Photo by Gary Moss
Thousand Oaks-based entrepreneurs and philanthropists Lisa Kudirka and Karen Bain are having entirely too much fun selling Hawaiian-style shave ice. Just consider their tagline: “If you are going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.” And that’s only one of their endearingly original marketing tools, used to engage the public and induct them into the “Shave It Nation”—a tribe of shave ice enthusiasts who borrow from snowboarding and surfing culture to promote community, fun, and giving. “Shave It is a lifestyle,” says Kudirka, summing up what lays at the core of their enterprise. “It’s about laughter and giving back. It’s about being happy that you are here.”
The first word that comes to mind upon entering the Shave It store in Thousand Oaks is “cool.” And we’re not just talking about the shave ice. The place is a super sleek, bar/lounge inspired hangout with plasma screen televisions, booming music, a landscape of white and blue mosaic tiles, and a modern circular counter.
Behind the counter you’ll find a lineup of colorful syrups and, of course, a shave ice machine. Customers in-the-know recognize underground flavors like “Sponge Bob Snow Pants,” a concoction of pineapple syrup, vanilla ice cream, and a little orange décor on top. And then there are the Shave It-isms—a collection of quirky questions and phrases that the staff and customers create and place in a tip jar. “Why do they call them apartments when they are so close together?”
Kudirka, Bain, and their staff (mostly high schoolers) even started compiling a dictionary of terms pulled from the snowboarding and surfing world. One of their favorites, “arctic cougar,” is an older lady who waits at the lodge for handsome young snowboarders to return. You won’t find that term in Webster’s.
But Shave It’s not just about fun; Kudirka and Bain also have an earnest desire to give back to their community. According to Kudirka, “I think it’s all driven by people. We try to relate to people in the community and let them know that we get them and appreciate them.” Driven by this desire, they’ve created key chains for firemen, nurses, and others who serve the community, offering them discounts on Shave It products. Why? “Because they shave lives.”
Kudirka and Bain’s dedication to giving back is most evident in their foundation, Foster A Miracle, which currently serves Casa Pacifica, a residential center in Camarillo that offers a wide range of assessment, crisis care, medical, and educational services for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. “Our goal with the foundation is to grant wishes to foster children,” explains Kudirka. One foster child, a 12-year-old boy with a passion for baseball, had never attended a game. Foster a Miracle granted his wish by giving him tickets to a Dodger’s game.
“I don’t know if people in this community realize that just 10 miles down the road there is a whole society that is going to grow up with your kids, and you’re kind of all in it together,” Kudirka says, adding a holistic element to the meaning of Shave It Nation.
Shave It has made donations to over 100 different charitable events and organizations, including local schools, local sports teams, and Cardiac Kids, a volunteer group established in 2000 that raises funds for children suffering from congenital heart disease. Once their franchises are up and running, Kudirka and Bain also plan on funding the Make a Wish to Foster a Miracle by cutting their franchise royalty back by two percent and donating that revenue.
“We don’t like to do anything normal at all,” says Bain, who would probably agree that “normal”—a word unlikely to make it into the Shave It Nation vernacular—would lead the duo down a slippery slope better left to those who think inside the cone.