May 28, 2015 - 11:00am

Chamber Quarterly Special Edition: Growing a Business—One Scoop at a Time


Former Staff Assistant, Communications

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Capannari Ice Cream President Katie Dolan Dix, shown with brother-in-law and vice president/master chef Jim Capannari, credits teamwork for the company’s success. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

2015 Great Lakes Regional Finalist 

Capannari Ice Cream
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Katie Dolan Dix, President
Jim Capannari, Vice President and Master Chef

NOTE: It is time to nominate businesses for the 2016 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, and community involvement is a key component. The team at Capannari Ice Cream – a 2015 DREAM BIG finalist – holds Easter egg hunts, movie nights, and concerts in an effort to bring the community together. Apply for the 2016 award and challenge businesses in your community to donate time, money, or resources through #bizgiving on Twitter.

 

Family-owned Capannari Ice Cream produces super-premium small batch ice cream. Since opening its doors in 2001, it has become a community fixture known for customer service and value-driven operations.

How did the company get started?

Back in 2000, Katie and Ken Dix realized that something was missing in Mount Prospect, located on the outskirts of Chicago: a place for family gatherings and activities. With four kids of their own, they wanted to create a community destination—a place where families could walk and bike to in the evenings. They teamed up with Katie’s sister and husband, Meg and Jim Capannari, and Capannari Ice Cream was launched.

They renovated a historic downtown building, and Jim, who had always had a culinary flair, started playing around with flavors. (Think lemon grass or hot chocolate—made with poblano peppers.) Jim says, “When we go to a restaurant and eat, I think what I want to pair ice cream with.” And how good are the gourmet flavors? Capannari was named the best ice cream in Chicago by Chicago magazine in 2002. The company eventually expanded into catering, an arm that is set to sustain the business financially moving forward.

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Capannari Ice Cream
Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce
My advice to small businesses is to tap into each other. I’m excited to go to the summit because whether you’re selling ice cream or widgets—we’re all in the same boat. We have the same problems whether it’s marketing, staffing, inventory, processes, buildings, or government issues.
Katie Dolan Dix

How did you first connect with the community?

“We are a stand-alone building on a remote street in Mount Pleasant,” Katie says, “and I knew I was going to have to scream from the rooftops to really let people know where we were—and the only way I thought to do it was to get really entrenched in the community.” That relationship was established with Easter egg hunts, movie nights, concerts in the adjacent park, and even “coolest school” contests. Katie is actively involved in the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy and served on the National Ice Cream Retailers Association board. And Jim says he has “been fortunate to be a part of the United Cerebral Palsy Charity since the beginning. They asked me to be a part of their great chefs in Chicago and go down and give out our ice cream at their biggest event of the year.”

Family First

Capannari is definitely a family affair. Sisters Katie and Meg have 8 other siblings, and Jim is one of 13.
 
 
 
 

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR CAPANNARI?

The company plans to build out its catering business. “We want to continue to grow in the next five years,” Katie says. “We want to expand in the Chicago market for catering more, maybe open a second store or start to explore bringing catering up to Milwaukee.” That focus also will include increasing the company’s production infrastructure. Katie credits teamwork for Capannari’s success. “We all bring different aspects to the table, and all those different skill sets are things the others couldn’t do anyhow. We can’t get rid of each other because I can’t make ice cream, and he [Jim] can’t market.”

 

DREAM BIG SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARDS PROGRAM

The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam's Club, celebrates the success of small business and honors its contributions to America's economic growth. The winner, seven regional finalists and 100 Blue Ribbon winners will be acknowledged on June 9 during America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C

About the Author

About the Author

Former Staff Assistant, Communications