Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact

Episode 22: Twice as Ice

July 15, 2021 Create Bridges AR Season 1 Episode 22
Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact
Episode 22: Twice as Ice
Show Notes Transcript

Visiting the 3Cs region, Program Coordinator Murriel Wiley visits owner Tario Danby with  Angie’s snow hut to talk about how his specialty business stays cool under all the pressure of business ownership, community involvement, and COVID-19. In addition to creating shaved ice, delicious smoothies, slushes, rolled ice cream and hometown customer service, this sweet place has been operating in Southwest Arkansasfor more than 20 years and looking at opening a third location. Featuring thousands of flavor combinations, appearances at local events, a social media presence, seasonal hours, and a great date night opportunity, Angie’s Show Hut is an example of how one small business can serve a community in many ways.

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Come join us, explore the impact of small business here in rural Arkansas.

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What challenges would you face? Who can help you meet those challenges? How do you get in touch with others like you?

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This is Create Bridges, Arkansas. And we invite you to come cross these bridges with us.

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You're listening to the latest edition of our Create Bridges podcast series, Arkansas Small Business, Big, Rural Impact.

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I'm program coordinator Murriel Wiley covering Sevier, Little River,  and Howard counties known as our three CS region.

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We thank you all for checking out the newest episode.

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And today we're chatting with our friend Tario Dansby of Angie's Snow Hat, featuring locations and Ashtown and Nashville, Arkansas.

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Angie Snow Hut is a dessert shop.

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They offer shaved ice, delicious smoothies, slushies, rolled ice cream, plus hometown customer service for folks in the local community.

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This Sweet Place to eat has been operating in southwest Arkansas for more than 20 years and still going strong.

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They've got thousands of flavor combinations. They appear at local events.

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Plus they've got a social media presence, seasonal hours, and it's a great date night opportunity.

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Angie's is an example of how one small business can serve a community in many different ways.

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Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Tario. Thank you for having me.

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So we know you're a really busy person. You wear a lot of hats for the store.

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Plus, we're also wanting to learn more about one of the best smoothie places around in general.

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Can you talk to us about your role with this company and how Angie's Snow Hut all began?

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Well, Angie Snow has started about 21 years ago.

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My mom had a vision when she was a child that she wanted to own her own shaved ice shop and she made it a reality when I was about 13 years old.

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From that time, I went from being a 13 year old kid to a manager, a worker, a somewhat small business partner, all before I turned 18.

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So it's been a very, very unique experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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Even at just 13 years old, you were already working in the shop and like a manager role? Most definitely.

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We don't have a choice when our parent owns the shop. So let's talk about the locations.

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Ya'll have two as I mentioned, you've got the Nashville store right here in Howard County, plus the Ashdown store over in Little River County.

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Now, no two small towns are going to be exactly alike and just one county line can change the whole vibe.

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So talk to us about how you manage having two different stores and two totally different customer bases.

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Well, Ashdown, of course, is our first location. That's our baby.

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That's the one that we kind of do a lot of trying and a lot of experiments in. That location has been serving in that exact spot for a very long time,

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almost since we first started. It's kind of a staple in the community. And we actually got placed on the Ashdown-nopoly Board a couple of weeks ago

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because we are one the longest serving small businesses there.

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As far as the restaurants, that location, though, serves a lot of different challenges,

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which is different from our Nashville location, which is a storefront shop.

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Our Ashdown location is outside. It's a walk up location.

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No way to really shelter you from the weather. And that's one of the challenges that we've had.

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And with that location. And you'll be able to treat our customers no matter what the weather. When it comes to customer basis

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that's one thing that me and my mom, which we're business partners, we have went back and forth.

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Ashdown has a unique want and Nashville has a unique want.

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And it's our job to feel both. When creating a Nashville location,

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we looked at what Nashville needed and everyone kept telling us, and we need a shaved ice shop.

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So we tinkered back and forth with the idea. We set our mobile up here a couple of times just to kind of test out the crowd and everything went well.

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So we went fast forward two years later to now we're here.

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This is our second year. Hopefully we'll be here for a very, very, very long time and Ashdown as well.

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I do hope that, too, because I'm a customer of Angie's, so I need ya'll to be here for a long time so I can keep coming back.

