July 23, 2021 update: The Thurston EDC awarded Economic Courage Awards at the Hootenanny on Thursday, July 22. Learn more here: https://thurstonedc.com/hootenanny/.
At the Thurston EDC, we define ‘Economic Courage’ as a leader, a business, nonprofit or organization that, while facing economic uncertainty and a radical retraction of “business as usual,” took extraordinary steps to provide a service, a product, and or a support service that made a positive impact to the community and or employees of their organization. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Sofie’s Scoops Gelato showed Economic Courage, and they have been nominated for an Economic Courage Award!
We asked Sofie’s Scoops owner Sophia Landis to answer some questions about the past year and how her business took extraordinary steps to impact our community positively. Her answers are below.
Thurston EDC: What was your biggest challenge this year, and how did you solve it?
Sofie’s Scoops: Revamping our entire business model and laying all of our employees off was by far the most challenging part of the year. We resolved it by taking it step-by-step. After laying everyone off, we figured out what we could handle with just the two of us. Chris would make all the products while I pre-packed and labeled them. I delivered, and Chris was in the shop for pickups. After the lockdown was announced, in one day, we created a website and launched our first preorder to get a taste of what was ahead. We sold out within the first day! It was like that until winter came. Once winter hit, we needed to work harder to convince customers to buy every week. We once sold many single servings to many customers during many hours of the day. We had to rely on fewer customers buying larger quantities during a pre-order window of time. We solved this by heavily communicating with our customers via social media, signs on our doors, and emails. We made new and creative flavors every week and kept everyone engaged by showing where I had been during my deliveries. We divided the tasks and were able to make it all work as long as it needed to.
Thurston EDC: What was the biggest change in your business?
Sofie’s Scoops: Our biggest change was moving to an online pre-order-only platform and the production methods that went with it.
Thurston EDC: Will these changes be permanent, or will you go back to the way things were before?
Sofie’s Scoops: The changes were not permanent. We never intended on being an online business and hope we don’t need to go back to it. We love shop life and how it functions in this community. We re-opened for scooping in March, hired back up, and have been very busy ever since.
Thurston EDC: What is the biggest thing you learned during the last year related to your business?
Sofie’s Scoops: The biggest thing we learned was that our community has our back and that that is the true marker of success. We also learned that we are an incredible team, and when push comes to shove, we can change gears to get up and over any hill that’s in front of us.
Thurston EDC: Please share a story or words of wisdom from your experience over the last year.
Sofie’s Scoops: Never underestimate the value of honesty, integrity, vulnerability, and sharing by letting others see behind the veil. Letting everyone know what was going on behind the scenes each step of the way was so important for us to share and for others to see. We shared what was going on in the shop, and every week when I would drive, I would take pictures of the roads traveled (parts of Thurston County some people had never seen). I showed how others were coping with COVID via outdoor signs, thank you notes, kid’s drawings, waves from doorsteps, etc. They shared them on social media. It became a sort of coping mechanism we all could participate in, hence the name “Sanity Scoops.” Whether you bought scoops or not, you could be part of it.