GrowCo.: Growth by Involvement at Amy's Ice Creams
BY Janine Popick
I'm at the Inc. GrowCo. conference here in Orlando. What an exciting group of small businesses and what an amazing group of speakers. I'm watching Amy Simmons, founder of Amy's Ice Creams in Austin, Texas. Bravo to Inc. for getting some great women speakers at this show.
As a graduate student, Amy fell in love with working nights at the ice cream parlor. She loved it so much that she stayed with it, working for $14K per year. What I really enjoyed about Amy's session was hearing her passion for what she does. Her company makes about $6 million a year in revenue. Nice size? You bet. Huge? No way. But for Amy it seems like a lifestyle choice.
Amy's can't pay employees a ton of money, because their core job is selling ice cream. So they need to be creative and get their employees excited. How do they do it? Involvement!
Amy's gets involved in the community -- Amy wants to know what impact her company has on the community, and what she can do to improve it. They do things like get involved with a local children's cancer center where they've built a room that looks like an ice cream shop. Kids can play games while the freezers are filled with ice cream for them and their families. They participate in any opportunities like this they can find.
She gets her employees involved -- The employees choose what charities Amy's Ice Creams is going to support. Employees at every level of the company are encouraged to develop their speaking and story telling. Amy's also hosts a prom every year where they crown a King and Queen who have done the most charitable work with the company. When someone applies for a job at Amy's they get a white paper bag and are asked to be as creative as possible with that bag. Amy's wants to see that employees they hire have the same values as they do. One applicant put food in a bag, gave it to a homeless person, took a picture of that and then put the picture in the bag. Amy's also gives their employees an entrepreneurial education. They even celebrate people leaving when they do something on their own.
She gets her customers involved -- Amy's offers tours of the ice cream plant on a daily basis. They also have annual reunions where they gather all of the 14 store employees and they invite customers. Last year they gave away $7K in product for their anniversary party and their revenue increased for the next three weeks.
She's involved -- Amy answers customer complaints, a task that might be daunting to most. She looks at it in a positive light, she loves that her customers are taking the time and care enough to tell her what they'd like to see.
All in all, Amy's is a great example of a small local business that is doing some great things to grow, and getting employees excited about what they do. What are you doing to be involved with your company?
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick