Started in 2016, Museum of Ice Cream transforms concepts and dreams into spaces that provoke imagination and creativity. Here, RLI sits down with Manish Vora, President and Co-Founder of the brand to talk about how it all started and what the next steps are for the business.
Designed to be a culturally inclusive environment and community, Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) has been built to inspire human connection through the global power of ice cream. Created by Co-Founders Manish Vora and Maryellis Bunn, MOIC combines art, this high culture of the museum with the taste of ice cream to produce a platform for what Manish calls the human social experience.
“The idea for the business came about because whenever myself and Maryellis were travelling, she would always say ‘come and check out this new ice cream shop’ and it was just fun, and through this we saw an opportunity to build a new type of entertainment product and the next generation of experiences,” explains Manish Vora, President and Co-Founder. “From the beginning we looked at whether we could take the Disney model – which is the combination of park, content and brand, but then bring it into an urban environment and gear it towards adults, gear it towards millennials and this is how the brand started.”
Vora understands that they are a new genre of business, he even mentions that they coined the term Experium to describe MOIC, its experience with the museum as an experiential retail venue for entertainment. They are a retail store, as well as an ice cream café, but it is primarily an entertainment venue. The last 12 months have seen massive changes within the company. Five pop-ups were launched around the country and during this pop-up run the locations saw one and a half million visitors, a staggering return.
“The past year has seen expansion of the brand and the evolution of the brand from this testing phase to actually building in these tools and platforms for us to really launch our MOIC 2.0, which translated into a permanent museum now in San Francisco and our newest MOIC 2.0 in SoHo.” says Vora. The company went from these pop-ups to being on the single most visited street and corner of SoHo, which is the shopping epicentre of New York City, and the brand is now a permanent fixture their after taking over a flagship H&M store.
Vora feels that businesses today have to find opportunities in retail to get people back into the retail world. “You will start to see us actually partner with some of the largest developers in the world but it is not just about building an experience, it is about how we transform a real estate development in a new part of the city.” Even with its pop-ups, what the company did was target neighbourhoods, and due to the traffic MOIC generates, businesses within the neighbourhoods around their locations were seeing revenues double.
Due to such impressive figures when it comes to tickets sold, the company will be opening its first international location this summer and it will be launching multiple flagships this year and next year all around the world. Social media is still a valuable tool for MOIC, when visitors are organically and authentically posting, Vora argues that this is more valuable than even their own in-house social media strategies.
“When you have to build accessibility to both local audiences and tourists, you will start to see us develop strategies that incorporate traditional marketing practices but also innovative programming and special events where we really become a venue and become a community that sells more than entertainment space.”
When talking about what differentiates MOIC from other entertainment concepts, Vora remarks that the mix of design and hospitality that they offer is an important USP and it is something they always strive to improve upon because they believe that’s what is necessary to survive in retail. The normal practices of the department store or a hotel or a restaurant are changing to become hospitality centres.
Looking forward the biggest challenge is the impediment for innovation in physical spaces. Vora explains that the ability for companies such as Amazon and Uber to open in new markets is phenomenally easier when it does not require building physical space. High rents are another factor, as Vora feels that rents do not reflect the opportunity and people are not being incentivised to keep their retail units open.
“With entertainment and experiences, the digital perception of an experience cannot be replicated by the human experience. With MOIC, people need to be more than passive. This is a genre where people have to participate, to put down their phones and enjoy what is directly in front of them and get involved. This is the message we want to continue growing with this brand.”