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Jerry Hancock had always planned to pursue a career in sales, but his chemistry degree from Brigham Young University is paying off in a big way allowing him to found and franchise his own company, Sub Zero Ice Cream.
Hancock is infusing the ice cream and frozen yogurt sector with a novel concept that allows customers to create their own concoction of ice cream, yogurt, or custard and then watch it being made right in front of their eyes with a flash-freezing process that uses liquid nitrogen.
Once the base ingredients and toppings are combined in a stainless steel bowl, the mixture is given a blast of nitrogen that not only creates a dramatic mist behind the counter in a Sub Zero store (cue the fog), but instantly freezes the frozen dessert treat at -321 Fahrenheit as it is stirred into any texture the customer desires, from creamy soft to hard packed.
The unusual idea landed Hancock and his wife on the ABC television show “Shark Tank” last winter to pitch their idea to potential heavyweight investors. While the company didn’t earn any extra backing, the panelists commented on the good quality and taste of the product and felt the franchise concept was strong enough to succeed.
Today there are 24 Sub Zero Ice Cream stores open in eight states, with eight additional units under construction and about 300 under development contracts, the founder said. The company has also landed on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list for the last two consecutive years.
Creating the Concept
A former Air Force Reserve mechanic, Hancock, 46, is no stranger to innovation. He obtained a patent for ski accessories at a young age and spent much of his career in software engineering. He’s also a former franchisee, having invested with his wife Naomi in a New York Burrito operation when that franchise was growing. But his store was in a bad location and he had more space than he needed. The couple started to look for a second business that could share the space and complement the burrito store.
Their idea to add ice cream to the business mix was met with discouragement by the product’s manufacturers who said an ice cream store wasn’t likely to attract any more customers than the burritos did in their location, unless they offered something truly different.
Jerry began surveying people about what they liked about stores like Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery, but it was while leafing through a science magazine that he hatched his idea. The article was about creating ice cream using liquid nitrogen.