No freezer? No problem! Leave the mess of that melting ice cream cone in the past, and step into the future with Cosmik, the world’s first artisanal freeze-dried ice cream. Made with zero artificial ingredients or corn syrup, Cosmik’s products are the perfect sweet treat for anyone looking for an indulgent, nostalgic and natural snack on the run.
This otherworldly treat is the brainchild of Robert Collignon, a seasoned creative director who left the advertising field to pursue a different creative endeavor: entrepreneurship. We asked Robert a few questions about the origins of Cosmik, launching on Kickstarter, the ups and downs of business, and what’s on the horizon.
3… 2… 1… Liftoff!
Before starting Cosmik, what were you up to?
I was living in Brooklyn and working as a creative director in the advertising industry.
How did this background in advertising and branding inspire Cosmik?
I joke that I started Cosmik just so I could do the branding. After years of working on large established brands, the freedom to create my own from scratch was a big motivation. I could apply everything I had learned over the years.
Tell us about your Kickstarter experience…
Kickstarter worked out great and I was incredibly fortunate to raise $70,000. The business never would have started without all those original backers who I’m still grateful for. But it was a ton of work. I did a lot of research to learn the tricks that help determine success on the platform. Then shooting the video and creating the campaign was my full time job for two months.
What were the early days of business like?
There were so many mistakes. My initial plan for co-manufacturing failed miserably and set me back six months. I then used the Kickstarter funds to build out my own facility in upstate New York. It took more than a year to fulfill the Kickstarter orders.
What does distribution look like now? How do you identify retail partners?
We self distribute to our retailers and have avoided outside distribution. So far we’ve targeted the outdoor community and science museums because that audience is familiar with freeze dried ice cream. The plan is to go more mainstream over time.
What has product/brand evolution been like? Gastronaut to Cosmik, packaging updates, etc.
After the Kickstarter campaign I changed the name from Gastronaut Ice Cream to Cosmik for legal reasons. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the new name is much stronger. As far as packaging, it’s evolved over time to decrease labor. It’s funny looking back now at how long it originally took when each pouch of ice cream was inserted into an outer box that had to be hand stamped with the best by date.
Where have you focused most of your marketing budget?
There was no marketing budget for the majority of the business; I just relied on social and email marketing which were basically free. We’re now focusing more on direct to consumer sales rather than wholesale, so the budget is going towards search advertising.
Any advice or insights on brand positioning?
Allowing the brand to change organically over time has been helpful. I started out positioning Cosmik as something for eating at the top of a mountain and on road trips. But a lot of people just snack on it at home, so the positioning is getting less extreme.
What has been a hardship as a founder? How have you overcome this?
If I start another company, I’ll find a co-founder. I’ve heard people recommend that, and I now understand it to be good advice.
What inspires you? Who in the industry do you turn to for inspiration?
I’m more inspired by things outside of the CPG industry like interior design and architecture. It drives me to use design to improve things that are often an afterthought in this industry. For example, I’m really excited about some in-store displays we’re launching that ship flat and are made of 100% recyclable aluminum.
Any other brands in the industry that you think are killing it?
Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn makes the best ice cream and is really mission driven (they’re now involved in Cosmik and we share an office so I’m a bit biased).
What has been your proudest moment so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
The success of the Kickstarter campaign had me flying high. Since then, each victory is immediately met with new challenges so I don’t sit back and celebrate that often.
What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?
Get your bookkeeping in order from day one. As a designer, that wasn’t my focus early on and it made things like finding loans more difficult later on.
How have you been managing business during COVID-19?
I’ve had to pivot away from wholesale and really focus on direct to consumer sales. We always had e-commerce and sold on Amazon but it wasn’t polished, so I’ve used the time to improve these channels.
What food and beverage trends are over-hyped and which are here to stay?
I think staying power is directly related to taste. It sounds obvious with food but I’ve tried a lot of products that I found unpalatable.
What can we expect next from you? Do you see taking Cosmik beyond ice cream?
We’re sticking with ice cream but the plan is to offer more flavors and some non-dairy options.