Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When you walk into one of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream shops, the smell of waffle cone overwhelms you in the best kind of way. The stores are a light turquoise color with the cutest logo of Molly’s pup Parker Posey licking an ice cream cone. People of all ages, from young children to their grandparents, gather at Molly Moon’s and wait in the long lines that form down the block. Molly Moon’s is more than just an ice cream shop; it is a community gathering spot where locals and visitors from afar travel to get a taste of Molly’s delicious ice cream. With flavors such as Honey Lavender, Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, Maple Walnut, and Melted Chocolate, to name a few, it’s no wonder why Molly Moon’s is so beloved.

As big fans of Molly Moon’s ice cream, we were thrilled to talk to the woman behind the cone, Molly Moon Neitzel. In six years, Molly Moon’s has grown to six shops around the Seattle area. You can even get her ice cream at Hello Robin Cookies for some seriously good ice cream cookie sandwiches. Not only is Molly a savvy businesswoman, but having worked at an ice cream shop all through college in Montana, she is also a skilled ice cream maker. While she originally wanted to be a political reporter and journalist, Molly’s career path changed when she moved to Seattle and noticed a lack of ice cream shops and community gathering spots. She is proof that you never know where life will take you.

If you want to run your own ice cream shop, business, or just love ice cream, Molly has great advice and tips that she has learned over the years. We’re definitely inspired by her and all that she has accomplished.

Name: Molly Moon Neitzel
Age: 35
Education: B.S. in Journalism from the University of Montana – Missoula
Follow: Twitter / Website

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

A unique quality about youth is that you have far less to lose. That was a really big driving factor for me to start a business young and just go for it. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t own a house, I had nothing to lose. I had an $800 dollar a month apartment and a puppy, and I wasn’t going to lose her if I lose a business. That has been pretty defining for me.

You majored in Journalism at the University of Montana – Missoula. How did you determine what to study?

Since I was in 3rd grade, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a political reporter for television or radio, so that’s what I went to school for. I wanted to be Gwen Ifill.

What was your first job out of college?

Out of college, I was a fundraising event coordinator at University of Washington Medicine. We raised money for all the medical research and the Medical School, and UW Neighborhood Clinic, Harborview Medical Center, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I planned fundraising events for Harborview’s uncompensated care program, breast cancer research, and some Alzheimer’s research.

You spent time as a Founding Executive Director at Music for America. What did your role there entail?

I helped to start the organization with a bunch of other people in their early- to mid- twenties. I managed the people in the programs, partnered with bands to register their fans to vote, and then educated those people on political issues that might mobilize them to vote, and then we did a lot of voter turnout work. We brainstormed ideas about how to execute the mission and accomplish the programs and manage the people. 50% of my job was fundraising to pay to keep the organization going.

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You went from music and politics to ice cream. In 2008, you opened Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. What inspired you to start an artisan ice cream company?

I really went from ice cream to music and politics back to ice cream. My job all through college was at an ice cream shop. I worked at the Big Dipper in Missoula. I worked there for three and a half years. I was a scooper at first, then I was an ice cream maker, and I helped manage the shop a bit. I had seen all of the ways to run an ice cream shop, and I knew how to make ice cream.

When I wanted to leave Music for America because fundraising is hard and I was burnt out, I decided to come back to Seattle. I was talking to my mom on the phone wondering what to do with my life, and she said, “Why don’t you just open an ice cream shop? Then you can be your own boss and do it the way you want to do it.” That sounded good to me and I ran with that idea. I wrote my business plan, found investors, and took those steps.

What have been the greatest challenges in running your company?

Well – knock on wood! – I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of crazy challenges. We’ve had the normal challenges that a lot of small business have. You grow a lot and then you have to work with having more employees and make them feel taken care of. The people part can be tough. The biggest challenge for me personally has been juggling the business when it competes with personal life. That has been challenging for me as a business owner, and it’s something that people who want to own their own business should really think about. A business is like a child and it’s going to suck all of your energy and compete with everything else in your life.

Your experience at Big Dipper Ice Cream gave you experience running an ice cream shop, but what have you learned from Molly Moon’s about how to run an ice cream company?

I have a lot of small business owners in my family. My dad is a General Contractor and I watched him run his small business. My grandparents owned a saloon that was the central gathering place for politicians, lawyers, and professionals in our small town in Idaho.

