From The Bar to Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches

40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States are women and female entrepreneurship rates are increasing according to crowdspring. In fact, the growth rate for women is at 10% and for men it only 5%. Can I just say…#GirlBoss!

Starting a business is not easy. There are many factors to consider:

  • What are you going to sell?
  • Where? At home or find a location?
  • What about funding?
  • Who is going to help – business partners, staff, CUSTOMERS!

So when my newly married and new mom of one (now 2) bestie told me she was not going to practice law and she was opening an ice cream sandwich shop, my jaw dropped. But the next thing I did was say “How can I help?”.

For my second #BlackGirlMagic feature I want to introduce my dear friend, Catheryn Greene. While she was studying for one of the hardest exams you could ever take, THE BAR, she came up with this wild idea – sell gourmet ice cream sandwiches. The start of Cathy’s Creamery began.

Read on to learn about Catheryn’s amazing journey.

Jemia Young: Hey Cat! Thanks so much for taking the time to give insight to the entrepreneur life to my readers. Please introduce yourself.

Catheryn Greene: Jay. I love the blog. I just wanted to start with that. Very proud of you girl and excited that you selected me to share my story.

I am from Jefferson City. A small town in Missouri. I always had bigger dreams that what was right outside my door. I knew once I graduated high school that I wanted to attend Spelman College. I remember writing it down in my journal at 15. I even wrote down that I wanted to attend law school. They both came to fruition.6283_724290214797_1370803422_n

My initial interest in attending law school came from my mother who is an attorney. Watching her as I grew up is what prompted me to pursue a legal career. While at Spelman College I took the LSAT (a few times because my score was very low), I only got in to two law schools, Cleveland-Marshall in Cleveland, Ohio and John Marshall in Atlanta, GA. For some reason I just wanted a change, to experience a new city so I decided on Cleveland.

JY: Small town in Missouri, to ATL to Cleveland. How did you manage the consistent change in your life?

CG: I’m one of those people who truly enjoys a challenge and I get excited to move to new cities, meet new people, and form great relationships. My self-confidence stems from my belief in God. His grace and constant love always assures me that I can and will make it no matter the changes/challenges.

JY: What was your first impression of Cleveland? Did you think you would be here permanently? 

CG: Honestly, I hated Cleveland when I first moved! I thought everyone was quiet and strange, much different from the southern hospitality that I became accustom to in Atlanta.

During my first year of law school, I was gone almost every weekend or had people visiting. However, my 2nd year of law school I was determined to learn more of the city and see what it had to offer. I attended a cultural event at the Art Museum and immediately fell in love in exploring the city.

After graduating from law school, I sat for the Ohio Bar exam, passed the test, came up with the concept of Cathy’s, and now I’m a total Clevelander!

JY: So Cathy’s was born during the bar exam? What happened next?

CG: Cathy’s actually was developed between taking the bar exam and waiting for results. During that time, I was engaged to my now husband who owned a real estate company. I would frequently use his office to study while I was preparing for the bar exam, but after I took the exam, and waiting for my results, I started working for him. This is what initially sparked my entrepreneurial interest.

In early spring 2014, we got married and then I developed a business plan for Cathy’s. I signed up for a 16 week business program where I would meet 2 days a week with other women owned businesses covering a variety of topics. During this stage, I was about 5 months pregnant with our daughter London. Once I completed the program with a business plan in tow, I went home for Thanksgiving where a family member gained a lot of interest in my business idea. A week later, they sent me a check in the mail for the full start-up costs! #Blessing

While I looked for a retail space, I launched our website and began marketing efforts. We started in a shared commercial kitchen space where other small business owners could rent to cook and prep their products. In that kitchen we completed catering orders and prepped for vendor events. This was all in 2015.

JY: I remember those late nights in your rented kitchen space. What always puzzled me was how you kept it together. How did you do it?

IMG_0411CG: Self-belief and resilience. I always tell professionals looking to excel in their careers or others interested in business that you must, at all times, believe in your self. Your ability to bounce back from failures and disappointment is essential to move towards success. I don’t look at failures or disappointments the same as most. It’s vital to not be reactive, be proactive. Don’t allow emotion to cloud your judgment.

JY: Let’s jump to you deciding to open a store front. As young black woman under 30, did you feel like you had more hurdles to jump through?

CG: In June 2016, we opened our doors for business in downtown Cleveland. Two months later a cookie franchise opened up 2 doors down from us on the same block. I was devastated. Oh and did I mention I was pregnant for a 2nd time and had our son, Lawrence Jr., in March 2016, just a few months before opening a business. Needless to say, it was a crazy time.

