Founder Laura Aidan used a business credit card with a long introductory 0-percent offer to launch Prohibition Creamery, a boozy ice cream and cocktail lounge in Austin, Texas.
Laura Aidan is the founder of Prohibition Creamery, a boozy ice cream and cocktail lounge in Austin, Texas. Liquor-laden milkshakes, sundaes, extravagant tasting flights, craft cocktails, wine and beer are all on the menu.
“I was a software developer before opening Prohibition Creamery, and my background in science and technology led me to fall in love with the science of ice cream making,” says Aidan. “I attended Penn State University’s 120-year-old ice cream program to discover everything I could about the many nuances of ice cream, and spent several years mastering the craft of infusing spirits into ice cream for the most delicious flavors imaginable.”
Everything is handcrafted from scratch, including Whiskey Chocolate, Pecan Buttered Rum, Black Magic (a jet-black ice cream made with activated charcoal and spiked with El Silencio mezcal), Irish coffee, Sangria, The Green Fairy (absinthe swirled with a cacao nib crumble) and Signature Bourbon, made with Knob Creek bourbon.
The flavor and ingredients combinations are clearly intoxicating: Since opening in the summer of 2016, Prohibition Creamery has been busy. The business has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Whisky Advocate, Delta Sky Magazine, Bravo TV and on the Food Network. Aidan is now planning future locations – and this is how credit cards fit into to her recipe for sweet success.
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How are credit cards helping you and your business thrive?
Credit cards have contributed to Prohibition Creamery’s success, both in conventional ways (more than 90 percent of our sales are credit card based and less than 10 percent are from cash sales), and in unconventional ways.I had an excellent credit history when I opened Prohibition Creamery and was able to have my choice of loans and credit cards. I opened the business on my own, with no outside investors, and put a lot of my startup expenses on a credit card that offered 0 percent interest for 18 months. It was an enormous help for someone trying to open a business without outside funding.
Thankfully, Prohibition Creamery has been very successful from the beginning. We opened to lines out the door and I was able to pay off my balance before accruing any finance charges. I avoided any bad credit or debt situations this way.
For my situation, credit cards were much more appealing than a loan because the access to the credit was fast and easy, there was no interest, and no fees or paperwork involved with paying my balance early. Looking back, I maybe should have put even more startup expenses on credit cards versus my SBA loan.
My credit card helped with publicity, too. We were photographed and are soon-to-be featured as a small business for Chase Ink small-business credit cards. It’s going to be amazing exposure for our small local business!
What do you typically charge and what are you doing with the rewards?
I charge as many things as possible throughout the year and then pay off the balance each month. My purchases include all of my utilities, insurance payments, inventory and ingredients – anything for the store. I keep our primary card on file with all of our primary vendors, so ordering is simple and streamlined.
I love earning points on all my purchases. With the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, I earn 3 points on every dollar I spend on travel and certain business categories, up to the first $150,000 – then 1 point per dollar on everything else I charge. My favorite way to use my points is to cash them out for personal enjoyment!
As a sole proprietor, how do you handle your accounts? Do you use a specific accounting software to stay organized?
I pay off the previous month’s balance every month so I’m not paying interest on my credit card purchases at all. To manage my purchases and current balance, I import everything into Quickbooks because tracking expenses is easy with this accounting software. It remembers spending categories for all of my recurring vendors, so my bookkeeping is faster and easier with credit card purchases – and time is money.
I do have employees but currently I’m the only one with access to credit cards. As the business grows, I plan to give credit cards – with spend limits – in place to my managers.
What lessons have you learned about borrowing money along the way, and can you offer any advice for other small-business owners?
Having a great credit history will give you the best credit card options and the best interest options. Write up a thorough business plan that details all anticipated upfront and ongoing expenses. Determine your needs early in the process because getting access to funds can take more time than expected.
Cash flow is critical for retail business owners. Even if you don’t plan to use a credit card daily, I recommend having at least one with a large credit line in case of emergency. Loans can take weeks or months to open, and, in the event of a catastrophe, whether it’s large or small, it is good to have a card ready if you need it.