From 2014-2016, when Jeremy Carlson moved to the Czech Republic to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he found that the easiest part of the culture for him to get used to, hands down, was a little cone-shaped pastry sold along the roadside the locals called trdelnik.

Morning, night, summer, winter. Didn’t matter when or where or why, any time was a good time to enjoy a trdelnik, a soft cinnamon-and-sugar covered cylinder usually filled with fruit or custard or sometimes ice cream.

It was the ideal respite for a young missionary settling into a foreign land.

One night, Jeremy found himself dreaming about the treat. He wasn’t eating it, he was selling it — in America.

When the dream didn’t disappear the next morning, he decided when his mission was over he’d see if he could make it come true.

He had no idea it would lead:

  • To not one but two appearances on Shark Tank.
  • To one of America’s fastest-growing dessert businesses.
  • And, not incidentally, it would introduce him to his wife.

When he first returned stateside, after enrolling in college at BYU-Idaho, Jeremy talked his aunt into letting him use her kitchen so he could try and replicate the trdelnik recipe. When he got close, but not quite close enough, he returned to the Czech Republic to further perfect the product.

In 2018, satisfied he had the right ingredients, he purchased a large canopy tent along with ovens to grill the pastry dough and opened his version of the Czech roadside trdelnik stands — in Rexburg, Idaho.

He called the business Crispy Cones.

To drum up customers, he messaged a local influencer on Instagram named Kaitlyn Sims. Kait was a public relations major interested in social media. Figuring honing Jeremy’s brand and imagery would give her experience that would help with her career, she accepted his salary offer of all the cinnamon-covered pastry cones she could eat.

Thanks to the online publicity, sales quadrupled.

The next year, buoyed by the increasing popularity, Jeremy replaced the tent with a trailer. The year after that, after transferring to Utah State University to complete his business degree, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down. But on the Jeremy-Kaitlyn front, the pace quickened considerably. In December 2020, they were married. “We first became best friends working together,” says Jeremy, “and then … she married her boss.”

With the pandemic behind them and now working the dream together, Jeremy and Kaitlyn opened a brick-and-mortar store in Logan. When that proved profitable, they opened another one in Rexburg.

This was far from the first time Americans had been introduced to trdelnik. Over the years, capitalistic-minded importers had given the old world treat names such as chimney cakes and twister cakes, selling it out of food trucks and treating it as a European novelty, sort of like bagpipes or apple strudel.

Jeremy and Kaitlyn changed the focus. Instead of emphasizing the pastry as something foreign, a novelty you might find at a county fair, they presented it as something Americans could fully understand and appreciate: the world’s tastiest ice cream cone.

The traditional soft serve cone was no longer an afterthought, something to prevent the ice cream from succumbing to gravity; it was now the star of the show.

The concept was unique enough to land Jeremy and Kaitlyn on Shark Tank, the popular TV program that allows budding entrepreneurs to see if they can talk billionaire “sharks” into investing in their enterprise.

Jeremy and Kaitlyn’s pitch asked for $200,000 in exchange for a 10% interest in Crispy Cones.

One of the sharks, Barbara Corcoran, bit. She agreed to the $200,000 buy-in but asked for a 20% stake, which the Carlsons accepted.

That was in March 2023. Ever since, the whirlwind is yet to subside. Buoyed by the national publicity from the TV show — including a rare second appearance in February of this year — and by Corcoran’s expertise at franchising, Crispy Cones keeps growing and expanding.

Already, in addition to the Logan and Rexburg locations, there are two stores open in Arizona, another in California, another in Utah (Provo), with more about to open in Utah (St. George), Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Texas. By the end of 2024, the projection is for 15 franchises to be up and running, with 100 franchise units sold.

“We’re having fun right now,” says Kaitlyn. “It’s almost surreal, it’s happened so fast.”

“This is not a fad,” Jeremy is quick to point out. “This is a treat that dates back 300 years, a treat that is very, very popular in Europe, traditionally presented to kings and queens.”

And to missionaries a long way from home.