Ed Cornell, Co-Founder and CEO of Milk Cult, has always been obsessed with ice cream. He likes everything about it — the taste, the smell, the experience. It’s the perfect vehicle for blending unexpected flavors with a familiar classic. After spending time in kitchens and working for catering companies, Ed decided to turn his obsession into a company of his own. Alongside his business partner, Pat Griffith, Ed opened his own ice cream business with a simple mission, make really delicious ice cream!
Read on for more on Ed and Pat’s ice cream adventure:
Milk Cult Co-Founder Ed Cornell providing samples at Union Kitchen’s Meet the Makers. Photo Credit: Reema Desai
How did Milk Cult get started?
My business partner and I have known each other since we were teenagers (roughly). Both of us had experience working in kitchens, myself for catering and as a prep cook and Pat for food trucks and at his uncle’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. I’d been geeking out on ice cream for years and basically become obsessed with it. We didn’t really see anyone making the kind of products we wanted. So like any other idiots, we decided to give it a go ourselves.
Did you always know that you wanted to start your own business?
Nope. When I was living in Indonesia, there’s a lot of incentives for people to just go out and do their own thing. I was really envious of that drive people had or maybe it was a situation they had found themselves in. Either way, it asks for a certain amount of work that’s unavoidable.
How did you pick the product?
I was obsessed with ice cream for a long time. You can go pretty deep with it.
What do you like about food? What drew you to the food industry?
Everyone eats. Some people are more interested with what they’re eating. We’re evolutionarily programmed to be interested in what we’re eating and it can be a pleasurable experience. I think selling food for taste is a very honest transaction. We are selling this because we like it, we hope you do too. There’s a lot of other areas of the food industry, both grocery and retail, that I think could benefit from the transparency of that transaction.
What is a piece of advice you wish you’d been given before starting?
I don’t think I wish for any more information. Being kind of dumb at some point and going from there really teaches you a lot about the world.
What was it like pitching your first buyer? Any tips/advice?
I’m really bad at straight sales, I just try to be nice to people and if they’re disinterested they probably have a good reason. I think it’s like looking for a partner, you want someone who’s a really compatible match and if it isn’t working out that’s okay.
What is your next big milestone?
Following through with a regional distributor to move our product into the whole Northeast region.
How do you engage with consumers outside the DC market?
Make great ice cream. Meet people and be nice to them.
At what point did you consider your business “having made it”?
When people you’ve never met really seem to hate you. If you’re there then you’ve definitely “Made It”.
To ring in the summer, we are featuring a different entrepreneur making refreshing foods and drinks every week! Check back in next week to hear from another Union Kitchen maker (or two!) about their philosophies, struggles, and successes.