Molly Moon Neitzel will be telling the White House Summit on the United State of Women that tending to women’s issues in the workplace is taking care of people in general.
It’s high season for Molly Moon Neitzel — but not just for moving double-dips and waffle cones.
As you read this, Seattle’s ice-cream czarina will be addressing The White House Summit on the United State of Women, joining a list of speakers that includes President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama and a wide range of leaders in business, social policy and nonprofit work all over the country. Gloria Steinem. Billie Jean King. And Connie Britton from “Nashville,” if you’re into that sort of thing.
Neitzel’s speech will be focused on the importance of paid family leave, which she has offered to her employees since the Seattle City Council approved it for city employees last year.
Later this month, Neitzel will be part of a diplomatic trip to Germany to help with U.S.-German relations. The trip is being sponsored by The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to “fostering enlightened leadership,” among other things.
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In the midst of preparing for the trips, Neitzel signed the lease for her eighth Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream store, to be located in Columbia City.
“It’s quite a time for me,” Neitzel said the other day, seated outside Oddfellows, a Capitol Hill restaurant owned by Linda Derschang, who also will be attending the summit.
“I don’t even know if I can be articulate about it,” Neitzel said. “It’s beyond what I set out to do. And I have asked myself, ‘Why is it going so well?’ ”
That she can speak to. Neitzel’s success has allowed her to reach far beyond the ice-cream counter to do broader work for women and families — and, therefore, the community at large. “When women’s lives are better, everyone’s is,” she said.
Neitzel’s ice-cream company is now 8 years old and has seven stores (six in Seattle and one in Redmond) and 140 employees. The company brought in $6.5 million in sales this year.
Last year wasn’t as profitable, Neitzel said, and she realized that while other business people might put benefits on the chopping block to be more profitable, “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to be 4 percent more profitable, or take care of my people?’ ”
She chose her employees, who enjoy free yoga and subsidized ORCA passes, and are led through stretches before every shift. Ice-cream makers get free Dansko shoes. And everyone has access to mental-heath services and acupuncture.
Outside the sweet-smelling stores, Neitzel donated 1 percent of sales (or 10 percent of profits) to charity: food banks, school auctions and the nonprofit radio station KEXP. Her most important charity is the Anna Banana Milk Fund, named for her little sister, Anna, who died in 2009 in a motorcycle accident. Anna loved milk. Last year, the fund provided more than $25,000 in local, organic milk to hundreds of families.
The summit seems to be filling her desire for an organized, feminist event that unifies and raises women up around health-care and workplace equality, all in one place.
“I hope that it kicks off something that continues, regardless of who is in the White House,” she said.
The speaking engagement and the Germany trip will meet “crazy career goals I didn’t even know I had,” she said.
But it will also get her back to her activist roots, starting when she was 5 and putting postage stamps on campaign fliers. She also served as executive director of Music for America and was involved in the Main Street Alliance of Washington, which helps small-business owners speak on policy issues.
“I’m saying the same things I was when I was 23,” Neitzel said, except that now she understands them more deeply, not only as a business owner, but as a mother (with her husband, Zack) to her 4-year-old daughter, February.
“Me talking about family leave before I had a child would have sounded hollow,” she said.
Now, she sounds like she’s learned a lot, and has the confidence that won her a spot at the summit.
“I have been criticized for my confidence by old boyfriends, professors and friends,” Neitzel said. “But I don’t care.”
Put that in your waffle cone and … well, you know.
Information in this article, originally published June 14, 2016, was corrected June 14, 2016. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Molly Moon Neitzel’s views on benefits and profitability.