Aixa M. Pascual 2013-04-05 13:50:27
Shortly after graduating from Kennesaw State in spring 2010, Keith Schroeder opened his own business. A chef who had worked in the restaurant industry for two decades, Schroeder had big dreams of making super premium ice cream in small batches and selling it to high-end restaurants. Back then, the two-person operation had one local client and scant funds. Fast forward to fall 2012. In two years, Schroeder has grown his upstart, High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet, into a $1-million-plus venture with solid credentials and sales in 25 states. In summer 2011, he started peddling his ice cream and sorbet –– in flavors such as bourbon burnt sugar, Aztec chocolate and caramel, and limoncello –– to Whole Foods Market, which now sells the frozen treats all over the Southeast. In the past year, his company has been featured in publications such as Southern Living and EveryDay with Rachael Ray, and he just landed Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino as a client. And yes, his startup, now entering its third year, is already making money. “It is hard to comprehend how all of this happened,” says the Michael J. Coles College of Business Executive MBA graduate. “To be totally candid, I’ve had a tremendous amount of luck.” At the very beginning, Schroeder, still working also as an executive chef at the Westin Atlanta, did not know whether his business was going to make it. Cash was tight. He was working 15- to 20- hour days, seven days a week, and his business partner, who was in charge of sales, left. Initially, to build buzz, Schroeder attended every benefit and food festival he could, even as he generated little sales. Along the way, he learned that there are “17,000 ways” to cobble together a sales force. “There’s no better learning experience than starting something from nothing,” Schroeder says. “It’s a pretty raw experience. You have to be exceptionally resourceful. You have to be decisive.” Today, the business is on solid footing, with high interest from a host of venture capitalists. He has hired a full-time chief marketing officer (his wife, Nicki) and a director of marketing, as well as a chief operations officer, a position that took months to fill because Schroeder wanted someone who had significant experience as a chef. Schroeder, a chef by training who got his culinary degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta, is now in charge of sales. “At first I had a fear of selling, now I’m a professional seller,” the CEO admits. Schroeder says that having spent half his lifetime as a chef has taught him to adapt to change constantly. “In the kitchen your brain is ready for anything,” says Schroeder. “Entrepreneurship is no different.” There’s one lesson he learned as a student at Kennesaw State that has proved golden: “Cash is king,” he says. “It all centers around capitalizing the company. If it grows too fast, you will exhaust your company of cash. Running out of cash is not an option. It’s just math.” So far, Schroeder is doing the math just fine. In its second year, his company had revenues of $1.5 million and he expects revenues to continue growing at a rapid pace. “We are on target to double that this year,” says Schroeder, who envisions High Road as a $50 million business. “We see ourselves as the next great global luxury brand of ice cream.”
Published by Kennesaw State / Kennesaw State University Magazine. View All Articles.
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