In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that
have shaped their business philosophy.

CEO, Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery


Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery is classified as a microcreamery because its small-batch ice cream is handcrafted with all-natural ingredients and the product is made with over 16 percent butterfat and made with less than 30 percent overrun. Clementine’s uses premium, local and natural ingredients, including milk from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows. Clementine’s supplies restaurants, provides catering services and serves up both boozy and non-boozy ice creams via mail order and at its scoop shop in St. Louis. Before founding Clementine’s, Keefe worked as the senior brand manager at Abbott Nutrition and as senior marketing manager at DuPont.

The Mistake:

Not planning ahead when it came to production and storage capacity needs.

When I started the ice cream company, I wasn’t prepared for success as fast as we had it. So it was a lot of hustling when we did get the orders. We were like, “Oh, crap. Now we have to go build capacity and make sure we have it in time to fulfill all the orders.” So I really did learn about taking a little bit of risk and, from a production capacity standpoint, planning ahead.

We had one specific big order that came in last-minute about a year ago from a new customer because a competitor of ours had an issue with their product. So this customer had to find an alternative source. We obviously weren’t prepared for that order coming in the door. We had to respond really fast with a whole lot of quantity.

We basically had to contact every single person we knew – friends, family, neighbors – and get them to work for like a week and a half, almost 20 hours a day, to fulfill the order. So it was very daunting for my team. We were able to do it. But, if I’d had better, longer-term planning in those days, we would have had more freezer space and we would have had more manufacturing and production capacity knowing that those opportunities may come up.

I wasn’t prepared for success as fast as we had it.

The Lesson:

Now, we’re prepared for it. We’ve purchased a 5,000-square-foot production facility and have more than enough freezer space, more than enough production capacity and have learned to be prepared for anything.

We had confidence in the business in the beginning, but I think our central concept has proven itself and so many opportunities keep coming our way that it gave us the reassurance we needed to go out and get that manufacturing space and production capability. And it’s actually helped us quite a bit because we’re able to respond and jump on those opportunities that other people probably wouldn’t because they don’t have the capacity, time, equipment or resources. We’ve been able to capture and take advantage of opportunities because we made that investment. In other words, build it, and they will come.

I think it’s about truly understanding what the market opportunity is and being prepared to go after it in whatever way that means for your business. So you have your eye on the goal and say, “That is where I’m going to get to.” Know you’re going to get there and just appropriately plan, budget and build for it.

Also, move forward thinking it’s always going to take you twice as long and twice as much money. Know that when you’re starting a business, be prepared to work harder than you ever have. I approach everything like that now, like something is going to happen, because it probably will. And, if it doesn’t, then it’s a nice surprise. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Then, you’re much more well-seated and able too take advantage of opportunities when they come your way.

Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery is on Twitter at @ClementinesSTL.

Photo courtesy of Tamara Keefe.

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