It’s summer and school is out, but Kendall, 11, and Kellen, 12, Dahlen are learning valuable skills they probably won’t get in a middle school classroom.
The siblings started their own ice cream truck business, Summer Party Ice Cream, as the school year was winding down, and with the help of their parents, they’ve been selling frozen treats across the southwest metro four days a week this summer.
The venture started with Kellen’s desire to get a summer job. He searched for businesses that would employ a 12-year-old, but 15 seemed to be the minimum age requirement. So Kellen, who already runs a coin-operated laundry machine in an apartment complex his father owns, decided to make a job for himself.
“I wanted another job and so did my sister,” Kellen said. “We’d rather be our own managers rather than have someone manage us.”
Their mother, Megan, found a food service van listed online at a price their business plan would allow and asked the kids if an ice cream truck is a business model they’d like to pursue.
“My mom doesn’t really want us sitting at home, she wants us to be active in the summer,” Kendall said.
“My husband and I liked this model because it forced them to get out from behind a screen and into human conversation,” Megan said.
The siblings bought the van and established a business plan for Summer Party Ice Cream, where the kids own 25 percent each and their parents own the remaining 50 percent of the business as investors.
One of the first things the kids learned about starting a business was the extensive paperwork and planning. The van sat in the driveway for awhile until insurance was worked out and even then, permits had to be acquired.
“I’ve learned about insurance, I’ve learned about taxes, I pretty much learned everything people learn when they’re 20 or 21, when they move out of the house,” Kellen said.
Summer Party Ice Cream has permits to operate in Jordan, Carver, New Prague, Chaska and Victoria and they’re working on getting permits in Savage and Prior Lake.
Each sibling tries to work two shifts a week. They work individually since there are only two seats: one for the driver (mom or dad) and one for them. They work in four-hour shifts, traveling to several communities, offering about 30 varieties of packaged frozen treats.
The kids keep a keen eye on what areas and which products best serve their clientele. They’ve identified their most effective stops as Bridle Creek in Jordan and the Chevelle neighborhood in Chaska. They’ve identified certain trends.
“We have chocolate eclairs and orange bars, those are usually (for) the older people that used to witness ice cream trucks when they were younger,” Kellen said. “They remember all of the chocolate eclairs, strawberry shortcake and the dream bar, things like that.”
Younger kids tend to gravitate toward ice cream pops that are shaped like famous cartoon characters, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Outside of driving the truck, most operational duties are handled by the kids. After a trip, Kellen tallies what they earn and Kendall restocks the truck.
“I have to fill out deposits slips and all that,” Kellen said. “Usually I run out to get the ice cream but she fills out the list of what to get and what we need more of.”
Kellen primarily handles finances, taxes, insurance and social media while Kendall developed business cards, uniforms and agendas for the family’s Sunday night business meetings.
“It’s been fun to watch them navigate through things and realize all the costs that go into running a business,” Megan said.
Megan and Nick are largely hands off when it comes to running the daily business and allow the kids to make mistakes and learn from them. Megan said there have been instances where she’s silently observed the kids miscount change to the benefit of the customer.
“We just let it go because then when they balance they’ll be like ‘Oh, we’re off somewhere’ and that’s just a normal thing,” she said. “We’ve given them a lot of room to move and grow.”
The kids plan on continuing the business through their middle and high school years. Kellen said he wants to purchase an additional truck when he is old enough to drive. In the short-term they’d like to implement GPS software that would pinpoint the truck’s location online when they’re open.
Currently, the kids broadcast their schedule on social media. They said if people can follow the truck in real time, however, it would allow customers to have money in hand when the truck arrives, making the whole operation more efficient.
Summer Party Ice Cream also books private events. The kids are working a lot of birthday parties this summer and later this month Kendall will serve ice cream at a gymnastic camp in Chanhassen that has 200 to 300 kids enrolled.
“That’s probably the biggest event we’ll have this year,” she said.
The kids hope to make an appearance at several public events this summer, like Jordan’s Night to Unite on Aug. 7 and a few back-to-school open houses before they put the truck in storage when the school year starts.
For the most part, they’ll put their earnings in storage as well.
“I’m saving up for college or a car,” Kendall said.
Through it all, the kids have found the family business has not only enriched them financially, but personally as well, due to the extended time spent working with each other and their parents.
“You get to spend a lot of time with your parents,” Kellen said. “We’re spending like five hours in the car and just yesterday I’m with (my mom) and she’s telling me stories the whole time while we’re driving around. I think it’s really good because we get to bond more.”