Cone Huggys owner Jeff Hughart has worked with the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the Metro East at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Business Specialist Marti Wieland since September 2018 to successfully create and launch Ice Cream Caddie, the world’s first ice cream cone to-go container.
Each Ice Cream Caddie contains any mess or dripping that may occur when transporting an ice cream cone. The unique, functional, multi-purpose design consists of a three-piece container. The bottom portion allows for dripping and maintains the structure of the cone, keeping it from being damaged or crushed. The center tray serves to stabilize the cone and is slotted from dripping, and the top lid keeps the ice cream itself intact, keeping the cone covered and cool.
The Ice Cream Caddie concept came to life 2-1/2 years ago when Hughart attempted to bring a to-go ice cream cone home for his four-year-old son. He found himself – and his four-year-old – extremely disappointed as the cone melted down his hand on the ride home. Following this, he started to go around asking for to-go ice cream cones.
Hughart quickly found that none of the top fast food chains and convenience stores offered any options for transporting to-go cones safely and securely. He realized there must be a better way to do this and immediately made it his mission to create the first ice cream cone to-go container. He taught himself 3-D printing, while adjusting and perfecting his design. Soon thereafter, a prototype was created.
In May 2018, Hughart took his idea to producers of the TV show “Shark Tank,” where he gave a short pitch and explained his prototype. While the producers loved his idea, they recommended he come back once he had sales. He is grateful for the Shark Tank experience, and plans to return to audition once sales are coming in.
After talking to multiple ice cream shops, feedback has been quite positive. Some shops want to replace their various sundae cups/lids with Ice Cream Caddies. Other shops see Ice Cream Caddie as a way to safely serve cones through their drive-through window. Consumers want to buy it for their homes, so kids don’t spill ice cream cones served at home.
Along the way, the SBDC and Wieland provided Hughart assistance with obtaining his LLC, marketing research and referrals.
“Marti has helped open many doors along the way,” Hughart said. “This has led to making my company what it is today.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with Jeff,” Wieland said. “One of my first memories of eating an ice cream cone was how most of it dripped off my elbow! Jeff’s invention is a great idea, and I am confident it will be successful. He saw an opportunity and pursued it – the mark of a true entrepreneur.”
Hughart has used the food-to-go nature of the COVID-19 pandemic to his company’s benefit.
“We were hesitant at first to launch during this time, since we didn’t know how the ice cream industry would be affected,” Hughart said. “But we took a chance and found with the increase in carry-out foods, the timing actually couldn’t be better. Ice Cream Caddies offer a much more sanitary and safe way of getting your ice cream during the pandemic.”
Hughart is passionate about making people smile through his work and is thankful for all of the support he has received.
Looking to the future, Hughart plans to turn Ice Cream Caddie into a successful company. He hopes it becomes an essential product in every ice cream store, fast food chain and convenience store, revolutionizing what it means to take a cone to-go.
The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East assists start-up ventures like Cone Huggys, as well as existing businesses headquartered in the nine-county region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and SIUE as a service to Illinois small businesses.
By aiding entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the SBDC network positively impacts the Metro East by strengthening the business community, creating and retaining new jobs and encouraging new investment. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses. When appropriate, the SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.
To learn about the SBDC, contact the IL SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE at (618) 650-2929.