Matt Eastman is living the sweet life.
His Lakewood Ranch-based company, Lickity Splits Ice Cream, had a good year. The business, in operation since 2014, is a regular at festivals across the region. Its ice cream stands out, Eastman says, because it has a richer, creamier taste.
In 2018, Lickity Splits’ growth came on several fronts. The company purchased the unit next door to its headquarters for more space. It added three employees, bringing its total to seven. It now operates two trucks. And, significantly, it widened its service area to include Tarpon Springs down to Fort Myers Beach and over to Orlando. “We’ve really expanded a lot,” says Eastman.
And the expansion isn’t over. Lickity Splits is now looking for a 10,000- to 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. “The economy is booming,” Eastman says. “The hardest thing is getting employees.” He projects Lickity Splits will earn revenue close to the high six figures in 2018.
At the end of 2017, Eastman considered opening a brick-and-mortar shop to sell Lickity Splits ice cream. But that plan has evolved. Today, the company serves individual owner-operated ice cream shops. Eastman says this doesn’t mean Lickity Splits won’t have its own shop at some point, but right now, it plans to continue to focus on its core group of customers.
This year also brought growth in the professional sports realm. Lickity Splits built on its existing deal to serve ice cream at Amalie Arena in Tampa and created a proprietary flavor for the Tampa Bay Lightning called Thunder Berry that fans voted on and selected.
“The exponential growth has just been crazy.” — Matt Eastman, proprietor, Lickity Splits Ice Cream
The company’s ice cream is also now served at Tampa Bay Rays games in St. Petersburg; Pittsburgh Pirates spring training and Bradenton Marauders games in downtown Bradenton; and at Florida PGA tournaments. Plus, Lickity Splits is in negotiations with more baseball and soccer teams that could be serving its ice cream soon.
On another cold front, Eastman this year started making and selling ice cream with cannabinoids. Since ice cream is high in both protein and fat, the idea behind CBD ice cream, he says, is to help cancer patients in particular.
Lickity Splits is the co-packer for the venture, Heavenly Hash Creamery. It’s experienced what Eastman calls “phenomenal growth” and is now available in more than 40 locations, including online and at smoke shops and doctors’ offices. “The exponential growth has just been crazy,” he says. “It’s been a huge challenge, but we’re making it work somehow.”
For Lickity Splits in general, 2018 has been a big year of increased production. “We have quadrupled our output side for the amount of gallons,” Eastman says. In 2019, Lickity Splits plans to start a second shift of workers, aiming to increase production even more.
A core obstacle in 2018, beyond finding, hiring and retaining top people, has been to keep up with that demand. Lickity Splits partially met the challenge by having workers — including family — put in more hours. “I have a dedicated family,” Eastman says. “If that means we come in at night, we do.” It can also mean coming in on weekends, he adds. For Eastman, that’s the key to business: support.
Ahead, he sees having enough capital to fund growth as yet another big challenge. “Cash flow is always an issue,” Eastman says. “If we bring in an investor, it’s got to be very strategic.” He and his family have invested heavily in the business, he says, and he doesn’t want to discredit that. “If someone comes in," he says, "it has to be more than just capital. It has to be expertise.”