When Joel Wegener started an ice cream truck business in order to provide employment for his children with Down syndrome, he had no idea it would become so successful.
As a father of 10 children, Joel is always looking for ways to help them accomplish their goals. So when Joel’s 21-year-old daughter with Down syndrome said that she wanted to work with him, he found a way to make it happen.
Named “Special Neat Treats,” the Wegener’s ice cream truck began making the rounds this spring, and has sold nearly 5,000 desserts since! The business is run by Joel and his adult children, Mary Kate and Josh, who both have Down syndrome. Not only is Joel using the business as an opportunity to teach his kids important life skills, such as how to manage finances and give good customer service, but he hopes it will encourage others to have conversations about how those in the special needs community can become successful members of the workforce.
When asked about his experience running the family business, Joel commented:
“It’s much more than selling ice cream… 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.”
Local neighborhoods have been very excited to show their support for Special Neat Treats, and Joel says that almost every day they interact with at least one special needs family. Mary Kate and Josh are also enjoying working with their dad – they say he gives them good advice about how to work with the customers. In a recent interview, Josh stated:
“[Dad says] make [the customers] smile, and he’s told me about waving at them… Because they love ice cream and they scream for ice cream when asking for ice cream.”
Thanks to their newfound success, the Wegener family’s latest goal is to grow the business into a fleet of ice cream trucks over the next year.