Joel Wegener of Loveland, Ohio, started an ice cream truck business for a reason much sweeter than the delicious treats he sells.
As a dad of 10 children, Joel is always looking out for his kids. That includes Josh, who is 18, and Mary Kate, who is 21. They both have Down syndrome, which, unfortunately, has made it difficult for them to find employment.
Mary Kate finished up at Pathways, a program designed for people of all abilities, not long ago. While she was there, she was often asked questions about what she would like to do. Her answer: “I wanna work with Papa.”
That’s when Joel decided to take action to make her dreams come true.
One of his first steps was buying an ice cream truck. Fittingly, he was able to purchase one from another family with special needs in Indiana. Soon after, his wife Freida came up with the perfect name for their new business: Special Neat Treats.
Although their business is still relatively new, they’re already a massive hit! In fact, according to Joel, they’re “exceeding expectations” with thousands of desserts sold. They’re even planning on expanding outside of the Cincinnati area with more trucks next summer.
All the while, Joel is spending precious time with his children and teaching them valuable financial and social skills, such as how to manage money and how to interact with customers.
One thing they love is smiling and waving to customers who, according to Josh, go crazy for their ice cream!
“Because they love ice cream and they scream for ice cream when asking for ice cream,” the teen said.
Joel created this business for his kids, but their mission goes beyond their family. It’s about the special needs community as a whole — and raising awareness about the difficulties they face.
“It’s much more than selling ice cream,” Joel said. “It’s about an experience for everybody, but to give my kids something to do and show other parents maybe there is something creative, out of the box that we can come up for our family and for our kids to do.”
The impact they’re having can easily be seen in the way their business has blown up and in the customers they interact with every day.
“Almost every time I go out, I find a family with special needs or with some connection. It’s just been an unbelievable journey,” Joel said. “No matter what your abilities are, there’s something that you can do and you can spread joy and interact with other people.”
Share this story to spread the powerful message behind Joel’s sweet family business.
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