Amy Miller, CEO of Amy's Ice Creams Inc., Austin, Texas. The $3.5 million company operates nine retail stores, runs a catering service, and supplies its ice creams wholesale to eateries throughout Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.
What's Your Problem?
"One of the biggest dilemmas for businesses in Austin is finding quality employees. The city is home to dozens of Internet and high-tech companies, and completely untrained workers are sometimes making up to $15 an hour. How do we find people who not only want to work here but also reflect our belief that going to get ice cream is a total experience and should be the brightest part of our customers' day?"
Tell Me About It
"I believe that ice cream is a panacea. People come in to cheer themselves up, to treat themselves after an accomplishment, or to celebrate. We've become a gathering place for positive life experiences. We are always looking for energetic, high-caliber people to work for us."
What's Your Solution?
"The paper-bag test. As with most great ideas, this one came to us by accident: We ran out of our regular job applications. So instead, we gave our applicants a plain, white paper bag and told them to 'be creative.' If someone takes the time to make something wonderful out of an ordinary old bag, then they want to be here — and we want to hire them."
What's Your Success Story?
"The results have been amazing. I've gotten bags made into light-up masks and bags containing homemade videotapes and dioramas of miniature Amy's Ice Creams stores. One guy went around the city and had someone take pictures of him holding his application in all sorts of locations, and then sent in the photos. That type of effort correlates to a person who is dynamic and who shares our company values. And it is a wonderful opportunity to influence young people about what a positive experience work can be."
Contact Amy Miller by email (email@example.com) or visit Amy's Ice Creams on the Web (www.amysicecreams.com).
A version of this article appeared in the August 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.