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For many eight-year-olds, toys, video games, sports gear, and candy make up their birthday wish lists. But when Beau Shell, owner and CEO of Lil Ice Cream Dude’s Cool World Ice Cream Shop, turned eight, all he wanted was an ice cream cart. Since 2012 Beau’s passion for ice cream, his generosity towards his community, and his entrepreneurial spirit helped him turn a mobile, neighborhood ice cream cart into a full-blown ice cream shop in Athens, Georgia. We asked Beau about his experience starting a business at such a young age, and how he sees future generations shaping the business industry.
Tell us a bit about your business and why you started it.
I started my business in 2012 when I asked my parents for an ice cream cart for my eighth birthday. I told them to buy me an ice cream cart instead of buying me a lot of gifts and instead of having a large birthday party. I wanted to start my own business so I could earn my own money to give to my school’s missionary. We collected money every week to help build schools in Africa. I believed in the mission, so I wanted to help. I also wanted to earn my own money so I could buy toys, help my family with some bills, and to buy food.
What is Lil Ice Cream Dude’s mission?
The mission of the Lil Ice Cream Dude is to use my ice cream to inspire, help and change my community, my family, and myself with my ice cream –one scoop at a time. My personal mission is to meet Tyler Perry, Barack Obama, Arthur Blank and Bill Gates.
How has the growth of your business diverted from your initial vision, if at all?
My initial vision for this business was to build a good-sized mobile ice cream empire throughout my middle and high school years. I wanted to open my ice cream shop in my first year in college and then begin making my own ice cream by the time I graduated from college. I am ahead of schedule by about four years thanks to my family, community, supporters, and believers all over the country. I will be making my own ice cream this summer, and hopefully my ice cream will be distributed in local and regional grocery stores by the time I leave high school. I am looking forward to opening more locations and serving my own ice cream in my shop. This summer, I am going to work hard in my ice cream shop and in my mobile business to earn the money I need to buy the first of my dream ice cream machines, the Emery Thompson CB 350.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a young minority business owner?There are many challenges I have faced since opening my business when I was 8 years old. These challenges include equipment, opportunities to work, and learning how to run a business. But the biggest challenge has been securing the capital I needed and still need to grow my business. I have never qualified for any loans. Thankfully, several people have come through and helped me with much needed donations and gifts of service, used equipment, and business mentoring.
Are you expanding or hoping to expand into other markets?
Yes! I would love to open another ice cream shop in Atlanta and in Charlotte, North Carolina.
How important to you is diversity in the business community and business leadership?
Diversity is very important to me. I feel that it is needed in our business community here in Athens, and all over the United States in general. I believe diversity in business is a way of honoring and showing respect to all consumers. When people can spend their hard-earned money on something they like and want, I think the economy will always be strong.
How has running a business impacted your life?
Running my business has impacted my life in that it has forced me to make the most of every minute of my day. I am in the 10th grade at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, GA. I am in AP and Advanced/College classes as a dual-enrolled student. I am also in my school’s marching and concert bands as well as a member of my school’s golf team. Trying to do all these things to the best of my ability and work on my business forces me to manage my time very carefully. My business also keeps me busy speaking to several schools and organizations. My life has also been impacted by the opportunities I have been afforded as a young business owner. I have met some famous entrepreneurs and I got a chance to mentor entrepreneurs. I also had the chance to represent my city on several occasions as a speaker and vendor for different events.
When did you know your company was taking off?
I knew my company was taking off when people began to recognize me outside of work and when I was not wearing my uniform. I also knew my business was taking off when I was working almost every weekend of the year and when I was scheduling sometimes three events in the same day. I could also buy more pieces of equipment like more carts and dipping cabinets.
What advice would you give other young minority entrepreneurs considering starting their own business?
The advice I would give other young minority entrepreneurs is to be patient and keep working hard to get the things you need to grow and scale your business. I would also encourage them and let them know that even though they don’t have a lot of capital, they can still start small and keep building. When other people see you working and giving it your all, they will help you by supporting you in different ways.
How do you view small business in our generation today?
I view small businesses like the hope of the future and the start of the next big thing. Small businesses employ people in their community and help families in need.
In your experience, what do you think the future of business looks like for the next generation?
The future of the business for the next generation looks very promising and full of opportunities. As the world becomes more and more diverse, business owners of the future will be well equipped to give the people what they need and want.