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Interview with Ryan Olohan, Founder of Seven Scoops and Sips

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” - Pablo Picasso

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Balancing work and life is a struggle for almost every parent. Especially today, when everyone is working remotely while their kids are stuck at home, most people are wondering how to manage it all. 

But some people are born for such challenges. For Ryan Olohan, it’s business as usual. 

Ryan is the Managing Director for Food, Beverage and Restaurants at Google, and leads a team at one of the biggest and most reputable tech companies in America. He is also an active parent (along with his wife, Anne) to seven children  between the ages of six and sixteen. And if that weren’t enough, Ryan and his wife decided last June 2019 to open a business together. He and his family, including his kids, run his town’s local ice cream shop, a place not only for the community to relax and enjoy the company of neighbors, but also to host efforts to raise awareness and assistance for those who need it. 

To say that Ryan is a busy guy is an understatement. I recently sat down with him to learn more about Seven Scoops, his views on work-life balance and what it’s like to do what you love surrounded by the people you love. And it sounds like, despite all that’s going on in the world right now, Ryan hasn’t missed a beat.

 Here’s what he had to say:

1.What inspired you to start Seven Scoops and Sips?

Over the last 10 years, my wife Anne has repeatedly mentioned that she wanted to open a coffee shop. It was one of our ongoing jokes: I kept telling her it was too much money and too much work and she kept telling me that it wasn’t about the money and she just wanted a cute place for people to go. But at the time, the thought of not making a profit wasn’t practical. Still, we kept circling back to the same conversation.

Our idea was officially born when we went out for ice cream two years ago. The store was not very clean, the staff was not particularly friendly, and the ice cream was so expensive. And there was a line out the door! It drove me crazy, because  ice cream should not be a luxury item. 

I looked around and in that moment I realized that this was it: put coffee and ice cream together. Everything that was wrong with that place I wanted to make right with our place. The staff will be friendly, the store will be extremely clean, and we will have high-quality, affordable products. My kids came up with the name, “Seven Scoops and Sips.” We got more and more excited by the idea. We started googling all sorts of permits and things you would need, and everything just started falling into place.

We knew also that with the store we wanted to give back so we partnered with Me to We. All our coffee drinks are made with coffee beans in Ecuador. Their mission is to empower female coffee bean farmers and support sustainable farming practices in their communities.

We’ve expanded on this concept and are now hosting events to help raise money. Last month, we did an event for the food pantry and all proceeds went towards helping those who are struggling during COVID-19. By far, the hardest part of our job is figuring out what to support since there are thousands of worthy causes.

2. How do you balance your time between your work at Google and at Seven Scoops, as well as with your family?

My life revolves around God, family, Google and Seven Scoops – in that order. Those are my priorities, which means I do have to give up spending time with friends or doing much of anything on my own. If I can make time that’s great, but it doesn’t happen nearly as much. 

I feel like I’m just blessed to have a good higher energy. I start my day at Google, leave the house at 6:50am and get home at 8pm. Then, I put the kids to bed and go to Seven Scoops and Sips from 8:30 to 11pm. To be honest, I find mopping the floor at Seven Scoops at 11 at night to be very therapeutic. And as busy as my schedule is, I am working with my family and spending time with them. To me, that is what’s most important.

3. What tools from your career at Google have you used in growing Seven Scoops?

The running joke with our employees is how often I remind them that everything they do is preparing them for the real world. I tell them the importance of being positive, working hard, being customer-centric and learning how to deal with complexity. 

When online orders are piling in, people are barking orders at the counter, the hot fudge goes out, there’s no napkins, and just a lot of stuff is going on. It takes a great deal of skill to juggle everything. 

I run a big team at Google. In many ways, running a big team is similar to running a big family of seven kids. It’s about setting clear expectations. Every employee and every one of my kids know they need to have good energy, be friendly and make it a positive experience for people coming into the store. 

