Since Coolhaus Ice Cream premiered in 2009 with its fun flavors — like Milkshake & Fries, Midnight Munchies, Mo Matcha Mocha, and Thai Town Crunch, to name a few — it reflected the millennial mindset of founders and lesbian couple Natasha Case and Freya Estreller. It continues to push the boundaries of ice cream as a socially conscious brand.
Now the country’s leading women-founded ice cream company, Coolhaus offers out-of-this-world Sammies, dairy-free options, ingredients that promote animal welfare (like cage-free eggs), and a mission to empower other female business owners.
That commitment to social change, admits Coolhaus’s cofounder and CEO, Case, was not always baked into the company’s ingredients but evolved to reflect the tastes of customers. “What the public is looking for today is: What’s the mission beyond me buying this?” Case observes. “How can being a consumer do something bigger than the transaction?”
To that end, Coolhaus’s latest flavor, Queens’ Coffee, now available at Whole Foods, supports women entrepreneurship around the globe. For its creation, the company partnered with Allegro Coffee, a Colorado-based company whose beans are produced by women in East Africa. A portion of proceeds benefits the Myna Mahila Foundation, a nonprofit helping women in India.
The foundation is also supported by Meghan Markle, and was listed as a suggested donation for guests at her wedding to Prince Harry in lieu of a gift. The Duchess of Sussex, a role model for the Coolhaus CEO, is even referenced in an ad campaign tied to International Women’s Day that the brand put out for Queens’ Coffee: “Call us, Meghan,” read the billboard.
Case references Markle because she is “a great symbol of female leadership” in charity and uplifting other women, the CEO says. (Recently, she and Harry were spotted volunteering at Project Angel Food, which delivers meals to Angelenos in need.) Markle’s escape from the “horrible treatment” of being a Royal Family member is just ice cream on the cake to Case. While Coolhaus may not (yet) have the clout of a royal, its founders believe their sweet treats have the power to enact social change far from traditional activism.
“It’s so fun and…it’s so inclusive that anyone can be part of this,” Case says. Coolhaus ice cream has brought together more than just socially conscious consumers with refined palates. It also helped cement the bond between the lesbian founders.
“It was this incredibly romantic experience driving the ice cream truck to weddings in Ojai at sunset,” she adds. “It was just such a phenomenal bond that we had and bringing our visions together for what the company could be.”
“It worked until it didn’t,” Case admits. Estreller eventually stepped away from Coolhaus in order to maintain space between the business and their relationship. It ended up being the right move for both. The couple is now married with one son, Remy, and another child on the way.
“It’s important to be honest about the story,” Case says. “It creates more examples for people to see that things can be done in an alternative way.”
Be it growing a professional or personal relationship, Case stresses that talking is key. “You have to have a ton of communication and be very clear with one another. All the tasks are very clearly laid out,” Case says. “You just don’t want to get into having a grudge and feeling resentful.”
She also adds that it’s essential to set aside time for family as well as work, and “to try to not let those constantly bleed into one another.”
For any woman thinking of starting a business, Case recommends “thinking big” both professionally and personally. “It’s so important to have a selfish moment and think, Is this business going to be able to support me and get me to the personal financial goals or other measures of success?…When you do this, you hold yourself accountable to that dual vision.”