MA, ’05; BMus, ’04; Summer Institute, ‘98, ‘00
Pre-College Summer Institute, ‘98, ‘00
BMus, ’04, Trumpet Performance
MA, ’05, Teaching
Co-founder and Co-owner, Little Baby’s Ice Cream
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
Current living in: Philadelphia
“You can make something happen here.”
Martin Brown, co-founder of Little Baby’s Ice Cream, says he isn’t sure quite how he knew, when he arrived at Summer Institute at the age of fifteen to study jazz, that the University of the Arts and Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood were places where “you can make something happen.” But he was certain of it. Since that first summer at UArts—he returned for a second summer, and subsequently earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University—he has made music, a lot of ice cream, and a name for himself as a creative and successful entrepreneur.
On the way to becoming a business owner and “ice cream chef,” Martin taught general music and trumpet in schools in North Philadelphia, worked as House Manager for the Painted Bride Art Center, as the Label Coordinator for High Two Recordings, and for five years as Administrative Coordinator for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Music remained an integral part of his life: he toured briefly with an indie rock band and continued to jam with musicians around the city he had met while studying at the University, including Little Baby’s Ice Cream co-founders Pete Angeville and Jeffrey Ziga.
Music played a role, too, in the musicians’ start-up venture. In 2011, Martin, Pete, and Jeffrey began selling their creative flavors of hand-made “Philadelphia Style” and vegan (non-dairy) ice cream from a customized, bike powered tricycle (The Flavor Blaster One), complete with tunes from their “Music for Ice Cream” machine (a hacked music box). A year later they built three additional tricycles extending their service to a variety of local events and venues and opened their first shop, Little Baby’s official “World Headquarters.” Today, Little Baby’s has stores in Cedar Park Embassy in
West Philadelphia, at Union Market Pop-Up in Washington D.C., and R. House, a new food hall in Baltimore, Maryland. Several Little Baby flavors are sold in pint containers in a variety of gourmet stores, including Whole Foods.
In 2016, Little Baby’s introduced the first-ever and still the only 100% recyclable paper ice cream container, part of the company’s core commitment to sustainability, which includes using local sourced ingredients, and engaging employees with local producers. The company launched the invention with a mock documentary video “Ice Cream in Space,” a partnership with Workshop School, a public high school in West Philadelphia, featuring a student-built ice-cream weather balloon and students’ original a cappella rap song. The film won a 2016 Philly GEEK Award in the Best Partnership category.
“You do not have to make a living at your art for it to be an important part of your life.”
Summer Institute was an “intense, exciting, and most welcoming experience,” with a true sense of community that has led to enduring friendships. (A former Summer Institute and UArts classmate will perform at Martin’s wedding in 2017.) While he did not intend to make a career as a musician, Martin says he wanted to “learn the language and culture of jazz and to learn it well” and he appreciated the opportunity to study in an environment as rigorous as a conservatory, yet among students engaged in all of the arts. He would “absolutely do it all over again,” he says—he cannot imagine his life without music.
“Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being an artist. It’s a process. You need to exercise a lot of discipline, to stay flexible, and to keep exploring new options.”
Developing a business, much like learning to play jazz, requires focus, stamina, an incredible amount of hard work, the ability to create a strong, cohesive team, and the drive to “get things accomplished.” In charge of operations for Little Baby’s, Martin manages the development of recipes, hiring, training, and sales, among multiple other tasks, including planning ways to grow the business. In 2018, Little Baby’s Ice Cream is hoping to open a third store in Philadelphia, expand its line of pints available for sale—in their unique fully “re-pulpable” container— in grocery stores, and continue to “create new, fun things.”