One thing that I’ve learned from Molly Moon’s is that instead of cutting costs, it’s wiser to increase sales. Figure out how to make more money rather than skimping on things. That feels better for your customer, feels way better for your employees, and it keeps you in a positive and optimistic mentality. When you get focused on cutting costs, you can get really negative.

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What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

I think that risk is really good. I’ve followed my gut and have taken risks. Know that you can fix mistakes and everything works out, but not taking risks is boring and stagnant and as likely to make you fail.

What does a day in your life look like?

I wake up with my one-year-old sometime between 5:30am and 7:30am. We hang out as a family for 30 minutes, then we get ready and start our days. Many days I’ll stop by our new shop on 19th and Mercer, which is inside a cookie shop called Hello Robin that is owned by a dear girlfriend of mine. I’ll check in on Robin, get a coffee or a scone, chat with her about the day, and get to work around 10:00am. Most days I have about six or seven meetings, and I am here until 5:00pm. My days are packed with talking and thinking, and I hardly have time to get to email. I’m often in bed at 8:30pm.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own ice cream shop and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

Work in an ice cream shop. Get practical experience and ask to do different jobs within the same company to get perspective. I was a scooper, but I also made ice cream and learned how to write the schedule for the employee shifts. If you’ve only been a scooper or in the kitchen or in the IT department, you won’t know the full picture. Learn how to look at things from different angles.

What motivates you?

Now what motivates me is being the breadwinner for my family. When I started, what motivated me was not having a boss, being able to do something where I could have my own politics. I paid for health insurance right away for people who worked for me and everything is compostable. That was very motivating for me, to be in charge of our role in the community at large.

Another big motivation for starting Molly Moon’s was what I experienced when I moved to Seattle in 2001. There were no ice cream shops and I never saw people under 21 or over 40 years old. I went months without seeing people from another generation. It was shocking to me. I thought, if Seattle had a cool ice cream shop, maybe there would be a place where multiple generations would gather at once. That was a big thing for me, and I think that we’ve accomplished that. I think all of our six shops are multi-generational.

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What are your ice cream making tips?

Don’t let anything thaw and then refreeze – that makes it icy. Pair flavors together that you think are good in savory dishes. If you’re using an ice cream machine that has a frozen bowl, make sure to freeze it more than eight hours. Make sure it’s super cold. The best texture you’re going to get is from that freezing element being the coldest is can possibly be.

If you could enjoy an afternoon eating ice cream with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of ice cream would you make?

Madeleine Albright and I feel like she would like Maple Walnut because people from her generation usually like Maple Walnut, but maybe she would be a Salted Caramel and Hot Fudge girl.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

My 15-year-old self was pretty cool. I was such a hippie, but I don’t regret that. It was good to express myself that way. I am still pretty true to who I was at that age. I would say keep being true to yourself and your ideas. Keep being willing to speak your mind. As a kid you can feel tampered down or that you should fit in and be quiet, and I didn’t really feel that way as a teenager. I was okay with standing out and speaking my mind. I’m still that way, and I’m proud of that.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

On a boutique-lined street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a cookie shop that has captured the hearts and taste buds of those near and far. This cookie shop, Hello Robin Cookies, is run by the seriously talented Robin Wehl Martin, who can whip up a batch of delicious cookies in just eight minutes. Growing up, Robin spent time learning how to bake with her grandma, and she now spends her days making the most amazing cookies you’ll ever taste. With cookies such as classic chocolate chip, Habanero orange, and Mackles’more, Robin has created treats that are addicting after just one bite. Continue reading to learn how Robin got to where is today, to hear her thoughts on culinary school, and to find out her best cookie baking tips.

Name: Robin Wehl Martin
Age: 43
Education: B.A. from Central Washington University; Master’s Degree from Seattle University
Follow: TwitterHello Robin Cookies

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Robin Wehl Martin: I think of it in a weird way where you’re not necessarily seizing it, but you’re maintaining it. By certain choices and things that you do, you’re always staying youthful. There are people who are so much younger than me but they are like a 65-year-old man in the way they act and think. They’re not playful or curious. Keeping all of those traits active help.

CJ: What did you major in at college and graduate school, and how did you determine what to study?

RWM: I have an undergraduate degree in Community Health Education from Central Washington University, and that’s the one I wish I had pursued more. At Seattle University, I received my graduate degree in Student Development Administration, and I had dreams of working with students.

