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Innovation can come in many forms, including tasty, creamy, edible ones. Just ask Peter Franklin, inventor of an entirely unique ice cream treat called the "Cool Dog," which looks like, eats like, but doesn't quite taste like an all-American hot dog.
Franklin grew up in a creative family, with an architect father and an artist mother inspiring in him a love for the arts as well as a curiosity about how things worked and fit together. Born in 1952, the Darien, Connecticut, native attended Williams College where he started out majoring in math and physics but ended up graduating with a degree in art history. From there he went on to Columbia University where he earned an MBA in 1975 with the long-term goal of running his own business.
Upon graduation, Franklin joined Pfizer Pharmaceuticals working with researchers to create new pharmaceuticals and with marketing staff to create new ad campaigns. In 1984 he joined Digital Equipment Corporation's disk drive division, at first in finance-related positions and then, in 1989, he was given the opportunity to lead a team to create a new business for the company, selling disk drives to non-Digital customers. He wrote a business plan and built the business over five years, culminating with the unit's 1994 sale to Quantum for $400 million.
Subsequently he took on the job of Director of Marketing with Quantum and led disk drive development teams of engineers, marketing and finance staff. After years of working with talented, creative professionals and learning a great deal about the hard-core business world, Franklin's desire to form a company of his own resurfaced. With lessons in mind about how to protect creative ideas by using patents and trademarks, he began dreaming up product ideas, keeping in mind his passions and desire to create a product that would make people happy.
One day, in 1997, after ordering lunch at a local delicatessen, he was dressing up his hot dog with relish and ketchup and the idea hit him: Why couldn't the form of an easy-to-serve, delicious, customizable treat like a hot dog be replicated for ice cream? He got to work, looking to make an ice cream treat in the shape of a hot dog, with a variety of optional "condiments" that eaters could use to customize their own desserts. After a great many trials, prototypes, and struggles to find the perfect form, the Cool Dog emerged: a premium vanilla ice cream "hot dog" in a soft sponge cake bun, easy to serve and ready for toppings, including hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream, M&Ms, cherries, and a variety of other offerings.
Franklin founded Cool Dog, Inc., in 1999 and patented his design for the Cool Dog concept, receiving U.S. Patent No. 6, 156, 357. The road was more difficult than it may sound: repeatedly he was told by ice cream equipment makers that it was impossible to make ice cream in a hot dog shape. The existing molding processes were unable to produce the desired form, so Franklin came up with a molding process of his own. It took him three years to finalize a design that uses disposable molds and inexpensive, portable equipment that can produce 300 "dogs" a minute, utilizing edible, removable casings to keep the dogs' shape until they are shipped from the ice cream maker's facilities to Cool Dog's Shirley, Mass., factory. Franklin has applied for patents on the process.
After successfully demonstrating the Cool Dog at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention in Atlanta in 2000, Franklin began to drum up some business. Orders came from New Hampshire amusement park Storyland and Dick's Last Resort in Boston. A big break came in 2002, when the vice president of concessions for Fenway Park ordered Cool Dogs for Opening Day that year. Universal Studios in Florida and the Pawtucket Red Sox have since begun selling Cool Dogs to visitors and fans. And in 2005, Cool Dogs were available at the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.
Today Franklin's treats are available at supermarkets as well, including BJ's Wholesale Club, Hannaford's, Store 24 and some Wal-Mart SuperCenters. Franklin continues to expand the business. He and his wife, Tara, live in Concord, Mass., where both are devoted to expanding the improving Cool Dog, Inc.