Molham Krayem

 

With the weather getting warmer you may be craving something cold and sweet. Luckily you can now find delicious ice cream sandwiches at the Georgetown Farmer's Market every Wednesday. Melties was founded by two Georgetown Students and is the perfect way to get in the mood for summer. We spoke with Molham, one of the co-founders of this wonderful venture to learn more about the company.

1. What is Melties?

Melties is a Hoya-run ice cream cookie sandwich shop. When customers order a Melty (i.e. an ice cream cookie sandwich), we warm up two cookies in a mini-conveyor oven - so that they are at just the right temperature and texture - and place the cold scoop of ice cream in between, creating a dichotomy of warmness and coolness. We bake our cookies from scratch using a secret recipe and have a unique partnership with one of DC’s premier ice cream vendors. We launched at Hoya Saxa Weekend in March and have been at the GU Farmers’ Market every Wednesday.

2. How did you and your co-founders come up with the idea of Melties?

The concept of the ice cream cookie sandwich is certainly not a revelation. It’s my favorite dessert - I’ve had it in California, Miami, and even DC. Though when you look around campus, there isn’t a go-to place for amazing dessert. That’s what we sought to change. So one day I got really excited and dragged my co-founder to Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue and bought what we needed to make the most basic ice cream cookie sandwich, and we built from there. Whenever we had dinner events at friends’ places we brought samples for people to try. Many critiques, recipes, and tastings later, we felt comfortable with the quality of the product. A Melty lies at the intersection between what we can offer the Georgetown community and what the Georgetown community wants.

 

3. What has been the biggest challenge the company faced so far?

The biggest challenge so far, I would say, has been creating the time to experiment. We have so many great ideas that are just waiting to be put to work. When you’re a full-time student trying manage sleep, family relations, faith, a social life, and a healthy body, you’re already pushing the boundaries of time. So I'm typically working on the business between 2am and 5am. It’s interesting because we can see the vision, but we have to move at a more steady pace.

4. What are your goals for the company?

Our goal over the next eight months is to become the go-to vendor for dessert on campus. Georgetown, with over 150 offices and centers and more than 300 student organizations that host campus events, is an understated market. Beyond Georgetown, the long-term vision is to become a leading cookie-related desserts brand. It feels like a lot longer, but it’s only been a month since we had our first event - whether following through on the vision means expanding into a food truck or a store-front will become clearer along the way.

5. What have you learned so far when it comes to starting a business?

I’ve learned that, when starting a business, it’s always more work than you expect it’ll be - that’s just a fact. There’s always one more thing you need to consider. There’s production, inventory management, procurement, transportation, bookkeeping, social media management, marketing design, new business generation, and 23 other things. I’ve also learned to understand my driver. When you go to sleep at 5 because you’ve been checking inventory and balancing the books, and then have to be up by 9 to load equipment and set up shop, there has to be something that drives you. I’ve come to an understanding that I’m driven by the process of it all. It’s not about the tree coming down - it’s about the chopping. For me, it’s about having a good time working alongside cool people, and it’s hearing customers whisper to their friends “this is amazing” right before taking a snapchat of their Melty.

Melties is a child and I’m thankful she has a whole family to raise her. I’ve learned that nothing makes a business thrive more than an exceptional team. The only people on your team should be people you genuinely get along with, people who are dedicated to the initiative, people you can trust and they you, and people who can tolerate you and you them. And I can’t stress the last one enough, because catastrophes are all too common in a startup, and you’ll need to be there for each other. It’s also important that everyone be very transparent with one another. Melties has been a gateway to meeting genuinely amazing and fun people who I’m fortunate to spend time with every week.

6. Do you have any advice for people who may want to start a food business on campus?

Test your product. Try different recipes. Try all the recipes. You don’t want to know how many different cookies and ice creams I had to try in the weeks building up to the launch. Because at the end of the day, if the product isn’t there in terms of quality, you’ll struggle to have returning customers. It’s easy, through branding and clever advertisement, to get customers in the door. That’s easy. What’s difficult is getting them to come back. That only happens when you build trust, and trust is built through exceptional quality. 21% of our customers at last week’s farmers’ market were returning customers - that’s 1 out of every 5 people who bought a Melty - and it’s extremely humbling because it’s validation for the product. Beyond quality, in the food business, which is a commodity business, know that it’s a matter of branding, and that transpires through design and customer service. And know that food startups can be tricky because they are often hard to scale. Think through how, and if, your potential business is scalable.

Lastly, and this is for anyone looking to start any type of business, I would encourage them to really understand their toolkit. Entrepreneurship is over-hyped in modern-day culture and it may or may not be for you. If you are really good at making apps, you might be an atrocious startup founder but could be the most flourishing engineer at Google. There’s no right or wrong or better or worse - it’s about self-awareness and playing to your strengths. The truth is that there are many people who have been sucked into the entrepreneurial vortex - sort of like how many MSBros feel pressured into thinking they should be on Wall Street. But if you look inward and find that it’s truly who you are, then please don’t waste another second and go at it with all you have.

7. What fun flavor combo do you hope to try creating?

We currently offer chocolate chip cookies with a choice between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. It’s a standard combo that’s done pretty well. Moving forward we’re looking to play around with different types of cookies - Reese’s, M&M’s, and Kit Kat. It’s about finding the right balance between giving the customer too little and too many choices - you don’t want to be Cheesecake Factory with 250-something menu items and you don’t want to be Medium Rare. Beyond ice cream cookie sandwiches, a surprising number of our customers have been asking for milk!