[UPDATE] Afters’ revenue numbers were updated to a more accurate figure.
Ice cream has always been an essential part of the dessert game, but while shops like Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery had their times of popularity, the last five years have been dominated by a boutique-style shop called Afters Ice Cream.
With 26 shops sprinkled around Southern California, Afters Ice Cream brought in revenue of over $50 million to date since opening their doors, but more importantly, created a culture where their ice cream was desired by all, with people traveling from far and wide to get it.
Similar to sneaker culture, their very first location in Fountain Valley, California, and every location thereafter, regularly saw people wait in line for up to four hours to try their famous and innovative Milky Bun, an ice cream donut sandwich hybrid that was the perfect vehicle for success.
We got a chance to Katchup with Afters co-founder Scott Nghiem, AKA Scott Afters, as he gave us a look at how the popular ice cream company came to be, the challenges he faced, and the carefully executed ideas that helped turn an ice cream shop into a pop culture phenomenon.
Here are some edited excerpts from The Katchup Podcast with Scott Afters below:
Getting ahead of the food wave, and making things happen (19:04):
“When the Cronut came out, I was like, ‘Dude, this is the time.’ The Cronut was very pioneering, for sure. And obviously the food trucks were very pioneering, you know, the Kogi truck. I just knew that this is the time. If I’m going to do dessert, it needs to be right now. All these news channels were just waiting for the next big thing. All of a sudden, it was Afters ice cream and the Milky Bun.”
Resurrecting a Dying Ice Cream Industry (28:00):
“Ice cream has been dead in the industry for a long time. It was all yogurt at that time. And for us to utilize the potential of social media at that time, and bring it to mainstream, where people saw, ‘You know what? No. 1, this is run by young people, obviously. Two: Ice cream is back all of a sudden, because it’s hip, it’s trendy, it’s cool.’ People needed something to Instagram.”
Why Stuff a Donut with Ice Cream? (37:09):
“The Milky Bun started existing when I was really trying to think of something that would make people want more than just ice cream. At that point I was like, ‘Dude, we need to come up with something next level.’ And then, when looking for other ice cream sandwich alternatives, I literally was driving around the neighborhood… saw a Winchell’s, and said, ‘That’s it!’ I put it together, we tried it, and it was like, ‘Dude, this is fire. What ended up happening, the psychology behind it, was it sparked interest in your mind.”
The Image of Being Successful (1:10:00):
“You don’t need to have a flashy image. You don’t need to have nice cars to show that you’re very successful nowadays. The winners will slowly evolve out of that realm, and the guys that are just frontin’ or showing off, their true colors end up showing. For me, that’s what really ticks in my mind. I don’t care about all my cars. Priorities change.”