. We play music, often loud, and you should not be surprised to see our employees often times sing and dance behind the counter. We want the time customers spend at CREAM to be an experience. We want everyone to have fun and have what we call, The CREAM Experience. We believe that we stand apart because we’ve cemented these four principles into our company and instilled them into our network, partners, and team members.
Q: What are your goals for CREAM in terms of the future of the company, products, and locations?
A: Our goals are to continue striving towards perfection. We want to keep making customers happy and keep offering premium products at affordable prices. We want to spread this happiness to people all over. We want to remain on the cutting edge of flavor trends by developing ice creams and cookies that our customers seek. We want to expand our network of partners and help those who join our network succeed. We are constantly looking to expand our business and ensure that people all over can have the CREAM experience.