“I’m the two-stepping queen.”
You wouldn’t necessarily expect these words to come out of a petite woman, or less imagine her covering a dance floor as you watch her escape the cold by tucking into a cup of coffee. But Claudia Caballero is full of surprises.
In the office, she is less known as the two-stepping queen and more often lovingly referred to as the wholesale czarina. Claudia runs our wholesale department – taking charge of a frontier that’s new to all of us. Not only did she build her department from the ground up in only six months, but also successfully grown our wholesale client base to nearly 80 stores with a grace of a business leader.
When Claudia came to Lick, she was experienced in the food industry but new to ice cream. Her family ran a farm in western Honduras and started a pizza restaurant called Weekends Pizza when she was 16. There, she learned what a difference it can make to use fresh ingredients. From waitressing to cooking, Claudia realized she liked business and received her BBA in business administration.
“They’re ahead of their time in Honduras,” Claudia said. “I think people have more money here to spend on heathier, more wholesome food. But in Honduras ,we still have a culture of eating a lot of natural and wild things. We’ll go to the market and see all this weird stuff that they don’t cultivate. It’s flowers and it’s different fruits and vegetables that kind of grow wild.”
However, Claudia never liked ice cream in Honduras because it was often made with palm oil and water as opposed to milk. When she moved to Austin, a date suggested going to get ice cream, but the store they first went to had a line out the door. That’s when she remembered about the ice cream shop near her house in south Austin. She was not only impressed by the flavors, but also the clean look and vibrant colors of our original Lick location. Days later, she applied for a scooper position.
“So it wasn’t my background, scooping ice cream, but I just love people and I love telling people what they should taste,” Claudia said.
Proving adept at guiding people’s Lick ice cream experiences, she became our first ever wholesale manager in May 2015. Now, her position allows her to go beyond influencing each customer’s experience to inviting whole communities to be part of it.
“I like making processes more efficient, so we just started there,” Claudia said. “I did a lot of data analysis and relationship building with wholesale customers. By July, we had sales in some of the smaller supermarkets locally, and by September we did a sale with Central Market. And then a big sale with Whole Foods, and by the end of last year I had enough data and enough knowledge of what I was doing, so I created a budget. And that’s where we’re at right now.”
Claudia’s department has grown from one brand ambassador doing one or two demos a month to five ambassadors booking seven to 10 demos in each city of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Each brand ambassador is responsible for cultivating relationships with clients, scheduling their own demos, choosing what products they’ll sample and reporting back the results of their event to Claudia. She then uses that data to help determine what products are doing well, which should be discontinued and how else they can deepen and expand their wholesale relationships. She said a lot of her self-motivation can be attributed to being home-schooled among her four siblings.
“I feel like I’m always pushing myself to do the next thing, I’m ready for the next challenge, I can’t just sit there and be like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m done,’” Claudia said. “I think that joy for learning and discovering things really helped.”
Her hard work has paid off. Lick ice cream pints are now available in Whole Foods, Central Market, all the Fresh Plus and Wheatsville stores in Austin, as well as around 35 convenient stores. Through data analysis, Claudia has been able to fine-tune her department and help inform the store what flavors do well and what others should be re-considered. She has helped us venture into a great unknown and to better understand and strengthen our relationship with the community.
“No one knew what wholesale was, but the company gave me the chance to explore that,” Claudia said. “And that, for me, has been awesome. As well as just learning from mistakes. The whole company is like, ‘Well we tried it, and it didn’t work, but we tried it together. We’re growing from it.”
Thanks to Claudia, we’re having our biggest deal yet with Central Market. From now until February 21, you can buy a pint for $6.99 (regularly $8.99). We are also looking forward to re-designing our pints to better display our varying flavors and, as our wholesale continues to grow, looking into distribution options versus direct delivery.
These are huge developments for the company, and ones we couldn’t make without Claudia. As she taught us, we’ll take it two steps at a time.