It’s More Than Just Ice Cream, It’s a Way of Life

(Source: Lulu's Ice Cream Twitter) 

A trip to an ice cream store changed it all for Luisa Santos (COL ‘14). When Santos was home in Miami this past August visiting her family, her sister, a senior in high school, insisted they visit an ice cream store that made liquid nitrogen ice cream. Santos recalls enjoying the noticeably smooth texture of the ice cream as well as watching the process of making the ice cream.

After her visit to the ice cream store, Santos started researching about how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream. In regards to her initial investigation into the process, Santos said, “At the time, I didn’t think of much of it.” However, once Santos returned to D.C. she recalls not being able to get the concept out of her head. She began to wonder why this type of ice cream was not everywhere. While liquid nitrogen ice cream is popular on the west coast, the east coast is relatively unchartered territory for this treat.

In the midst of writing cover letters for highly coveted consulting jobs, she would find herself procrastinating by researching more about the process of making ice cream out of liquid nitrogen. Always having a business bug, as well as an inclination to start her own business, Santos began to think that maybe this fascination with liquid nitrogen was not just a fleeting interest.

However, it was not until one late night conversation in October with a friend that Santos realized this could actually turn into a business opportunity. As she toiled with the idea, she remembers her friend saying, “I think you already made your decision.” This phrase stuck with Santos, and she decided to pursue opening a liquid nitrogen ice cream shop called Lulu’s Ice Cream.

For Santos, Lulu’s Ice Cream is an opportunity for her to put innovative business concepts into practice. She quickly began studying the ingredients of traditional ice cream and how she could differentiate her recipes for the liquid nitrogen ice cream. For example, while eggs are common in most traditional ice cream recipes in order to keep the ice cream frozen over time, Santos did not need to use them since her ice cream is made to order.  As a result, Santos said, “My goal is to make the freshest ice cream possible.”

After completing a lot of research, Santos had the challenge of getting the liquid nitrogen in order to try her hand at making the dessert. After many long hours of investigating, Santos found out that welding shops sold liquid nitrogen, so she contacted a shop. While the shop noted that typically there is a waiting list for a dewar, a container of liquid nitrogen, Santos was in luck as the shop had one available for pick up. It was fate.

After an early morning car ride to in her roommate’s brother’s car and 3 hours later, Santos successfully picked up her own dewar before her morning class and was on her way to making her first batch of liquid nitrogen ice cream. She tested out combinations such as banana, peanut butter, cookies ‘n cream, Nutella, strawberry and papaya. While all of the ice creams are cream based, the flavoring comes from pureed fruits and cocoa powder. There are no syrups used.

As she continued to perfect her ice cream making skills, Santos started to spread the word about Lulu’s Ice Cream, setting up pop up shops throughout Georgetown’s campus, such as in Lau and at the Front Gates. In the spring, Santos hopes to be able to sell regularly at the popular farmer’s market on Copley Lawn. By the summer, her goal is to open her very own store in the Georgetown area. She is also using the help of her friends and social media to help get the word out about Lulu’s Ice Cream. More than just being marketing tools, her friends have been very helpful in assisting her with the various tasks and challenges with opening a business.

Santos is in the process of developing an employment model, which she hopes to set up similarly to a fellowship program, focusing on the empowerment of employees through teaching them about social entrepreneurship and personal finances. Her goal is to hire approximately six employees for her first store. In terms of her business model, Santos explained that she is putting an emphasis on education, noting how the process of making the liquid nitrogen ice cream is an educational opportunity in itself. She also mentioned how she hopes to create a business dedicated to sustainability supporting local farmers and using energy saving techniques. As she continues to develop her business model, Santos plans to explore more ice cream combinations. In the future, her goal is to use a wide array of mix-ins, creating many different ice cream combinations. She also hopes to eventually make her own cones and test out more exotic flavors like avocado.

You can taste Lulu’s Ice Cream for yourself and experience the thrill of watching liquid nitrogen ice cream be made by visiting one of her pop up shops. Currently, Lulu’s Ice Cream tells two different sizes: the JJ for $2.00 and the JTIII for $4.00. Follow Lulu’s Ice Cream (@Lulus_IceCream) on Twitter to get up to date information on the next location and date for a pop up shop.