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And I love that you noted about the differences. Right.

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You were hearing different desires from your Nashville customers than you were hearing from Ashdown.

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And it sounds like you guys have really paid attention to that. Being in the shaved ice business we try to keep smiles on everyone faces.

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This is one of the happiest places you can ever walk into. Everyone comes in with a smile.

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We never get bad vibes when it comes to coming in the shaved

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ice shop. Everyone comes in smiling, everyone leaves smiling, and we want to keep that going.

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That's part of the business.

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And listening to our customers is the reason why we have as many different selections which we're going to talk about here in just a minute.

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Yeah, we are. You've got thousands of flavors.

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Before we move on of that, I have another question that just kind of popped into my head and I was thinking about this.

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It's not just the Ashdown and Nashville locations. You guys will do pop ups at community events.

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I know for the Fourth of July, you guys came out for one of the events for the holiday in Little River County, didn't you?

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How do you make that work? To go mobile and move around to different events? Being mobile,

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it's a challenge, that's another challenge that we have, because being small business owners, we don't have that many staff.

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So when you start to stretch your locations, you're going to need staff to be able to hold those locations.

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And our mobile is actually the busiest location we have whenever we set it up.

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Did the event at the Ashdown Junior High at the fireworks show.

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And I can say the four hours we were there, we had at least 10 people in line for the entire four hours.

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And people don't really understand the work behind that. They think

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"Oh, you just pop up." You know, it's nothing to it. You know, nothing to get in your building there.

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That's actually very, very, very hard thing to do. And I commend anybody who has a food truck that goes and do things like that.

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Then I commend ya'll. Obviously, it's hard work. Speaking of hard work,

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a lot of small business owners and store managers have to juggle multiple responsibilities. From social media updates to hiring staff,

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ordering inventory. I just know there's a lot to do.

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Plus, sometimes you will get right in there and hop behind the counter and prepare the treats yourself.

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What is your personal secret to time management? Everyone who knows me it might not be the best question for me to answer.

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Do you struggle with time management? I am terrible because I have so many different things going on.

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So my only way of keeping everything straight and keeping everything moving is just to keep going.

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That's one of the things that I kind of pride myself to be able to do.

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If it takes 20 hours in a day to get everything done and it just takes 20 hours, it takes thirty two hours and it just takes thirty two hours.

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That's how it happens sometimes. I've had a lot of mentors that have basically told me that key to success doesn't really involve sleeping.

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I don't know what to tell you, how you got to get your rest to be successful.

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No, I never heard that from anybody because I got to roll with the punches.

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You never know when things might happen. Things might pop up,

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things might change with everything changes to where you have to change your schedule or being flexible and just being able to keep going.

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Don't let nothing get you down. Keep going, keep moving forward. It's my only key to time management that I feel like I'm qualified to share.

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I respect that. But you said something about 32 hours in a day and I'm just wondering where are you getting these extra hours?

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Because I only have twenty four hours in the day and I need to sleep, otherwise it's dangerous for the society, honestly.

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So you're saying that sometimes you'll just go without sleep? Well, sometimes that's a best deal.

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Sometimes like let's say this past weekend I had a event with my nonprofit.

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I also had a lot of marketing stuff. I had to get done with both.

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I actually have some T-shirts I have to make for my nonprofit, as well as getting my mobile together for the Fourth of July.

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So it's Saturday or Sunday. It's kind of a blur, man. You really do it all.

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That's incredible. And we are going to talk about your nonprofit here in a moment.

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But I'm talking a little bit about how Angie's offers more than just snow cones and smoothies.

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I know you guys have healthy choices too. Your menu, has many different items and flavor combinations.

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And I was wanting you to give the listeners a rundown of what you guys have available and how do you come up with ideas for what makes your menu list?

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Our last count was sixteen hundred and around eighty different flavor combinations for shaved ice.

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With that, we owe all that to our customers. Customers come and give us feedback, give us suggestions.

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We go in and we try to figure it out behind behind the scenes and then we'll, you know,

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put some new flavors out. Along with our snow cone flavor, shaved ice flavors.

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We have specialties, things like homemade ice creams and cookies and cream.

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Some of the classic things you get at different places. They come in sundae style.