Honestly if I need to look back at some of the things that have translated so well it’s that staying positive and being customer-centric are the heart of everything we do. I don’t care how good your ice cream and all our products are if you’re a big grump. My goal is to teach these kids hard work and to understand that the habits they develop will either help them or hurt them in their careers later on.

4. How would you like Seven Scoops to be viewed in your community?

I want people to come to Seven Scoops because they know they are getting good products, good service and helping those in need. I want to set a good example in everything we do, from how we treat people to how to run a good business to how we happily give back to the community.

Also, customers are seeing how my family interacts with one another. I love hearing comments from people about how well we get along and how often we joke together. The fact I work with my family adds a very personal element that makes people who come into Seven Scoops feel more connected to our family and our business.

5. How is your family involved in Seven Scoops? What do you hope your children will learn by being involved in the business and community?

They are all involved, they all work there, literally! I will have my six year old do some small stuff but that will last about 20 minutes before she asks, “Dad, can I go outside to play?” The older kids don’t get that luxury! 

Whether it’s sweeping or running the cash register, everyone participates in whatever way they can. 

Sometimes on Friday nights, I will get a call that the store is really busy. Even if my kids aren’t on the schedule, two or three of us will have to go to the store and work for a few hours. 

We are also teaching them about finances. We want them to understand the value of a dollar. For instance, if you want to buy a new pair of shoes, you know that’s three full days of work.  

6. What’s it like to work with your family? How have your relationships shifted/grown/changed?

We all get along very well, and that translates to how we work together. On a normal Saturday night – before Seven Scoops – we might watch a movie or play a family game together. Now, we’re likely working and hanging out together. We get to spend so much time together now. 

That being said, I don’t let my kids get away with slacking off. If I don’t see my kids giving it 100%, I let them know. When they’re working, I treat them like employees. If my son shows up 5 minutes late, I let him have it! Being on time is important at any job.

We’ve also started a family band, O7. We play everything from Bon Jovi to church songs. Just like working together at Seven Scoops, our band is another activity we can all enjoy together as a family.  

7. There’s been an additional challenge put forth by social distancing, when it comes to community gathering and events. How have you managed to continue around that?

A few colleagues at Google helped me set up ecommerce for Seven Scoops a month before coronavirus, so we were incredibly lucky. Giving people the option to order online and pick up has been a game changer. So, even during these difficult times, we’re making it work. 

It’s awful to see so many small businesses going under. We’ve been lucky to be able to pay the rent and all the bills so to help out, my wife and I decided to donate our proceeds these past few months  to struggling business owners.

8. What are your goals for Seven Scoops/future planned events/charitable work? What would you like to see happen for Seven Scoops and Sips in the upcoming years?

Most of our partnerships happen organically. For example, Anne was talking to a mom struggling with cancer one Saturday and we were able to throw a huge fundraiser for her that the whole town attended by Wednesday. You don’t have to look far for someone who needs help.

In terms of the future of Seven Scoops and Sips, my vision is having a Seven Scoops in every town across America. Imagine if every town in America had a store with the purpose of giving back to the community? For me, it’s not so much about the money than it is the people getting involved in Seven Scoop’s mission and supporting the cause.

After speaking with Ryan, it’s clear that Seven Scoops and Sips certainly lives up to its promise: “giving back has never been sweeter.” Aside from being the highest rated ice cream shop on Google and Yelp in New Jersey, it’s known for being a place where everyone is welcome. In its first six months, Seven Scoops was able to donate more than $70,000 to worthy causes, including over 100 bikes and 500 pairs of shoes to people in need. In addition to the food pantry mentioned above, Ryan and his family brought the community together to sleep in the freezing cold parking lot at Seven Scoops (pre-Covid, of course), raising funds and promoting awareness for Covenant House, an organization dedicated to serving young people facing homelessness. 

Whether it’s at work, in the community, or at home, the passion for excellence, for doing better every day, and positively affecting the people around him is his driving force. “I’ve just tried to do the right thing,” he says, “and be decent and work hard and just keep my head up. From there, the opportunities present themselves. They always do.” 

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