Like an old photo helped a cancer survivor focus on his dream: making ice cream

With a product available in 5,000 U.S. grocery stores, the founder of Vice Cream reports how he found inspiration after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma.

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Like an old photo helped a cancer survivor focus on his dream: making ice cream
Like an old photo helped a cancer survivor focus on his dream: making ice cream

What do you do when you get married and buy your first home, but the doctors tell you that you still have six? Months of life?

Of course, they found an ice cream parlor.

Before my diagnosis, I had a successful career in the food, beverage, and consumer goods industry, including long stays with brands like PowerBar, Pepsi, and Saucony. But around 2013 I started to feel restless. I wanted something new, something I could really call mine. But what?

I thought about my college days. I used to drive an ice cream truck in a good mood. I loved it. Not only did it help pay for school, but it also satisfied me to see the pure joy in people’s faces when I gave them ice cream. There’s a photo of me in the truck from those days I’ve been with me ever since. It was the best job I had.

Thinking about this experience inspired me to switch to the ice cream category because I thought there was a market opening for a somewhat younger and bolder product. I started working on branding, flavors and messages. I wanted my company to be provocative and not apologize for dealing with decadent flavors like coffee mocha with dulce de leche mocha, chocolate chip cookies and sweet espresso. I needed a name. And I came up with “Vice Cream” (Ice Cream Vice, in English). To my surprise, nobody had registered it.

I also lived an active lifestyle, my other great passion. He had completed 37 half marathons, seven and a half Ironman marathons and had cycled from Florence to Rome. Between my health through physical activity and the start of my entrepreneurship, I loved all aspects of my life.

Then my doctor called me on April 1st, 2014 and said the two words he hopes he never has to hear: “We found something.” I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma, a diffuse large B cell, and was told that I had barely six months to live without treatment.

My world was falling apart. It became clear to me that when I had little time to live, I had to invest my time in things that I enjoyed. I took two months off to undergo three rounds of chemotherapy, did a run – and then vomited – and went back to work with a surgical mask and gloves to start my business.

Everything came together. Today I have no cancer and Vice Cream is in more than 5,000 grocery stores in 38 states of the American Union almost two years after it started operating. We worked closely with cancer-related organizations like Dana-Farber and the Pan-Mass Challenge to put a smile on the face of those facing the same struggle as me, and I started giving lectures to share my story . And in any case, the first thing I show everyone is the photo of the Good Humor Truck: where my journey started.

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