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We try to blend that in with out shaved ice style and give it a different look.

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We also added smoothies, health smoothies, as well as what we call cream smoothies, which is a little bit less healthy.

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The healthy smoothies is something that I personally was involved in because I'm a smoothie guy.

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You know, I own this shop for a long time for us Ashdown, but I still buy.

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I probably spend fifteen, twenty hours a week at Tropicals, even with me on a smoothie shop.

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Those smoothies is something that I'm just personally invested in. And no matter where I'm at, I don't wait till I get back home for one.

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And I know a lot of people like that too.

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So we wanted to add that to the repertoire when parents come in, because we know, Mom, sometimes they're watching this, they're watching that.

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We want to give them option, too. So being able to listen to that and knowing that the mom is the one spending the money, not the kids,

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and being able to add something to give them to give them a option or something that's very real important to us.

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I did notice that you've got something for everyone.

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Your menu will include something that's crazy, filled with candy and all these awesome designs and it just looks super cool.

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And the kids love those. But then you've got the nutritional facts and the healthy smoothies like the the Auntie G's green juice.

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I love that one. And it includes the calories and the sugars with it.

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So like you said, you really do have something for everyone.

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Yes, ma'am, I went and I kind of modeled that after the smoothie place is now. No one's create new ideas now everything is reused,

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everything is you know re-researched and spent, put a little spin to it and make it your own.

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And that's one thing that we figured that people wanted. So we tried to bring it to them, along with healthy ice cream.

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And we have a flavor of ice cream that is less than 10 carbs and less than 100 calories that we're coming out with very soon.

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We've heard people tell us, man, ice cream is good, but it's just too thick sometimes too sweet for me.

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I might be on this type of diet, on this type of a cut-back. We want to be able to. We've been in the lab.

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It's taken us about six months, but I think we finally came up with a good recipe.

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I love that you say that I need to get in the ice cream lab. The last time I was in the lab, it was biology class in college.

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I need to get in the ice cream lab. That's why we call it behind the behind the counter is the lab. 

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I love that I'm moving on. I know Angie's Show Hut is open seasonal hours.

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And it seems like the covid-19 pandemic hit just around the time that the weather was warming up last year.

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How did COVID affect your business?

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And have you guys been able to get back to normal this summer. Well along with everyone else, covid was a huge punch in the gut for us.

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We had been open just nine months before covid hit.

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Everything was going good. And of course, like you said, the weather was changing.

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And of course, the winter months is not our best month. And we understand that.

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We just getting ready to get open back up and boom, they hit us with covid regulations and guidelines and restrictions.

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And that really does put a damper on that, not only our business, but our whole area.

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As far as this whole shopping center is like a ghost town, this entire shopping center. Now, things have started to somewhat get back on track.

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People are doing a lot of traveling, which is when they leave Nashville.

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Of course, they're not here to visit our shop, but I think that's going to die down here soon.

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And things should be getting getting back starting next summer. Yeah.

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The further we get away from COVId, the more things go closer back to normal, the more that you guys will experience normalcy, too.

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I totally believe that.

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So in addition to all the hats that you wear for the shop, you're also very active in the community with fitness and youth sports.

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Can you talk to us about your life outside the store and how you manage to juggle so many different ventures all at once?

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With my life outside the store is busy.

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One thing that I came up with as far as my life about six, seven years ago is to start going back to what drives me, what's my passions.

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I've worked in many industries from nuclear power to being an electrician to working with athletes, professional athletes,

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with being a football player in college, to there's a lot of different hats I've wore over the years.

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And one thing that kept getting me, no matter how much money I made, was waking up and not being happy, you know,

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waking up and not wanting to go to work, waking up and not wanting to do something anymore, no matter how much money that was paying me.

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So I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. And what I really wanted to do was get back to my community.

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And coach kids, train kids and help them grow up to get to have a good example in their life.

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That, coupled with snow cones, was an excellent combination because, of course, kids and snow cones go together. Down in Ashdown

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I started a nonprofit about five years ago to help provide sports activities for kids. That has turned into me

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starting out with just one sport - basketball. To now I have five sports and probably over one hundred and twenty kids that I train coach,

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mentor in some shape, form or fashion throughout the year. That's going to eventually turn into a trade school,

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hopefully. I'm working on a couple of projects and I started in the area to help

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provide a good training apparatus for young adults to help get them on the right track.

