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Business Observer Thursday, May 23, 2019 5 months ago

Top Entrepreneurs: Ice cream company owner scoops out winning formula

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Matt Eastman is building off sweet success to gain big time clients and expand Lickity Splits Ice Cream across Florida. One key: relentless determination.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Matt Eastman and his wife, Jessica Eastman, went out on a recent Saturday night to make ice cream deliveries to clients.

“We were in a couple of the scoop shops, and you see people lined up out the door,” Eastman says. “They say, ‘This is great ice cream. Have you tried this? This is amazing.’”

That’s the best part of being an entrepreneur, Eastman says: working hard to produce something and getting unsolicited praise from customers enjoying it.

Eastman, 41, is the proprietor and president of Lakewood Ranch-based Lickity Splits Ice Cream, a company that’s continued to grow in recent years and add to its list of high-profile clients, from Amalie Arena in Tampa to The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach.

“It takes us three or four touches to actually bring someone on board with us. You have to be patient with it.” — Matt Eastman, proprietor and president, Lickity Splits Ice Cream

Eastman declines to disclose revenue figures, only to say the company has experienced exponential growth the past three years. This year, he says, Lickity Splits is on track to quadruple its business from 2018, with a focus on expanding into a new manufacturing facility, starting up a franchise side of the business and possibly bringing in investors.

Lickity Splits has eight to nine employees, and its ice cream production runs 18 to 20 hours a day. It already expanded its main office and production facility and still needs more room. “We’re bulging at the seams in here,” Eastman says. The company is considering sharing a manufacturing facility in Manatee County with another firm.

Lickity Splits is also trying to find the right entrepreneur to open a shop that serves its ice cream as a franchise location. Eastman hopes the store will open this summer. The ultimate goal? Several franchises.

The company, meanwhile, is expanding its wholesale client base and has broken into the Orlando and Fort Myers markets. Eastman says Lickity Splits is getting ready to head to the east coast of Florida, too.

“We’ve grown a lot,” he says. “When you sit here and focus on minute by minute, it seems like it’s just taking forever.” But by taking a broader view of the last few years, Eastman sees the major evolution the company has gone through, from making ice cream in his garage and his kids selling it to friends at school to partnering with The Don CeSar and the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s a big jump,” he says.

Making that jump stems from Eastman's almost lifelong pursuit of a sale — going back to when he was a kid in Michigan, when he sold Christmas cards in July.

That's also meant handling some inevitable rejections. “Any salesman will tell you, you’ve got to have thick skin,” he says. It’s rare that he makes a sale on the first shot. A relationship with a potential customer has to be built first, he says. “It takes us three or four touches to actually bring someone on board with us. You have to be patient with it.”

For instance, Lickity Splits has grown its surfside ice cream shop clients beach by beach. “All of the customers we have out on the beaches right now — I started to try to sell them a year ago. Some of them kicked me out of their office. You just go back.”

Past sales, the hardest part of being an entrepreneur who is in the earlier stages of starting a business is having to wear all of the hats, Eastman says, from the CEO to the janitor. But another challenge comes on the flip side, Eastman says — when an entrepreneur must relinquish some of the control and let someone help. The urge, he says, is to want them to do a perfect job.

“Right now, we’re past the point to where failure is an option,” he says. “If we fail at this business, our family has a lot of skin in this game. We’re not going to fail.”

(Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect Jessica Eastman's correct name.)

Read the stories behind the Business Observer's 2019 Top Entrepreneurs: 

Top Entrepreneurs: A life's passion doesn't come without sacrifices 

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Top Entrepreneurs: Hardware store chain president adopts a Wynn-ing formula

Top Entrepreneurs: Cybersecurity guru defies conventional wisdom 

Top Entrepreneurs: CEO grows boat club business, expands into other vehicles

Top Entrepreneurs: Glass company shines in grabbing market share 

Top Entrepreneurs: Ex-attorney cleans up with disruptive approach to business 

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