Using Ice Cream for Good: How Lovin' Scoopful is Working for the Special Olympics

When my college friend, Tim Shriver, asked me to accompany him to the Special Olympics World Games in Nagano, Japan, in February of 2005, I had no idea that I would return home with a back-of-a-napkin blueprint for a new business venture. But one night sitting in the hotel lounge Tim and I started talking about going into business together. My expertise is in ice cream and coffee. I started an ice cream company right out of college and later expanded my horizon to include coffee, being an original owner of Tully's Coffee Japan, that now has nearly 400 retail stores throughout Japan. Tim's expertise, on the other hand, is in education and the intellectually disabled. Marrying our diverse skill sets seemed an insurmountable task, but eventually our many discussions led to Lovin' Scoopful Gourmet Light Ice Cream and we could not be more thrilled about the outcome.

Tim's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Special Olympics and Tim has been either the Chairman or CEO of the world-renowned organization for the better part of the past two decades. Special Olympics is primarily funded by donations, sponsorships and other outside sources. Tim thought it would be great if we could find a way to develop a sustainable form of revenue not just for Special Olympics but for other worthy causes as well. So we set out to build the Lovin' brand by matching feel-good products with causes that help empower the human spirit. Our eventual goal is to have multiple Lovin' products each co-branded with a unique cause to create a sustainable form of income for each organization. Ice cream puts a smile on everyone's face and Special Olympics exemplifies the pursuit of raising the human spirit so ice cream and Special Olympics seemed like the obvious product and Special Olympics the perfect cause upon which to build a foundation for our eventual goal.

Tim's friend and fellow Special Olympics board member Angelo Moratti, a renowned businessman living in Milan, Italy, had been thinking about opening a chain of retail gelato shops in the United States so when Tim told him about our idea to start an ice cream company he showed great interest and decided to join our efforts. Aside from his fondness for frozen desserts, Angelo's prime motivation is to see if we can create a company that is able to make a profit but still contribute significantly to causes that greatly benefit our society. To that end, we researched different for-profit companies and found that the most socially conscious companies gave 12-13% of their post-tax profits to worthy causes. We've tried to set the bar higher for future start-ups by pledging 25% of our post-tax profits ($50,000 min. annually) to Special Olympics. Tim's sister, Maria Shriver, the first lady of California, best-selling author and founder of the California Woman's Conference, also liked our ideas and wanted to become part of what we were trying to accomplish as well. Maria's creative instincts have been invaluable for the development and continuing operations of the company. Together, the four of us started Lovin' Scoopful and launched our product in the spring of 2008.

Lovin' Scoopful is a specially blended rich and creamy gourmet light ice cream that has 1/2 the fat and 1/3 fewer calories than other premium ice creams, so our customers can enjoy great taste with little guilt. Lovin' fans can also take joy in knowing that our ice cream is not only putting smiles on their faces but helping to put smiles on the faces of Special Olympics athletes for whom the brand is all about.

We placed our first package of Lovin' Scoopful on a grocery freezer shelf in the spring of 2008. That year we offered six flavors and our product was available in approximately 400 stores in northern California and the Pacific Northwest. In 2009 we came out with four more flavors and expanded our distribution to include 1,100 stores in 16 western states. Today, up to 12 flavors of Lovin' Scoopful can be found in nearly 1,600 stores spread throughout 22 states.

Our mission has only begun but we are hopeful that Lovin' Scoopful will continue to grow so we can keep making more and more customers happy, which in turn will help us give ever more significantly to causes that help power the human spirit. Lovin' Scoopful sits on shelves next to century-old brands owned by companies like Nestle, Unilever and Deen Foods; companies that are able to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in "slotting allowances" to get their products placed on store shelves. We can't do that and our brand recognition is still in its infancy. So, the road ahead for Lovin' Scoopful will likely not be smooth but we've developed a loyal customer base that will hopefully just continue to grow. Our best marketing tool is the quality of our product. Once you try some Lovin' you will fall in love. So, for those of you that have not tried our product, please do so. For those of you that are already Lovin' fans please help us spread the Lovin' word by turning us on to your friends and family so they too can enjoy our extra special treat and help an extra special cause at the same time. After all, everybody needs some good lovin'.