Most college students have a job, some even have two. But Riley Eden is not your average college student. He has two part-time jobs on top of owning an ice cream shop in Edmond, Oklahoma that employs 20 people with special needs.
The University of Oklahoma public relations major has had the dream of opening an ice cream shop for a while, and now owns and operates “The Super Scoop.” The shop has exceeded all expectations, welcoming visitors from all across the country. Now in his third year of college and fourth month of owning his dream business, 21-year-old Eden is trying to find balance between school and his goals.
George Stoia: When and how did this idea of “The Super Scoop” first originate?
Riley Eden: My Sunday school was the inspiration for it, my Sunday school class. It’s a class for adults with special needs at Crossings Community Church. We have “Wings” in Edmond, which is a community for adults with special needs. It’s a day program where they go and do different jobs at different locations throughout the day such as learning how to email on a computer or learning to do their laundry, mow their yard, clean dishes, make food — stuff like that. So we have that, but we have a lack of job opportunities, like actual real work places instead of modified work environments for people with special needs, and so it was a need that I saw. Just by getting to know the people I saw in Sunday school class, that’s just kind of how it got started — just seeing a need and trying to fulfill that.
GS: Why ice cream?
RE: It originally was going to be coffee. But to be successful, you have to have knowledge of your product a little bit, and I don’t really know a ton about coffee — I’ve never been a big coffee drinker. Every now and then I will, but not like every day, but I do eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner — I’m joking. But no, ice cream is a thing where it’s been around for a long time. Coffee is easy to make too, but ice cream is hard to mess up. That was another need that I saw. Downtown Edmond and the surrounding areas didn’t really have a local ‘mom-and-pop’ ice cream store — a small town ice cream store. There are coffee shops around, but not small ice cream shops. And it’s really easy to make, it’s easy to keep up with for the most part. When you’re as popular as our store has been, it’s really hard to keep up with quantity and stuff, but ice cream is something easy for people with special needs to deal with as well. They can scoop it, a lot of them can make it, (and) so that’s why I chose ice cream.
GS: What have been the biggest challenges you and the business have faced so far?
RE: The first three weeks we were open were the three hardest weeks of my life. The first three weeks of Super Scoop it was really fun and I was living it up you know, but it was really, really hard because of how busy we were. Just keeping up with all the logistics and everything. That was a big challenge that we faced. During those three weeks, we were making ice cream constantly all day from — my mom would go up there at seven or eight and starting making ice cream, and then would make it all day until we closed basically to keep up with how much ice cream we were selling. That was some of the big challenges we faced, just keeping up with logistics.
GS: How do you balance that? School and owning/running a business?
RE: It’s definitely difficult. My parents help me more than I could ever express or thank them enough for. They’re a big help, and my little brothers. My little brothers — if I need something, they’re over at the store in hardly no time. So that’s a big thing, and another thing is I work as a tour guide at OU and I work at Apple as well. Those are things that my parents have been willing to sacrifice their time to allow me to achieve those dreams as well. Working at Apple has always been a dream of mine, so just basically family and friends helping me through the whole thing is really the best way to put it.
GS: This has obviously taken a lot of your time and commitment. How important is it to you to keep the Super Scoop going?
RE: It’s critical. If we for some reason stopped the Super Scoop, we’d be putting 20 people with special needs out of a job, and that would kind of lose hope of having another location or anything like that, which eventually is something I’d like to work toward to create as many jobs as we can. So I feel like that would kind of take that away if that was the case.
GS: What’s been your favorite part so far?
RE: Definitely just the joy of the Super Scoop. Seeing the special needs people accomplish everything they’re accomplishing, and just trying to mold to a work environment that hasn’t been modified — working in a real ice cream shop and all that kind of stuff.
GS: What’s the future hold for Super Scoop?
RE: My goals are to have more locations and create more jobs, and that kind of thing. Who knows what direction were headed for now. That’s my goal, to be able to have more locations and stuff like that. As well as being mobile and getting out in the community, and being able to go to people instead of them having to come to us. Maybe having like a truck or something like that, I’m not sure yet.
GS: And for Riley Eden?
RE: My goal, personally, would to be to make sure the Super Scoop stays a success and then to be able to achieve my own dreams at the same time. The Super Scoop is one of several dreams that I have, so I’m just kind of going down the list right now, and being able to achieve all those dreams would be awesome.