The Community Health Education was random, and I took a health class that I loved. The professor was so dynamic. I went to school thinking I was going to do something with broadcast journalism, but then the health stuff really got me.
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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

RWM: I graduated from Central, took a year off and worked for the university, and then went to graduate school. I worked during undergrad, worked all during graduate school, and then went I got out of graduate school, I worked for a small non-profit in Seattle for four years. Most of my work has been in non-profits.

CJ: What sparked your interested in baking?

RWM: My grandmother was a baker. She was born in Germany, and when the war broke out, she and her family moved to Shanghai and lived in the ghettos of Shanghai for 10 years. When her family was able to move to the United States, her trades and skills were in baking and cooking. She worked at some great bakeries in Seattle, and I always loved baking with her. That was my training.

CJ: Did you go to culinary school? What are your thoughts on culinary school?

RWM: I wanted to go to culinary school, and I thought for a while that I would go. But then I realized it wasn’t totally necessary for what I wanted to do. I have three kids, and I didn’t think it was going to be the best use of time for my family and for what I was going to get out of it.

All of our friends had restaurants and people always asked when we would do something because were always cooking and hosting at our house.

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CJ: How did you know when you wanted to turn your passion for baking into a profession?

RWM: I had slowly done it in my house. It happened naturally, and then when Molly Moon and her husband came to me and asked if I was interested in opening a bakery, that’s when everything started.

CJ: You opened your cookie shop, Hello Robin, in December 2013. What inspired you to open a bakery that primarily sells cookies (and Molly Moon ice cream)?

RWM: I just really truly love cookies, and if you do one thing and you do it well, then that’s a good thing.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your bakery?

RWM: Balancing family with work. That’s hard, especially because my kids are still little. But it’s fun because my husband and I both want to be here. We both really like being here still, and my kids really like being here also.

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CJ: What is your favorite part about your job?

RWM: I really love all the customers. I love the creative process, I love the good feedback. It’s all so good and better than I ever could have imagined. I love that we took a risk and it worked out. I love that Molly believed in us.

We’ll always say yes to the customers, because I really want everyone to have a great experience. The experience, the aesthetic, and the product are really important things.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

RWM: Surprisingly, we go through a lot of ice cream sandwiches. I had no idea, I just thought it was going to be cookies. It’s exciting to be one of the first places in Seattle to be making ice cream sandwiches with great ingredients.

CJ: What are your cookie baking tips?

RWM: Use really good ingredients, don’t over mix, don’t over bake, and practice a lot. Also, freeze the dough, which helps maintain the shape and texture.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery do now to set themselves up for success?

RWM: Get a job at a bakery and practice. Make tons of stuff and give it away. And don’t get cocky because you have to be open to learning. Maybe consider culinary school. Culinary school is right for a lot of people and you’ll learn different things. Go to the bookstore and read through cook books and try new recipes. The most important thing is really just practice.

CJ: What do you like to do when you’re not baking cookies or running the business side of things?

RWM: Sometimes I’ll just go home and make cookies. Going from a large scale to a tiny batch of cookies was hard! I still relax by baking cookies. I do a lot of cooking.

CJ: Have you ever worried about turning a hobby into a career and then not liking it anymore?

RWM: I have worried about that but I don’t think it’s going to happen because I love it too much, and I have been doing it for so long. Before this I was making cookies for my friend who has a restaurant in University Village. I find it relaxing and it’s a great way to zone out. Everything about this job is fun.

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CJ: How long does it take to make a batch of cookies?

RWM: I can do it fast, probably around eight minutes to mix the dough, and then ten minutes to bake.

CJ: If you could open another cookie shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

RWM: Amsterdam, because it is so beautiful. If you walk around the good parts of Amsterdam, there are beautiful boutique stores. It’s visually stunning, and I think it would be fun to be there with all that. I don’t think I want to open another store, though. I want to be here and know my customers and see the cookies going out. It’s not a control thing, but more of just being present here.

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CJ: What motivates you?

RWM: I am motivated by doing my job well. I don’t want any products going out that I wouldn’t eat. I have to feel really good about everything that goes out. I am motivated by the quality of the product and the happiness of the customers.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

RWM: I would not have gone to graduate school right after college because I think you need time to figure out what you want to do. I would have waited and then I probably would have gone to culinary school. That’s the big one.

I also would say to be more relaxed. When you’re 20 you feel so old and like you need to be accomplished, but you’re still so young. Try a bunch of things out and do what is fun. You have to do what you enjoy.

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