MONEY Second Act

Banker Finds Sweeter Career: Making Ice Cream

Tired of feeling like a professional killjoy, former banker Scott Moloney found a sweeter business.

Scott Moloney started exactly the kind of business he would have once rejected for a loan.

The Birmingham, Mich., resident closed out his 18-year career as a private lending officer in 2009 to open an ice cream shop. Among the strikes against him: “I was a first-time entrepreneur, with no experience, going into a high-risk industry,” he says.

But banking, never a source of personal satisfaction, had become intolerable. “My clients were experiencing hardship, and I was the guy delivering bad news,” says Moloney.

He found inspiration for a new career at a frozen-custard store where he often took his wife and two kids. “The store was always busy, and everyone looked happy,” he says.

While working at Comerica Bank in November 2009, he attended an ice cream retailers convention. Learning that frozen-custard machines could produce only three flavors at a time, he switched his focus to hard ice cream. He left banking in December and soon after signed a lease for retail space on a busy street.

In March 2010 he bought a six-quart ice cream maker, and five months later he opened Treat Dreams for business.

Initially, Moloney offered only one unusual flavor: Loopy Fruit, featuring ground-up cereal in vanilla ice cream. His next concoction, Sunday Breakfast — with waffles, bacon, and maple syrup — “got people talking,” he says. Since then the store has produced 500 unconventional varieties, including Lobster Bisque and Raspberry Chipotle Bacon.

Moloney added a van last year to serve outdoor events. Result: Treat Dreams took in $340,000 in revenue in 2012. This year he doubled the store’s size.

Moloney now draws a small salary, but he’s got personal satisfaction by the gallon: “Give kids an ice cream cone, and they always smile,” says Moloney. “I never get tired of that.”

HOW HE DID IT

How much it took to start up Treat Dreams: $200,000

Most of that came from Moloney’s now depleted savings account. (He and his wife, Megan, a compliance manager, didn’t touch their six-figure retirement funds.) He also ran up $50,000 on credit cards, which he’s now paying off.

Portion of family bills Moloney covers: 25%

In the 18 months before Treat Dreams generated income, Megan’s salary covered 75% of their expenses; they drew the rest from savings. In mid-2011, Scott began paying himself $1,500 a month — enough to close the expenses gap.

Year Moloney should match his old $90,000 salary: 2014

An expanded kitchen will allow Moloney to add more wholesale accounts (he now has 13) and supply another store he plans to open. The van should add $100,000 in sales. Anticipated 2013 revenue: $500,000.

Says Moloney: “This has worked out deliciously.”

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