Returning home to the Inland Northwest after eight years spent living and working in Manhattan, Annie Stranger brought with her a new energy toward contributing to her own community and a passion for eating regionally sourced foods. She knew she wanted to contribute to that sense of community here in Spokane. But how? A graphic artist by trade she wasn’t sure the role she would play.
During trips home to escape the hot NYC summers, Annie and her mom began making small batch ice cream creations and serving them to friends and family at ice cream socials. Through the results of these “lab tests,” Annie discovered that ice cream making was something that could build on her existing skills as a designer — and allow her to engage with her community in a meaningful way. At that time, there were no commercial kitchen resources to rent in Coeur d’Alene where she was living, so she tabled the idea out of frustration for lack of resources.
Shortly thereafter, Annie attended a small business development workshop at the Women’s Business Center operated by SNAP. It was there that she was introduced to other resources in the ecosystem. In October, Annie launched her Pints Club for friends and family. Members tested various product creations and provided valuable feedback. The search for a business model for Annie’s ice cream was on.
In February 2016, Annie attended the University of Wisconsin’s Ice Cream Short Course where she learned how to produce her hand crafted creations in larger quantities and what to look for in sourcing products. She purchased a new, commercial-grade batch freezer and a small mobile cart from which to sell her product at local farmers markets.
For several months, Annie worked diligently to establish her business plan by focusing on the data needed to support a robust plan and identifying her target market. Then, Alan Stanford with SBDC helped Annie dial in her numbers and create her financials. With this, she was finally able to obtain a small business loan to help launch her business.
One year after her first day at the SNAP course, she found sources in the community to supply her dairy and produce, including Pure Eire dairy in Othello, Chattaroy Cheese Co., and Fleur de Provence Lavender Farm. Her locally-sourced, small batch ice creams and newly found mixologist skills led her to serve scoops at the Thursday Market on Perry Street, Fairwood Farmers Market, and other events throughout Spokane. This summer, she served hundreds of people each week and added new members to her Pints Club.
Annie’s newest point of pride is her homemade waffle cones — with flour sourced from Joseph’s Grainery in Colfax, WA. She has also collaborated with Vessel Coffee Roasters and Townsend Winery to create unique flavors and host special events that feature other exciting producers in the area. When asked about her experience in starting a business in our area, Annie says, “Spokane showed up for me. I’m astounded by the resources available and generosity I’ve received.” Annie has created more than 30 flavors to-date, and continues to craft new creations each month. She is continually inspired by the bounty of local farmers.
If you’re interested in joining in on the fun, you can become a Pints Club member for only $20 per month. You’ll receive two unique pints per month, get first-taste access to new flavors and seasonal specials, and get invites to two annual members-only ice cream socials. Keep an eye out at Rocket Market where Sweet Annie’s will be on the shelves soon.
In addition to the services at the Women’s Business Center, Annie utilized several resources available to entrepreneurs in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area. Her path to launching her business looked something like this:
|Area of Expertise
|SNAP Women’s Business Center
|Business development, consulting and education
|WSU Center for Innovation
|Ideation stage, business model and business plan assistance
|Spokane Public Library
|Market research and analysis
|Commercial kitchen facility
|Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
|Business advising and education, financial analysis
|SNAP Financial Access
|Small business and startup loan funds
To learn more about Sweet Annie’s Artisan Creamery, visit the website.