Businesswoman scales production of sweet treats with RCBI assistance

A Charleston business owner is reaching new markets with help from the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI).

Millie Snyder owns the Shape Shop, which has been selling healthy snacks and meals since the 1970s. Snyder is the former president and CEO of Weight Watchers in West Virginia.

One of the Shape Shop’s most popular products is the Dippy Do, a frozen treat on a stick that comes in 17 different flavors.

Kroger stores in the Charleston region have sold Dippy Dos for many years. In 2019, the grocery chain offered to sell them through additional stores around the state.

In the past, Shape Shop employees made every Dippy Do by hand, first forming the ice cream on a stick and then dipping it in a coating. When the employee who made them left, Snyder knew she couldn’t meet the additional demand. She started working with RCBI to find a more efficient way of making them.

She received help through two RCBI programs, Accelerate Forward and Agriculture Innovations.  Funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Accelerate Forward supports entrepreneurs, businesses and economic development.

The Agricultural Innovations program helps producers, distributors and buyers expand their network through advanced manufacturing practices and product discovery. Agricultural Innovations is also supported by the Benedum Foundation.

Evan Nelson, RCBI’s Lean Agricultural Systems Specialist, visited the Shape Shop and studied the production of Dippy Dos. He came up with a plan to standardize production and make the process more efficient.

An RCBI engineer designed and produced a model of a Dippy Do on one of RCBI’s 3D printers. On top of that model, he poured a food-grade silicone to produce molds, with a slit for a stick. Eventually, RCBI produced hundreds of the silicone molds for the Shape Shop.

With those molds, the Shape Shop employees can make dozens of Dippy Dos at a time. The Shape Shop can easily meet the increased demand, Snyder said.

“That wouldn’t have been possible without the molds,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about the help I received from the crew at RCBI.”

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