Nikki Thompson is the founder of Hood Cream Ice Cream in New Orleans, LA. She joins us to talk Hood Cream, Hood Clean and all things good in the hood. Here's the scoop!
Hood Cream is relatively new. What were you doing before this venture and what inspired you to start an ice cream company?
Before my Hood Cream “dream”, I was working with Hotel Peter and Paul. Towards a promotion into Hotel Sales. I have always been intrigued by the work that goes into curating the experience for guests during their stay. Whether it be with design, customer service or food and beverage. Prior to venturing into the hospitality industry, I relocated to New Orleans from Hartford, CT for a Design Job with an upscale furniture brand that was opening in New Orleans CBD. I was successful in that for 2 years before completely migrating into Hospitality full time. All in all, I have learned that all of these layers have provided inspiration to be more creatively open and develop what is now “HOOD CREAM Ice Cream”.
Who was Hood Cream created for?
Hood Cream was created for the hood. We all live in a neighborhood, and the neighborhoods many of us reside in, are going through multiple changes but the idea of what “the hood” is remains the same. I felt a need to create something that is a tasteful experience for everybody. But most importantly something that felt familiar. The flavors I create are a bit unorthodox and probably more suitable for someone with a risky taste palette. But that is for consumers to explore, and have fun exploring.
How has the transition been for you? What are the benefits and challenges?
The transition is all hustle. It's been super amazing at times and other times a lot of trial and error. sometimes frustrating but has led me to achieve a lot of personal growth, consistency, and being a better listener, especially as it pertains to customers needs and wants.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a business or changing lanes in entrepreneurship?
Work smarter not harder. Lol. Do the research on what you plan on providing and its relation to potential customers. Ask for help! Because starting a business alone is extremely difficult but still possible. For me I was extremely overprotective in the beginning process about which direction to take Hood Cream because I had been doing it all alone. Every. Single. Things. Lol. And concerned about who to team up with to assist in getting Hood Cream out there to customers how I imagined. I quickly realized because of this, I got in my own way a lot of the time, because I began to quickly focus on only what Hood Cream did for me and me alone. I didn't necessarily know how to connect with customers because I had my own challenges with opening up. With that being said, I encourage everyone to create something they can offer others, use your resources, trust yourself and the process follows. Also, have fun doing what you are doing and remain authentic.
I love the name! Why Hood Cream? What’s the significance?
Hood, representing the neighborhoods that we reside in and its contribution to shaping our imaginations, ideas, and creations. Regardless of how demonized the term “the hood” is with crime, and poverty, and poor living. I believe it disregards all of the amazing things that do in fact come from these same exact neighborhoods. “The hood” is where you make a way out of no way. And I feel the safest in neighborhoods that represent that, that have that hustle about it. Cream, represents Creativity Rules Everything Around Me. A Lot of the flavors, and beauty of Hood Cream are developed from the ideas you can get from just looking out your window. Or walking down the street and saying hello to a neighbor, going to your local corner store. The Cream is literally everything around us.
Do you think that the name will keep people from trying the product? Why or why not?
I was hesitant about the name in the beginning, lol. I did feel as though it was a reach, and I may have created a challenge for myself putting out a product that would essentially represent “the hood” because it is such an eccentric environment. But I went with it anyway because as I stated before everyone's “hood experience” is different. Because one experience may have been more optimistic and less oppressive than the other, I did feel for a period of time like I was in some way betraying the culture and would probably run a lot of customers away because they felt it may have not been the hood they were looking for. So it's extremely important to me that I created something, even down to the recipes, that is culturally familiar and often overlooked for the possibility of making it to upscale restaurant menus. Hood Cream is going to be on someone's desert menu, and it's going to change their entire idea of what the hood is. Because despite the negative connotations, the hood is abundant AF, full of purpose, flava, and neighborly love.
I love that I have taken the leap to be a pioneer in changing the narrative using ice cream.
How do you decide on new flavors and their names? What goes into the process? What’s the inspiration behind them?
