During the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneur Cassandra Coleman and her husband Mario, residing in Dallas, Texas at the time, embarked on a 90-day sugar fast.

Cassandra, who is lactose intolerant and constantly seeks out new vegan-friendly eateries, discovered Creamistry, a liquid nitrogen ice cream company in Dallas. She decided to give it a try with Mario, and from the very first bite, she was instantly hooked.

Cassandra looked at her husband and said, “I can’t shake this. We need to make a business out of liquid nitrogen ice cream.”

After conducting research, the Colemans discovered that liquid nitrogen ice cream isn’t a novel concept. It’s widespread and not patented, yet it’s not commonly found in the Northwest Arkansas area. Encouraged by this news, the Colemans decided to return to NWA in 2021.

And thus, Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape was born. Named after the combination of Mario and Cassandra’s middle names, La’Shae, Mar’Shaes utilizes liquid nitrogen to rapidly freeze ice cream within seconds.

Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurial duo, Cassandra and Mario Coleman, bring their dream of Mar'Shaes Sweet Escape to life, one scoop at a time, with support from Communities Unlimited.

Cassandra Coleman elaborated on the distinction between conventional ice cream and nitrogen ice cream.

Nitrogen freezes things at a super cold temperature of -321 degrees. Unlike traditional ice cream made in big factories, nitrogen freezing is faster, making the ice cream smoother with fewer air bubbles. Big ice cream brands like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s have more air in them because they’re made in huge quantities.

But with nitrogen, the ice cream stays fresh and has a better texture, Coleman says. Right now, they get ingredients from the grocery store, but Coleman hopes to use more local ingredients in the future, especially for the milk, to keep it fresh and local.

Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape offers an array of ice cream flavors. Customers can customize their treats by choosing from options like vanilla ice cream with Oreos, M&M’s, or chocolate sauce. While they have a recipe book with over 60 flavors, they primarily focus on nine due to business constraints and inventory considerations.

Dive into a world of flavor at Mar'Shaes Sweet Escape with their array of handcrafted ice cream delights, from classic favorites to inventive vegan-friendly options.

Their business model caters to various dietary needs, offering homemade cashew milk, coconut-based, and sorbet options. While the cashew milk base may not be available in the food trailer due to its complexity, they aim to provide more vegan-friendly choices to their community.

All flavors, Cassandra Coleman says, are inspired by Jesus, family members, friends, and the local community.

In 2023, Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape began to increase its business efforts. Previously operating part-time, the Colemans expanded their hours last year. Located behind the Bentonville Community Center, Mar’Shaes operates seasonally from March to May and August to October. Their hours are limited to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at the moment.

Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape is now poised for further expansion, with assistance from Communities Unlimited (CU), recommended by Lori Lieblong from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC).

Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape collaborated with CU’s Lending Team to secure a loan. Candence Brooks, the Small Business Lender, facilitated the loan, enabling the Colemans to acquire a trailer. This acquisition will enable them to expand their operations and hours, catering to more events like birthdays and weddings.

After finishing their full-time jobs, both Cassandra and Mario will operate the trailer. The schedule will be Monday to Saturday, from 4-9 p.m. As Mar’Shaes Sweet Escape’s revenue increases, they also plan to hire additional employees.

“I pray that over the next few years, we’re going to get to the problem where we can’t say no to the business,” Cassandra said. “People want to book us like three times in one day and hopefully I can quit my full-time job one day.”

The Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurs were quick to thank CU and the assistance on the loan to make this business expansion happen.

“Communities Unlimited has been perfect,” Cassandra said. “Candence and the team that helped us finalize the documents and the call we had together with everyone. It’s nice to have a group of people like that who have your back.”

Brooks echoed Cassandra, saying it was a pleasure to work with her and Mario to help expand the business.

“They complement each other in business and together they have built a reputable and growing business,” Brooks said. “They came to me ready to put in the work to get their loan and I’m happy we were able to fund their expansion. I can’t wait to see what they do with their food truck.”

In the seasonal months, Mar’Shaes is shifting focus towards indoor events and catering. They’re leveraging third-party services like DoorDash and PlateRunners for delivery. They’re also strategizing to ship their ice cream products locally and nationwide.

Cassandra reflected on Mar’Shaes, which began in a small Dallas apartment during the pandemic. The Colemans’ ultimate goal is to spread the gospel and offer ice cream for everyone. They plan to franchise in Northwest Arkansas first, then expand to nearby states and beyond.

“We want to saturate the market with Mar’Shaes, so that everyone can taste our ice cream. Our goal is to change the world, one scoop at a time.”

— Cassandra Coleman, Co-Founder