I didn’t think I had more hurdles to jump through; however, my learning curve was greater than my counterparts. My lack of knowledge and access to information and resources was different. I had to learn how to gain the insight and knowledge I needed in order to have a thriving business. Systems, payroll, marketing, advertising, branding. Relationship building, product development and many other areas I had to learn while I was on the job.

JY: What was the feeling when you turned on your open sign for the very first time?

CG: Pure thankfulness and excitement. I had no doubt that our product is superior and I kept the vision fresh. But I almost immediately knew that my store could generate more revenue. There were times where I had to pick up freelance legal gigs or work temp jobs just to keep my vision alive. When this became more prevalent I knew I had to make a change and make it quick.

And after two years I took a huge leap and changed locations.

JY: I know when you told me you were changing locations, I was in shock. But I knew you could handle it. The location on East 4th seems like a prime location. How has business increased?

CG: We opened our doors in April 2018, and our sales have been EXPLOSIVE! This created a new challenge because we had to keep up with a demand we didn’t have before.

Our store is open 7 days a week, we offer catering services, delivery through UberEats, and we are a constant vendor at annual area festivals. Learning what structure/system is best suited to handle each area was something I had to learn. And I had to learn it FAST!

Every revenue stream has increased. The top two being our brick and mortar and our catering services. We most recently secured our largest catering order to-date from the Cleveland Indians.

24831077_10100375898298947_7584830781412199464_oOur top 3 best sellers are Ice Cream Sandwiches (we’ve sold 14,908 of them), Single Scoops (8,428), and Cookie (4,033), this is solely our store  and doesn’t include the catering and vendor events where we sell these items as well.

We are now doing what I always knew Cathy’s could do and we are opening our first out of state location in Atlanta, Georgia early summer 2019.

JY: Wow! More Cathy’s. This went from a small catering business to a store front in the busiest part of downtown Cleveland to now expanding in other cities. Tell me, who has been in your corner every step of the way. What does your tribe around Cathy’s look like?

CG: God, family, and friends. You need a good support system especially when you are trying to accomplish something on a large scale. The world will push back at you, problems will arise, and you will want to quit. But you cannot.

You cannot afford to give up. I’m thankful that I have family and friends that are family that consistently and constantly remind me of who I am and what I will have. You need people in your life that believe in you, even when you get discouraged.

JY: Having a good tribe around you is key. I know one thing you are passionate about is CathyCares. Can you tell me about that?

CG: CathyCares is a non-profit that focuses on building and empowering the leader within students and young women interested in entrepreneurship. We currently partner with a local Cleveland high school where I teach various topics surrounding women in business once a month.

Our vision is to have CathyCares in every city we have a location. As a mother of two, I want my daughter and my son to really see what it takes to run a business and develop it into an enterprise. Everything starts with an idea, and the sooner we can believe in that idea the quicker we can develop it.

JY: You mentioned your daughter. I want to give the readers a little insight to your home life, so they can get an idea of everything that happens in your world.

22135391_10100350511364567_4619208360141686027_oCG: Being newly married, having children back to back (they are 10 months a part), being a daughter, sister and friend while still trying to exercise and have personal time was difficult at first. However, I’ve learned that certain things need more of me at certain times.

Don’t get overwhelmed when you have many roles you play. I’ve learned to relax, take things one day at a time, don’t beat myself up if I mess up or miss something. Just try again next time.

I also prioritize myself quite a bit. Taking a day to read, exercise, get a massage, get my nails done, whatever I need for my personal care. You can’t give out what you don’t have.

If you’re running on empty your business, career, and family will suffer. Make yourself a top priority. I’ve found I’m a better leader, mother, friend and overall person when I take care of myself.

JY: Ok Cat. Final thought. What is a piece of advice you can give my readers who are aspiring entrepreneurs or for that person who is trying to discover their passion.

CG: Nothing can stop you but you. Nothing. Not money, not discouragement, not failing, nothing.

Fail fast and learn.

Apply those lessons so that you become refined in your area. Block out the noise but be open enough for constructive feedback. You need that to grow.

Never stop learning. Read a lot of books and attend conferences that push your paradigms.

Above all else, give God glory in what you are doing and remain humble.

Cathys logo
401 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio

Another #BlackGirlMagic feature completed. I hope you learned something from Cat’s story. And if you are in Cleveland make sure you stop by Cathy’s Creamery. You will not be disappointed.

Until next time…..