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Just a girl and her ice cream trike

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By Erica Hemingway

I was never a natural salesperson, but I started my own business, Erica’s Exquisite Ice Cream Trike, when I was 16. In my mind, I was probably the last person who should have done it. 

Ignoring the idea didn’t make my problems go away. I was a struggling high school student, trying to balance grades and two competitive sports. The dread of student debt was already in my thoughts.

I needed a job like everyone else, and I needed it fast. I couldn’t even fathom fitting a job into my already busy life, since I was barely getting enough sleep as it was. Besides, there was nowhere I really wanted to work.

The only place I really considered working at was this small, cozy chocolate shop cramped between a maternity store and a rotten alleyway in my hometown of Listowel, Ont.

Some of my warmest memories were from there, one being when my family would stand outside the shop during my town’s annual Santa Claus Parade and sip hot cocoa. They had the most colourful flavours—rainbow, birthday cake, cotton candy, and not to mention their signature chocolate moose tracks.

But they weren’t hiring. Jokingly, I told my mother that I should just start my own ice cream business.

“Oh yeah?” She responded. “Where?”

“I wouldn’t open a shop—I’d just get an ice cream bike,” I said, thinking this would really throw her off.

Laughter erupted in the room. My friends and family found the idea adorable. However, as the night went on, we began to fantasize about it.

We lived just on the outskirts of Kitchener/Waterloo, and we realized that this could actually work in my favour, since it wouldn’t take long for advertisement to spread.

I’d be able to make my own work hours, and perhaps even make enough money in the summer to spend the rest of my time focusing on school come September.

I had no idea where to start—but it soon became clear to me that running a business was like doing anything else in life. You need support from friends and family, and you need to try.

With the help of my family and friends from that night, we found an old Dickie Dee bike being sold for a good price on Kijiji. It came with a fridge and freezer packs to put in the trike. It wasn’t long before we found a company that delivered packaged frozen products to my doorstep every week—and that was all I needed to hit the streets.

I won’t lie to you, it was a slow start-up, and I hated it at first. The bells on the trike were loud and obnoxious—I felt like quite the idiot biking around with this huge, oddly shaped freezer in front of everyone I knew. My worst introverted nightmares were coming to life, and I wanted to lock the blasted thing up and never look at it again.

That attitude changed quickly when I sold my first popsicle. I pulled up to a baseball game (like it were a movie) and this little girl shouted “Ice cream! Ice cream!” while she ran toward me. The popsicle was bigger than her head and her eyebrows shot up in excitement. She thanked me before dashing back towards her parents.

Once I realized how happy it made the kids in my town, I became more confident, and it started to become a success. Not only did the treats thrill the kids, but their parents enjoyed the trike too.

Countless adults have come up to me and told me about their own childhood memories chasing after Dickie Dee trikes.

It became an eventful job—I sold ice cream at baseball and soccer games, swim meets, and at local businesses throughout the week. Car salesmen would come out on hot days to get a snack on their break.

Not to mention that I spent roughly all of my time sitting in the shade of a park on lazy summer days, selling treats at the playground (and even lucky enough to have time to read a book in between customers).

My ice cream trike helped me pay towards some of post-secondary education while abling me to focus on school and extracurriculars during the fall and winter months in my first year.

Any idea, even if laughable, can be something worth pursuing. And even if you think you’re the worst person to do it, you’re not.

I was lucky enough to have fantastic family and friends to help with the startup of this crazy idea, and with them, along with the steady success of the business, my confidence grew.

Despite being introverted, busy and just a normal high schooler—I learned to be bold.

I was able to run a successful summer business that fit right into my schedule and, eventually, helped me pursue what mattered most: university.

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