This month’s kid heroes are two brothers who made a sweet ice cream dream come true.
When 18-year-old Michael and 17-year-old Andrew Hull of Bella Vista were 15 and 16 and old enough to get jobs, they decided they wanted to start their own business.
“We wanted to get out and do something different,” says Michael.
“We’d kind of been wanting to do our own thing,” Andrew adds.
The boys thought about opening a lemonade stand, but decided that was “too cliché.” Then they remembered this great ice cream they had when they were in Hawaii visiting the Dole plantation. It was called Dole Whip, and it was “the best ice cream we ever had.” They thought, “why don’t we have an ice cream stand?”
The boys went to their parents with the idea of opening an ice cream food truck, who pointed out one little problem: the boys didn’t have the money to buy the truck. Mom and dad told Michael and Andrew they’d have to go to work to earn the money.
Mom Julie didn’t think they’d actually do it. “Their dad and I told them that if they bought the truck, we’d help them with the rest of it,” she says. “Honestly, I thought they’d give up before they raised all that money.” Now, she says, they couldn’t be prouder of them.
The boys kept at it, working and saving their money, and after about a year they had raised the money they needed. They found a used food truck in good shape, and then the real work began.
“I really thought we’d just buy the thing and open up the next day and start selling ice cream. I didn’t think about all that other work,” Andrew laughs.
And it was a LOT of work. Luckily, their dad is a plumber “and knows how to do everything” so he helped the boys.
“Dad did more than his share for sure,” says Andrew. They put in new walls and floor, a sink, ran the lines for the ice cream machines and more to get the trailer ready.
“I definitely learned a lot about building things,” Andrew points out.
Michael remembers “When we first got the ice cream machines there was probably a solid two months when we would just try out the flavors and experiment with combinations. Some of them would work and some of them really wouldn’t work,” he laughs. “That’s how we came up with some of the flavor combinations.”
There was something else the boys had to decide: where to put their ice cream truck. Michael says they had done a lot of biking around Lake Bella Vista, and realized there weren’t a lot of options for food or drink there. After a lot of discussion they decided on a spot in the parking lot near the Veterans Memorial in Bella Vista. “It got a lot of foot traffic, and there was nothing else on that side for people who were walking or biking around Lake Bella Vista or visiting the memorial.” says Andrew.
The boys approached the NWA Veterans Council, who owned the land, and negotiated a rent agreement. The Veterans Council is happy with the arrangement, and so are the boys. “We pay them rent, we give them donations on Saturdays and we get to help out the Wall of Honor and the veterans too,” Michael notes.
The boys hired someone to design their logo for their business, which they named “Crazy Willies” after a kooky cat they had when they were younger who loved ice cream. They started selling shirts and hats with their logo on them a couple of months ago.
Crazy Willies opened in April of this year and will close for the winter on October 31st. They plan to open again in the spring.
The ice cream business was even more successful than they had imagined. They’ve found that people love the ice cream as much as they did. It’s gluten free and dairy free too, which is appealing to a lot of people.
Being in business for themselves has been a real learning experience for Michael and Andrew. And selling their favorite ice cream is just a small part of it. “It’s 100% about going out and talking to people,” says Andrew.
The boys have also learned how to do payroll, taxes and other things that they didn’t think about. Some good, some boring. It has been more work than they thought it would be. And they still work other jobs, because little things always come up that cost money.
“This week an animal chewed through a hole in the water hose,” Andrew told us. “You can’t have ice cream without water, so I had to run around and find a hose and replace it.”
“I went into the summer thinking ‘oh man, I’m gonna have all this time to play on the computer, but no…” Michael says, “Sometimes I have to come in when I don’t really feel like it, when I have a day off or have other plans. It takes a lot of work to build up a business.”
Would they advise starting a business with your brother? “No way,” says Michael with a laugh. But then adds, “we have our disagreements, but we always talk it through and work it out.”
And what advice do they have for kids who want to start their own business? Andrew says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We couldn’t have done this without the help of our parents, the community, the veterans, the Bella Vista Property Owner’s Association and others. People want to help, you just have to ask.”
Michael advises “Don’t give up. Just keep at it, work hard, and your dream can come true. It’s worth it.