At the Museum of Ice Cream in downtown Los Angeles, visitors lucky enough to score a $29 ticket can ogle art installations like a room filled with giant popsicle sculptures that look like they’re melting into the walls. They can also sample scoops from artisanal California creameries like McConnell’s and Coolhaus and immerse themselves in a four-foot-deep cement pool filled with multicolored plastic “sprinkles.” On Mother’s Day, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Gwyneth Paltrow all visited the temporary venue, where tickets are sold out through August 15 (it may remain open longer). The museum first opened last summer in New York City for 45 days, where tickets also sold out, leaving 200,000 people on a wait list. Corporate sponsors include American Express and Tinder. The museum charges $180,000 for full-day private events. Revenue from ticket sales has topped $6 million. The MoIC is the brainchild of 25-year-old Laguna Beach, CA native Maryellis Bunn. In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, she describes how she came up with the project, her feelings about its success, and where she plans to take it in the future.
Susan Adams: Where did you get the idea to do a museum of ice cream?
Maryellis Bunn: I was having all these conversations about how to connect with millennial audiences in an experiential space. I thought, there’s nothing new to do in New York City.
Adams: How can you say there’s nothing to do in New York?
Bunn: New York has institutions that have been around forever but there’s nothing new.
Adams: Why ice cream?
Bunn: I love ice cream. Any day of the week it brings me so much joy.
Adams: But why create a museum?
Bunn: When we were looking at names, “museum” was something people understood.
Adams: How did you decide what the museum would display?
Bunn: I designed all the rooms myself. A lot of the ideas were childhood dreams I had. I grew up by the ocean and I thought it would be so amazing if the ocean were full of sprinkles and I could swim in them.
Adams: How did you finance the New York location?
Bunn: My business partner is Manish Vora, owner of Light Box, an event space in New York. We both personally put money into the company. The ice cream is donated and we have brand partners. In New York we worked with Tinder. You answer a series of questions and get your own ice cream profile.
Adams: So Tinder paid to be your sponsor?
Bunn: Correct. I thought, instead of brands buying digital ad space, I could create an experience that would deliver better ROI.
Adams: Has that happened?
Bunn: In Los Angeles, every museum visitor is presented with a Dove chocolate. If you get one with a gold wrapper, you win a prize of a box of chocolates. Dove saw a 9% increase in sales in the one month we’ve been open there.
Adams: How did you promote the museum in New York?
Bunn: We sent out a single press release and within three days, we had sold out our entire run.
Adams: What has surprised you about the publicity you’re getting?
Bunn: Yesterday my personal email was being hit up by people in Abu Dhabi and Japan who want a Museum of Ice Cream.
Adams: What mistakes have you made?
Bunn: Our free opening day in New York was a disaster. I got there in the morning and there were people sleeping in front of the door. I gave everyone ice cream and sent emails to the people we couldn’t accommodate, offering them admission on a different day.
Adams: What will you do after you close the museum in L.A.?
Bunn: I’m hoping to open in San Francisco and Miami by the end of the year and I’m looking to build a permanent flagship in New York with a restaurant and spa. I want to build a Las Vegas hotel with a museum inside.
Adams: How will you finance all of that?
Bunn: Through ticket sales and sponsorships and we’ve got a product team creating take-home experiences. We’re in the process of making our own ice cream brand. But our core is building experiences.
Article Credit-Susan Adams , Forbes Staff