Product to MULO Brand? An Interview with Melissa Tavss

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Boozy ice cream? Cheers! Say no more! Melissa Tavss is the Founder and CEO of Tipsy Scoop, liquor-infused ice cream. She is taking her popular product on the road into her branded brick-and-mortar multi-location (MULO) stores.  We recently sat down with her to discuss her journey from founder to franchisor.

How and when did you get the idea for Tipsy Scoop?

“I started Tipsy Scoop in 2014. Ice cream-making runs in my family from back in the 1800s my great-great-great-grandparents brought over gelato from Italy. I decided to continue in the ice cream-making tradition, but this time, with a boozy twist. I started at a kitchen incubator space in East Harlem doing catering and events with my ice cream push carts, selling wholesale to specialty grocery retailers and selling online through Goldbelly.”

Why create your own stores (known as Barlours)?

“Brick and mortar was NOT in my business plan at all, but in 2016 we had a video go viral on Facebook showing the behind-the-scenes making of our ice cream. So the alcohol is poured into the machine, and these beautiful ribbons of ice cream come out of the machine. The video got about 10 million views in two days and people were showing up at our production facility looking for the ice cream shop they saw online. They didn’t stop showing up, and from there we decided to open the first Brick and Mortar in 2017 in the Kips Bay area of  New York City.”

How do you decide where to locate your shops? 

” My first shop, I simply opened by my apartment at the time. I thought I would be working there every day —  which I was! We got ‘lucky’ with the first shop because we created a destination with the crazy social media and press coverage we got.

After that, I started looking for shops in areas with like-minded businesses. Tipsy Scoop is truly an occasion-based product, people are eating it to celebrate some sort of milestone — whether it be as small as a friend visiting from out of town and wanting to show them a good time to as large as a wedding or graduation. We want to be near other businesses that are fun and offer a good time, such as bars, cool restaurants, and interesting experiences. One store is on Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn and one is in  Long Beach NY — in an area called The West End — right off the boardwalk.”

How many stores do you have now? What are your short-term, mid-term, and long-term plans?

“We started franchising earlier this year. That was a big decision which was again a response to customer inquiries we got from the start — how can I open my own Tipsy Scoop? At the same time, we wanted to take advantage of our first-mover status in the alcohol-infused ice cream category. So far, we have franchises opening up in Washington, DC, Portland, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona, and Sacramento, California We are hoping to continue to grow through the franchise model and also have our eye on key markets to open additional company-owned ‘Barlours’ as well.”

What have been some of the biggest pleasant and unpleasant surprises in building out retail locations?

“Our concept is really simple and straightforward. All of the ice cream is made off-site and delivered weekly by a local distributor. The logistics are very streamlined, so most of the build-out is cosmetic. However, electricity and plumbing are MOST important for freezer equipment, and water needs to be in an ice cream shop!”

You are inventing a new category. How do you solve for search terms?

“That’s a great question, and was a lot harder when we started. I think now there is a lot of interest around boozy ice cream and there are more organic searches  around that, which is helpful. It is interesting because, at least on the social media front, #tipsyscoop has 115 million views on TikTok whereas #boozyicream only has 109 million- so we are doing something right with our name and that it has kind of become synonymous with boozy ice cream!”

What other technologies do you incorporate into your operations and marketing?

“We rely really heavily on social media marketing and great press to spread the word about our new locations and offerings. We also participate in collaborations and partnerships with big name liquor brands to help leverage that following.”

So, let’s toast to Melissa and wish her success in her Tipsy Scoop expansion plan!


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.
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