In this modern8 March 2020 spotlight, we talk to Alexa Norlin of Normal® Ice Cream.
Due to the current risk of COVID-19, Normal’s ice cream is only available through online order for curbside pickup. The products online are what are currently available. modern8 is a fan, and Normal® does a great job in providing real-time updates on their site. One thing they do request from customers, who are picking up orders, is to send them a text using the provided phone number on the site. You can also show your support by purchasing a gift card now to use in the future or (even better) show someone you social distance care by sending them a Normal® gift card. They’ll both feel your love and support, and we all win!
What was the intent behind beginning your own brand?
I wanted to take one item that I loved most, and make it the best I possibly could. I LOVE ice cream, seriously, so much. I think we live in a world that many get away with mediocrity and I want to stand against that! At Normal®, we do soft serve the best we know how. I also wanted to create a brand that would never be painted into a corner. A fear of choosing a brand color led me to utilizing iridescent rainbow in so many ways. Could have been so tacky, or so great – I hope it’s perceived as the latter! A fear of landing on an ice cream based name lead me to Normal®. We have the room to grow into different areas in the future – that is something I care the most about. I change my mind a million times a minute, so being stuck in one space is a real life nightmare. Normal is what it is, and can be whatever you want it to be!
What other businesses and individuals inspire your business?
I keep a tight group of friends and fellow business owners, with whom I talk about literally *everything*… admittedly sometimes more focused on business woes than business wins. BUT even those negative conversations can push you right back up, even when you’re the most down. On a broader, less local scale, I spend a lot of my time listening to both small and big business focused podcasts, instagram accounts, and books. Instagram naturally is more of a visual inspiration, though there are a few chefs out there that I intentionally pay close mind to. Toothache Magazine is a publication “by chefs, for chefs” by Nick Muncy—a Michelin pastry chef from San Francisco. These are the types of things I live for—beautifully created and curated. When I feel uninspired, I kick back to my pastry chef roots and start creating dishes… then somehow they magically turn into ice cream flavors, or composed cones.
What guiding words do you have for other woman beginning their own business?
JUST FREAKIN’ DO IT – I mean, seriously. Everyone in the world has amazing ideas, but get out there and make it happen. We can do it better than they can.
How do you use social media when it comes to your brand?
To be honest, I truly dislike social media—there, I said it! I see it as a terrible game, but I HAVE to win. That being said, Normal® would seriously not exist if it weren’t for Instagram. I am so fortunate to have created a visually appealing product (served from a very cute truck) that made others want to come and take their own photos. This aspect of “free marketing” is priceless. I use instagram as the primary communication strategy – though I plan to utilize newsletters and website content more strongly in 2020. I want the Instagram to become less of an inundation of “buy this,” “look at this cool thing we made,” and more of a visually inspiring, interactive, and hopefully informative reel of content. I expect this to have a negative affect on our engagement rates – especially since it’s algorithm changes before you even caught up on the last one, BUT if we can build a brand to not financially rely SO heavily on a social media platform, and have it more as a point of interest, I think we really WILL have won!
What things influence your company?
I would like to think I am aware of the goings on of this industry – be it ice cream, desserts, or even food as the most generalized form. I come from a very strict pastry background and have been playing *ahem* working in kitchens my entire adult life. I like to keep a little of that “weirdness” at Normal® by creating composed cones that have some interesting elements, or you know… wasabi + white chocolate soft serve. Aside from food, I am very inspired by the wild and creative world we live in. I curate my social media feed with pastry chefs, artists, graphic designers, etc with things I find visually interesting. I follow quite a few very successful businesses, take SuperMoon Bakehouse for example—great product, even better voice. That’s what it’s all about—right? The voice. I am forever working on creating a voice that isn’t ALL me, but has some of me. Balance? It’s hard.
How has your company evolved as it’s grown?
Oh man, I used to do literally EVERYTHING. Wild. I think I blacked out for the first nine months. I have zero idea what happened, but I was there, on the truck, dippin’ cones. I had a business partner transition in late 2018 that was truly life changing. I was in a bad spot – Normal was in a bad spot. A bad partnership can kill the most alive thing. Since then, I not only have the support Normal® (and I) needed, but we have had the ability to push and grow the way I envisioned. The STORE! It’s finally open! We have baby-sized factory in the basement where we make nearly everything we sell. This is where we plan to expand most, while keeping up with the upstairs at the store, and the truck AKA Normal Lab. I care the absolute most about the brand. I will do anything and everything to protect and nurture that as Normal grows. I still do all of the creative direction, social media, etc myself. I know there will be a time that I need to let that go, but am 100% not ready yet.
Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.
In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.