My flavor palette consists of a lot of spices and herbs. Very earthy and culturally relevant recipes. I develop recipes that are basically the soul food of frozen desserts. The names, I must be honest, are probably the last step, and one of my favorite steps, because it allows the menu to be whimsical with cultural terms and ideas.
Why dairy free ice cream?
Dairy Free because health I believe has been a humongous theme for a lot of people, including myself. I wanted to create something that gives one less thing for consumers to think about when purchasing and consuming. I however still partake in dairy products, I am not vegan but my diet is extremely finicky. So I wanted to create recipes that do not play the fence, but open up the yard of opportunity to try ice cream without the worry of the effects it may have on your health plan. The process is trying because there are other not so healthy aspects to most ice cream apart from dairy, like high sugar ingredients. Which is also something I'm conscious of and work on when creating a recipe. How can I make this as healthy as possible but still good AF? Hood Cream has been very successful in that. Using fruits, sugar free syrups, coconut milk, almond, or cashew milk. It's a wild, but healthy ride. lol
Your company additionally gives back to the community. Can you tell us a little more about that?
When I began Hood Cream, I knew there were things within the community or hood that I was passionate about bringing change to. Cleanliness is one of them. I feel, specifically in New Orleans, dealing with the influx of gentrification, a lot of the dirty work is being hidden in plain sight. As property owners in a community, it is a responsibility to maintain it, and keep it safe. OR at least one should feel obligated to do so. But a lot of the abandoned and run down properties are just left to be landfills essentially, and from the looks of it, I don't believe many of these property owners are being held accountable. I've even been told that some hold out on fixing these conditions in anticipation to flip the entire block and make it a community for people who have never lived there. While the people that have been living there get pushed out. So I started Hood Clean, which is a monthly Clean-Up day, where we pick up as much trash as possible to keep the neighborhood clean. Refreshments are carried out after for the service and the results are contagious. People start to become more mindful about how they dispose of their trash. Littering is not going to disappear overnight, but I think it is important as a resident of any neighborhood to contribute what you can, when it comes to keeping the community clean.
What do you feel sets Hood Cream apart from other ice cream companies?
Everything! I have not had ice cream from any other ice cream companies that feel like you've been hugged after eating. They are delicious but they don't necessarily connect like it connects with you when your grandma personally makes you a bowl of homemade ice cream. They are not as nostalgic and as down to earth as I would like, and not many are black owned. However throughout this journey I have been connecting with so many other black owned ice cream brands, and a change in that is definitely on the horizon.
I actually read that “back in the day” black people in the south were not even able to eat vanilla ice cream in public , except on the fourth of July. And here we are, eating and giving whatever ice cream flavor we choose. Some may see that as a small victory because it's just “Ice Cream”, but the wave will be respected, if Nikki Thompson has anything to do with it.
What can we expect next from Hood Cream? What are your hopes for the future?
I would love for Hood Cream to make it to multiple neighborhoods throughout the country, but for Hood Cream in New Orleans I'm thinking, a hood museum of ice cream style ice cream shops. Where you can just walk down the street and share a safe space with other people within your community, or people visiting your community. And eating ice cream. Indulging in the flavor we put in our communities together. I'm working towards a “Hood Clean” festival as well.
Who are you? Describe the woman you are so our readers can get to know a little about the GABW behind the brand.
I'm a 32 year old grown ass black woman. Living out my dreams, taking my experience with as much grace and care as possible, and most importantly putting all my faith in God. I love art, design, and people. I love to laugh, and make others laugh and smile. I love my family, they are my source of MY inspiration and ambition. I live in truth and in light and I am an inspiration to a lot of people and that to me, THIS is my calling to step up and out as the authentic leader I was born to be!
What has been your favorite ice cream flavor so far?
$Rich Boy$ - cookies and Cream is a traditional ice cream flavor. However Hood Cream’s Cookies and Cream is Iconic!, and dairy free.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I appreciate all the love and support, and I am delighted to be on this journey with Hood Cream. Please stay tuned for more Hood Clean updates, merch and menu drops.