Sweet success: ILS supports small business for client

ILS supports small business for client

Story and photo

by Sonja J. Keith

Noah Clay is enjoying the taste of entrepreneurship as the operator of the Conway’s Dream Cart thanks to the support of Independent Living Services.

Jackie Fliss, executive director of ILS, was eating at the new Conway Food Truck Park in downtown when she noticed that there were no sweet offerings. She recognized it as an opportunity for someone at ILS and approached development director/community liaison specialist Dr. Robert Wright, ILS job developer Jordan Dunn and ILS job coach John Schultz.

“They got on board quickly,” she said, adding that the ILS board approved $5,000 in seed money for the project. “They’ve been running ever since. I’m really proud of all of these guys.”

It is the mission of ILS to educate, advocate and provide supportive services to empower families and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. ILS strives to advance the independence, productivity and confidence of people into the community.

ILS typically recruits local businesses to provide employment opportunities for its clients. In this case, ILS broke new ground, helping create a business for Noah to operate. Jackie said she has attended seminars on the topic but this is the first business for ILS. “I consider this a model project,” she said.

John was also familiar with other organizations that have purchased a franchise to operate a business. “We started our own little business,” he said.

In researching refrigerated carts, Jordan and John discovered it would take eight to 10 weeks for delivery if one was ordered. Delivery would be after the summer peak so instead, they opted to design and build their own, in Jordan’s garage. “The collaboration was the best part,” Jordan said.

The refrigerated cart, which took about two and a half weeks to build, was designed with faux pressed metal to resemble an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The cost of materials plus other items to operate the business was about $2,500.

“We wanted it to look classy, like an ice cream parlor on wheels,” John said.

“I was really happy when I saw it,” said Jackie.

The cart has been operational since June 1. “The ILS board loves these guys,” Jackie said. “They have carried out this project in less than two months.”

Noah, Jordan and John worked together to come up with a name for the business. John said it was important for the name to include Conway because they wanted the business to represent the community and its investment in the project.

In addition to a variety of frozen treats, the business is creating screened T-shirts with designs by John on the front and the Conway’s Dream Cart logo on the back. In addition to running the cart, Noah is also learning how to do the screen printing, providing an additional revenue stream for the business.

“I really enjoy working with the ice cream cart,” said Noah, who has had to step outside of his comfort zone to work with the public and operate the business. “Thank you for letting me do this job.”

“Thank you for being willing,” Jordan replied.

“He’s done a good job,” John added.

The Conway’s Dream Cart is at the food truck park 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

In addition to the Conway Food Truck Court, the Conway’s Dream Cart can be used to cater company picnics, employee recognition events, birthday parties and other occasions. “We can work with people and the prices,” Jackie said.

To learn more about the Conway’s Dream Cart and where it will be available, visit its Facebook page.

With continued success, another person may be added to the operation or another cart may even be considered, with Noah providing the training.

ILS is exploring other micro-business opportunities for clients. “I’m proud to serve at a place that wants to innovate,” Jordan said.

“This is our start,” Jackie said. “It’s a good path for some of our consumers…There’s been a lot of excitement about this project. Who doesn’t love ice cream?”