In the Business of Selling Dreams

by Stephanie Brown,
Writing Intern

Less than a year ago, Alecia Shipman and Thomas Jamison shared a very simple dream: they wanted to make good ice cream and help change the world. It seemed only logical to put the two together.

At the same time, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) were launching Project Pop Up: Downtown, a storefront activation initiative with the goal of “improving the vibrancy, safety, and economic health of downtown” by awarding start-up grants and short-term leases to unique, innovative businesses. Shipman and Jamison decided to submit a proposal.

Dream Cream Ice Cream

Thus was born Dream Cream Ice Cream, a small business making a big difference in the community. Every month, Dream Cream chooses up to twelve “dreamers” from a pool of applicants. Each person chosen gets to create a custom ice cream flavor. Dream Cream then donates a quarter of the profits made from the sale of that flavor towards funding that person’s dream.

Dreams can be anything from paying off college loans to opening a new clinic. “We’re not going to buy somebody a Benz,” Jamison explained in an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper, “but if your dream is to have a set of wheels to get you to work every day, and you’re saving up and need a little more for a used car — that’s the kind of dream we fund.”

Dreamers are asked to spend at least one day per week behind the Dream Cream counter. This arrangement lowers operational costs, so that Dream Cream can afford to put a quarter of its profits towards funding dreams. But the exchange benefits the dreamers as well.

Most goals worth obtaining require hard work and a lot of effort. Dreamers who are willing to put in the work at Dream Cream show that they are committed to their dreams, and that they really care about the outcome. In addition, dreamers get a chance to literally sell their dreams to customers – to talk to people who come into the shop about why they’re raising money and what they’d like to achieve.

Meanwhile, the public gets to taste new and delicious flavors of ice cream every month. And downtown gains a creative, productive business, just as the creators of Project Pop Up envisioned.

Dream Cream isn’t a charity. It isn’t a non-profit. It’s an important addition to the community because it’s a business with heart, a business that puts people first. The workers can feel good about coming to work and selling the product. The customers can feel good about making purchases, knowing that a quarter of the money goes to good causes and the rest goes back into the local economy. And anyone who walks through the door gets to help make someone’s dream come true.

Shops like Dream Cream have the potential to change the way that we as a society do business. They use local resources to meet local needs, they suggest new and innovative solutions to old problems, and they move the focus of business from monetary gain to community involvement. They show us that you don’t need to belong to a corporate chain to have a successful business; you just need a dream and a lot of determination.

Dream Cream’s current lease ends October 31, but Shipman and Jamison are working on making their business a permanent part of downtown Pittsburgh.

Visit Dream Cream’s website for a list of this month’s flavors – and dreamers. You can also donate directly to a chosen cause online.


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