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Going From Local to National With High Road Craft

How the premium ice cream maker took on expansion.

Hero image for Issue #92: Featuring High Road Craft

E-commerce pals! When I heard our next Atlanta stop was going to be an ice cream purveyor, I got lit like a kid walking into a toy store. Even better yet: High Road Craft ice cream isn’t your everyday treat—its premium flavors are made by chefs. (Bourbon Burnt Sugar or Aztec Chocolate, anyone?)

Founded by Keith Schroeder and his wife, Nicki, High Road started as a group of talented chefs who made ice cream for other chefs so they could serve it in restaurants and other places of business.

“As veterans of the culinary world, we had personal perspectives on the ins and outs of the food service industry, what common struggles existed, and where there may be some opportunity to better serve the culinary community,” Keith says.

But the duo ran into a problem, and a good one at that: Their product was in such high demand, they were soon selling their pints from their factory store on weekends. Since dipping their toe into retail, the company has grown to a 60-strong group of individuals and will (very) soon be carried in stores nationwide.

Here are some tips from High Road Craft about how to scale for national distribution:

High Road is working on a few new strategic partnerships, and while they’re doing that, they’re constantly tinkering and creating new flavors and product formats.

“It’s been humbling to participate in and watch our growth,” Keith says. “It’s a living-and-breathing thing that depends on the commitment and efforts of many. I’m proud to say that we’ve evolved into a happy and well-functioning team.”

The business is also testing its marketing messaging: “To start, this means codifying our brand voice and architecture, and then working that into the overall messages and programs we have planned for this year. It’s tedious at times, for sure, but we believe it’s an exercise that will allow us to communicate better both internally and externally.”

“You’ll definitely need a steady, level-headed advisor,” Keith says. “You’ll have your board, your family, your friends who will all have their opinions, all of which will be well-intentioned and, in some cases, smart, impactful, and thoughtful.” That’s why having one single mentor is critical.

Your mentor should push, “pressure, and toil with you,” and often lead you to question not only everything about your business, but your own self, too. But this person should also be relentlessly supportive, Keith adds. “He or she will be your guard rails on Entrepreneurship Road, providing clarity all along the way.”

“A vision will take years or even a lifetime to come to life,” Keith says. “All companies exist to achieve some goal or purpose. It won’t, and probably shouldn’t, happen quickly or easily. With your vision, be open and flexible enough to embrace the ambiguous and let things unfold naturally, while always remembering and remaining true to your personal beliefs and your organization’s values.”

High Road, for example, has been expanding their business since 2011 in a variety of ways. Moving into 2018, they’ll be available in grocery retailers across the country, while also serving as the manufacturer-of-record for a number of private-label retail brands. Meanwhile, they’re constantly updating their process and procedures, as evidenced this past Thanksgiving:

“We exceeded our production planning, found efficiencies along the way, and were able to really flex the full capacity of our existing production line,” Keith says. “It was really inspiring to see our operation running smoothly. The team knocked it out of the park, and I’m very proud of that.”

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