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You know, sports is my way of getting them in.

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And after I get them in and get them thinking a certain way, that's when I try to push other ideas on their brains.

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So just kind of see if we can develop them. I think it's awesome that even after juggling everything you have for the store with inventory or,

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you know, all the different hiring and staff, and then you also are juggling two locations on top of that.

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And you also have this nonprofit, and yet you still just are encouraged to keep going, keep going, keep pushing.

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So it seems like a theme for Angie's Snow Hut. It is not only balance and juggling multiple things, but it's also perseverance.

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Don't don't stop. That's one thing you learn when you play sports.

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No matter what happens in the middle of play, you have to finish finishing as everything.

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So as long as you keep going, don't let anything stop you because things are going to happen.

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You know, COVID happened. But we didn't close the shop. You know, you might be walking and break and ankle but still got to get to your car, get home.

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You know, you got to keep going. Oh, nothing can stop you if you just keep that mindset.

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It seems like things that to me are such a big deal are so not for you.

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I'm like, this man is going thirty two hours straight and not sleeping, broke his ankle and still walk to the car.

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And I'm over here like I got a hangnail. Oh, no.

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Oh, no, call the ambulance. But I love your perseverance and I think that also factors into my next question here.

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I find it notable that you're doing all you do for Angie's Snow Hut and you still maintain your involvement in community workouts, too.

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But you're also leading all of these efforts as a known figure in the local black community.

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Can you share with us what value that you feel black owned businesses bring to a small town?

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I'm going to actually change the small town, to a community,

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because towns can sometimes have little borders to it, but communities seem to flow a little better to me.

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One thing I have noticed with everything going on politically, socially is at the end of the day, we all love each other no matter what.

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It's something that brings us all together and whether it be the snow cone shop,

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which does it for our 98 percent of the people in our community. Whether it be a sporting event,

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whether it be a, you know, coming to congratulate or or to honor someone locally in the community that everyone is touched, touched a lot of people.

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It's always something that brings us together. Being the shaved ice shop, the place, the smiles, the place that no one leaves unhappy.

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It's kind of helped us be a pillar and understanding that it's more important

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things out here than fighting more important things than being different.

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We all want to come together and I want to have fun and I want to enjoy our time together.

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And the shaved ice shop has helped a lot of people do that here lately. It's something that me and my mom and I really noticed and took heed to.

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And we want to keep make sure we keep that going. Because I've been here before,

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Right? And I've seen everyone from, like you're saying, the mom on the diet with three kids all eating the, you know, the smoothies.

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But then you've got the retired couple that's on a date and then you've got the high school friends that are in here after school.

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And you also have somebody like me who's just a single, busy working professional.

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Right. And it doesn't matter what the race of the person coming in.

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It doesn't matter that, I mean, it matters that Angie Snow Hut is black owned.

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But I think what you're saying is Angie Snow Hut is a place where it doesn't matter what walk of life you come from,

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you can just enjoy something delicious,

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nutritious, and spend time with your family and get to know the people that own the shop and have a great experience.

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Most definitely.

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My mom is going to talk to you until you can't talk to you know. She's going to make sure you're comfortable, going to make sure you're happy.

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You're going to make sure you leave smiling. So that's kind of the things we make sure we rely on.

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You mentioned your mom a couple of times. Shout out to her real quick. What is her name? Her name is Marsha Austin. She is Mama Bear.

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She is the person with the dream to have the dream that's kept this going.

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Even when I go off in college and say I don't want to ever do snow cones ever again, she's the one to kept everything going and and really persevere.

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That's my example. And now here you are, speaking of perseverance and continuing to go and push for more,

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they say third time's a charm and that might be true with smoothie shops too. A little

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birdie told me something about plans for a third location of Angie Snow Hut and possibly a drive through with that, too.

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Can you speak on matters or no comment? No press on that right now. We can speak on it to a degree.

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Yes, we are looking at expanding. DeQueen is a location that we've talked about.

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Camden is also a location. New Boston as well. We think in DeQueen to probably be first.

