Michael Cole, a 36 year old native of Stuyvesant Town in New York City, is making a name for himself with his ice cream shop, Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, on Avenue A. He has become well-known for his Hip Hop inspired ice cream flavors. Cole spent 6 months at Riker’s Island for drug related charges and was released on good behavior. It was after that when Cole found himself going through the belongings of a deceased aunt to whom he was close. He and his aunt shared a close relationship and a passion for cooking. As Cole cleaned out her apartment he came across one of her recipe books and a recipe for vanilla ice cream fell out. Cole felt compelled to go home and try the recipe out as a way of being close to his aunt again. He liked the flavor but thought the texture was off and began experimenting with it.
Cole went through a few entrepreneurial ventures before considering making ice cream his business. One of the firs things Cole did was to get in contact with the owner of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory who allowed him to shadow her and see how she ran her business. Cole then went on to work at Abu’s Bakery in Brooklyn where he was allowed to work firsthand on ice cream making and play around with flavors. It was in 2012 when Cole entered a contest for former felons sponsored by Defy Ventures. Cole was challenged by a childhood friend of Jay-Z to create a flavor that would appeal to the mogul. Cole created D’Usse de Leche, a twist on dulce de leche made with Jay-Z’s D’Usse cognac. Jay-Z liked it so much that he added it to the menu of his Flatiron sports bar 40/40 club. Cole impressed the executives at Defy Ventures who then added their financial support to the investment of his savings and he was able to acquire the 300-square-foot store front that now stands as Mikey Likes It Ice Cream.
In the Black community entrepreneurship is still a mystifying journey. We often think of it as some special achievement that people make by stroke of luck. However, in truth entrepreneurs succeed because failure is not an option. Many times the circumstances in their lives puts them in a place where it seems there is no other option. But if we could channel that same level of determination, I believe, we would find that entrepreneurship is possible for many people.
Reading Cole’s story brought such a good feeling. There were several moments of his journey that stood out to me. First was, of course, the fact that even with the blemish to his record, that all too often renders young Black men socially impotent, Cole managed to confront the world and the consequences of his life. I am certain that he had encountered the usual employment issues that most people with an imperfect criminal background face. Entrepreneurship is something many of these people have to consider at some point. Going from consideration to reality is another matter entirely. But Cole did it.
I admire the fact that Cole didn’t just jump out half-baked into entrepreneurship. He tried his hand at a few ventures (experience) and then for the ice cream business specifically he did his research and he paid his dues to learn the business. From there all Cole needed was the capital and he was creative in finding it. That is what entrepreneurship is really all about.
Even with all of the economic ups and downs that our country has seen over the past few years, there are those who finding a way to make it. The only question is: how bad do you want it? Apparently Mikey wanted it real bad.
Mikey Likes It Ice Cream is located at 199 Avenue A in New York City’s Lower Eastside.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man