This is a safe space for any question you might have. I'm taking off my director of admissions hat and I'm just here to help you. This is a way for you to not be surprised by anything in the admissions process.

Logan Powell, Director of Admissons at Princeton University, College Search Seminar at Explo at Yale

As Amy Graver tells it, Mario walked into her office with nothing more than a Tupperware container of ice cream and an idea. And on that day, she tells Explo Marketing students, a new business took its first steps.

It started out just as she said: the Tupperware, the ice cream, the dream. But in a market where artisanal ice creams jockey for place next to the big guns (Haagen Dazs, Ben & Jerry's) on store shelves — and where indie ice cream companies such as Batch and Van Leeuwen are already holding their own — how would Mario's ever have a chance of standing out?

Arriving prepared with samples to taste, Amy Graver — the Principal and Creative Director of Elements Design, an acclaimed Greater New Haven graphic design and marketing communications firm — tells Explo Marketing students how she and her colleagues helped Mario launch his product, from concept to design to full-fledged — and successful — company.

"Mario walked in a year and a half ago," Graver says, "right off the street. His wife had given him an ice cream machine, and he just started playing around. But he also loved tea. So when he came in and told us 'I want to open an ice cream company,' he arrived with his concept (tea-flavored ice cream) and name, Tea-rrific, already formed."

What followed, she says, is the kind of work and research every good design and marketing professional must complete in order to generate the best look, feel, brand, and campaign for their chosen product. It entails figuring out where in the market such a product would fit (artisanal and all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients), what the price point would be (from $6-$8 a pint), who the audience would be (gourmet yet accessible), and how to sell it.

"We knew that if we could get people to taste the ice cream," she says, "they were going to love it."

Within 18 months, they managed to take the ice cream company from nascent concept to successful — and desired — brand, with plans for expansion beyond its current production and distribution routes. And all of it without once running a print ad or commercial. Istead, they relied on word of mouth, social media, and in-store tastings, which proved a giant hit and a boon to the growing brand.

A hand goes up, and a student asks, "How do you know what would be the right move for this brand? I mean, it sounds like you were able to kind of corner the market in some aspects — like with the flavors and the local ingredients — but how were you able to do that and make it such a desired product?"

"That's a great question," Amy says. "And honestly, it's a tough thing to do, because what works for one brand won't necessarily work for another."

For Tea-rrific, the tastings were key — since tea-flavored ice cream might not be the first thing you think to grab off a store's freezer shelf. As was the product design, which had to straddle the line between appealing to foodies while still remaining approachable to everyone else.

And for the students, tasting a few of the ice cream's flavors — London Mist, Masala Chai, Chamomile, Ginger Matcha, and Chunky London Mist — made them full-fledged converts as well.

"I think the chamomile is the best thing I've ever tasted, ever," another student says. "I could live on that."