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And we have been experimenting with trying to figure out how to constantly build a food truck that

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has a drive thru window that's strictly drive through because we understand the convenience of how,

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you know, no one really wants to get a car these days. And we understand because we're in the same boat and I feel the exact same way.

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So being able to convert a unit that way, which a lot of people have not done,

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but I think we're going to have to figure it out and have something very special for DeQueen.

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So if anybody can do it, Angie's can, because like I said, the theme of this episode seems to just be balance and juggling.

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So a third location, you probably already have it figured out and it hasn't even opened yet.

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Oh, yes, most definitely. Most definitely. It's always on paper everything's down, everything.

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So I fully respect that. Well, since you guys seem to have it mostly, if not all figured out,

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I wanted to know if you have any advice that you could give to someone who has a vision for a specialty food shop or dessert shop like this,

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and they want to open a business of their own. Research. When we started this, I can remember when I was young, when I was twelve,

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thirteen, before she even bought the business, she went around and we talked.

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I never forget going and visiting right before, two weeks before she bought it,

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going and visiting like eight shaved ice shops just to go and see and get the vibe.

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And I can remember my mom doing that very, very vividly. Research is the biggest thing in the food industry.

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Also, understanding the business overhead is something that is drastically that will end your business if you don't have it under control.

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We have both. Situation from our trailer type cabin type style in Ashdown to our store front here to pull up and our mobile unit,

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we have three different fashions and I can honestly tell you that they have to be ran totally separately, totally differently.

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You can't run one like this the same. So being able to understand and understand your limitations, being able to understand, you know,

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what it is you're trying to achieve and then becoming good at it, don't be second to anything when it comes to being good at what you do.

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And we think we think we're the best shaved ice makers this side of the Mississippi.

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But at the same time, we still try to learn every single day.

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I still research. We still go to the lab and we put big hours and just trying to figure out new stuff,

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trying to figure out how this works with this, how this goes with this.

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So being a constant learner is something I give 100 percent credit to never stop learning.

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I don't give up, keep going. Something's bad going to happen, I promise. So I don't go into it thinking it's not.

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I totally respect it and appreciate it. Is there anything else you would like to add or any other suggestions you have for small businesses out there,

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small business owners or store managers who may be listening right now and you just want to tell them,

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you know, some advice or just anything you think they should know. But don't let the everyday grind overwhelm you. Of course everyone who started

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a business probably started with that way, with their flow chart,

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with the CEO being up top.

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And then they're going to break down into the CFO and your operations executives and and everyone who fills that out nine times out of ten.

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It's only one or two names on that show. It might be twelve boxes, but only one or two names.

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It's a lot of different hats that you have to wear.

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But if if you develop that plan and if you start knocking those boxes off and replacing those boxes with someone else every single week,

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month, year, whatever, that timeline you give yourself, everything seems to work out.

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One thing that we struggle with is social media. That's one thing that me and my mom are dinosaurs, too.

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Even though I'm young, I'm still a dinosaur to social media.

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And one thing that we've learned to help us get our name away from that box is incentivise our work is to do it.

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We have 17, 15, 16, 17, 18 year olds here who are champions in tick tock.

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Yeah. And things like that. Get the Young people on it - that's a very smart business tactic.

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You've got to figure it out at some point when you're up at three o'clock in the morning trying to make Facebook posts,

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you realize let's use some of this young talent that we have because young people can do anything if you get them the right tools.

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I've learned that through working with kids, I can do anything. They're very, very, very intelligent these days.

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So give them parameters, giving them rules to go by and they know how they can get it done for.

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So I love it.

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And social media may be like a whole nother job, but if anybody can juggle it on top of everything else, I think Angie's Snow Hut can wish me luck.

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I wish you good luck with everything. And thank you so much for your time.

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We so appreciate you, Tario. And we thank you all for listening to the Create Bridges podcast series, Arkansas Small Business, Big Rural Impact.

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That is it for today's episode twice as

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Ice. I'm program coordinator Murriel Wiley. For more information about this or any Create Bridges podcast or more about Created Bridges in Arkansas,

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visit uaex.uada.edu/createbridges. The Create Bridges 

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Small Business Big Rural Impact podcast is made possible by a Wal-Mart Grant to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,

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Cooperative Extension, Community Professional and Economic Development Unit and White River Now Productions.