The Concept of Nikki’s Custard
Looking back on how she stepped into the role of entrepreneur, Nicole Dannehl reflects on some of her initial thoughts about making a change in her life. “The pandemic was a reset for me,” she shared. “I realized I needed to make a change in order to do something that I love and am good at.”
She started to keep a running list of possible business ideas and had over fifty concepts on the list at one point. “My entire life, I’ve always had a passion for food, and I knew I wanted to do something around that, but I wasn’t sure what,” Nicole notes.
Then, one day, while at yoga and giving her mind space for clarity, it became clear. While she had always loved frozen custard, she wished there was a way to control the flavor profile more. What if there was a custard shop where customers could choose from a variety of toppings (including more adult-focused flavor ingredients like sour cherry, hot-spicy honey, and Maldon salt) that put the customers in control of designing their perfect creation? No one in the area was offering something quite like this. Thus, the idea for Nikki’s Custard was born.
Relationship With Traditions Bank
In February of 2022, Nicole and her husband Bill went to a special school where they learned all about creating frozen dairy and custard products. That May, Nicole sat down with Krista Blasser, Senior Commercial Relationship Manager, and Nicole Shaffer, Director of Her Traditions at Traditions Bank, to share her business plan.
“Traditions Bank offered me a boutique banking experience,” Dannehl states. “I valued their one-on-one personal attention and how I can rely on the team to help me through every step. The resources provided by Her Traditions matter. I used the events and connections to learn and build relationships that helped me in my journey. It is important to me that Traditions is committed to supporting women.”
In the fall of 2022, Dannehl joined the team from Traditions at one of the Lancaster Chamber’s Women’s Roundtable events where Nicole Shaffer was speaking. At that event, she connected with Diana Smedley, co-founder of The Lancaster Gift Box. Nicole Dannehl followed Diana’s entrepreneurial journey and stayed in touch with her.
“Saying yes to help as a woman is hard,” Nicole shares, “because you feel like you need to do it all yourself or you are a failure. But it takes a village.”
A Helping Hand
By May of 2023, the need for that support was more significant than ever. Nicole’s mother became ill as she was building out the storefront for Nikki’s Custard, as well as dealing with supply chain issues and rising prices that pushed her budget up by 15%. “I almost felt like I was sinking in the middle of it,” she reflects. “My one friend told me that during times like this, you need to stop, drop, and roll. As women, we’re hardwired to give and care for others, but we can only do so much at one time, so we need to prioritize and compartmentalize.”
Nicole relied on her mother’s friends to help as her mom’s health declined, and her husband’s support was a touchstone for her. “As an entrepreneur, you have to know your skillsets and who you can turn to for the tasks that aren’t in your wheelhouse and take more of your energy.”
As she looks back on all the challenges, she’s faced to get to the point of opening the doors to her business, Nicole knows that she wouldn’t have gotten to where she is without her team – her husband, family and friends, network of entrepreneurs, and the team at Traditions Bank.
“We’ve had some private events as we prepare to open,” Nicole says, “And the feedback has been positive. Everyone loves the toppings, but they also note that the flavor of the custard stands on its own. That tells me that I’ve hit the mark.”
Nikki’s Custard: Now Open
With an opening date of September 8, 2023, Nicole is excited to introduce their custard, oat milk soft serve, and sorbet soft serve to the community. Nikki’s Custard is located at 1831 Oregon Pike in Lancaster (conveniently right down the street from Traditions Bank’s Oregon Pike branch). For information on their hours and menu, visit their website.