Making a Lil’ Ice Cream Dream a Reality
One of Athens’ youngest entrepreneurs, Beau Shell, the thirteen-year-old owner of Lil’ Ice Cream Dude, sits down with author, chef and one of Athens’ best-known entrepreneurs, Hugh Acheson, to discuss how a gift on Beau's eighth birthday ignited his trailblazing career.
Interview by Hugh Acheson | Photos & Video by Christopher Carson
Hugh Acheson: Lil' Ice Cream Dude, introduce yourself and tell me your name and what business are you in?
Beau Shell: My name is Beau Shell, and I'm the Lil' Ice Cream Dude. I'm 13 years old, and I run my own business, Lil' Ice Cream Dude, LLC. I'm the founder, owner, CEO of that business, as well.
Hugh: You've been doing it for six years, so you started when you were seven years old?
Beau: I started when I was seven years old. It was my eighth birthday. It was a cart that was given to me as an eighth birthday present.
Hugh: So, where was the cart purchased from?
Beau: Well, we purchased it from a family friend because we couldn't find any ice cream carts online that were under a $1,000 or anything.
Beau: They all were expensive because they were good ice cream carts, so we had to find a family friend to make a custom frame for an ice cream cart, so I could push it around. It was my same height, so I could actually go down and get ice creams bars that were in the bottom.
Hugh: That is awesome. You're from Athens, and you grew up here and the family's been here a while, right?
Beau: Mm-hmm (Right.)
Hugh: Where do you go to school?
Beau: I go to school at Athens Christian School.
Hugh: That's great. I started my business when I was 27, this one that we're in (5&10 restaurant), but it was in a different location, but you started a lot younger than I did. You're going to have a lot of experience by the time you get to 27.
Video by Christopher Carson
What was the idea behind the work and the business? You wanted to make some money, obviously. But what was the influence? Why ice cream?
Beau: Well, I chose ice cream because I liked it, and I knew everyone else liked it. Ninety-nine percent of the world loves ice cream. It's basically a true fact. There's very few people who don't like ice cream, and so I started.
Hugh: Who doesn't like ice cream?
Beau: (Laughs) I know, right? It's crazy.
Hugh: That's wrong (if you don’t like ice cream). Do (you think) they get those headaches?
Beau: I don't know.
Hugh: I get those once in a while.
Beau: (Laughs) Me too, sometimes.
Also, I want to make ice cream. It's a little off topic, but I want to make ice cream that's lactose free, gluten free and dairy free and other types of stuff, so I can help other people who can't really eat ice cream, eat ice cream as well.
But I started my business because I wanted to make my own money, and so I could do many things like buy the toys I couldn't get because we didn't have enough money, or give to my school's missionary because we also didn't have enough money, or help my family because we didn't have enough money.
Hugh: It makes the world go round, I guess. But it doesn't seem to me to be your main motivation. You just seem like a kid who's just dedicated to doing a lot and really thinking and trying hard and then the community aspect of giving to the missionary, that's amazing work. That's very cool. How'd you think it fits in and Lil' Ice Cream Dude as a business fits into Athens? Tell me about where you're selling the ice cream and what that means to you?
Beau: Well, I sell ice cream where anyone books me. I want to give people a free chance to book me as well, but I sell around my community, mostly, because I want to show that I love my community as well – not that I just want a lot of money. I do very small events, and I also do fundraisers because I like to give back to my community because they support me very well, and I like to support my community as well.
Hugh: I think that's a great reason. Athens has been very special to me over the years. It has built my name, and my career up, and I think that unless you realize the community you're in, then it’s kind of pointless to be a member of that community. From your perspective, what do you love about Athens?
Beau: I love almost everything. I love how we have a good police force, and our police force tries to help the community and be engaged with the community. I like how we have a lot of small businesses, and there's a chance for everyone to make their own business or do what they want to do. I like how there's so many jobs we can do as well. Having one (a job) that can do something. And I love how there's people with giving hearts, because not everyone has the best of luck, so we have organizations and charities to help those who need help. And I like how we also have healthcare and we have more ... just a hospital in general because some people don't get hospitals.
“I love how there's people with giving hearts, because not everyone has the best of luck, so we have organizations and charities to help those who need help... If you give, people will give to you. It's not only just one person doing the whole thing, you can do it together.” - Beau Shell
Beau: I'm just so thankful because our community's really successful. I love it.
Hugh: We have two great hospitals, which is awesome, and I think all those things make Athens great. What do you want Athens to be? If it's great right now, how can it get better?
Beau: I think it can get better with a full attendance (to events) because not all the time we can get everybody. But I'd like to have at least maybe 85-90 percent of people attendingsome of these events and some of the places we go. And everybody helping out the community and giving their all. If you give, people will give to you. It's not only just one person doing the whole thing, you can do it together. It's more like it's a community, and it's together. So, that's what shows everything and shows the beauty of our friendship with other people and how it's easy to meet strangers.
Hugh: My dad's an economist. I always view it as a big circle. If I can help a local farmer, or buy ice cream from you, you're paying taxes within a community that helps schools, and then the schools go back and help raise our kids. And so it becomes this really cyclical, wonderful thing. But it really revolves around everybody being engaged in the process, engaged in your community, and you're definitely doing that.
For your business to grow, you're 13, what do you want your business to be?
Beau: I want it to be basically like the old ice cream (days), where we would not be afraid to go to an ice cream man – that he might steal my children, or he might take some money that wasn't rightfully his. That we can have trust.
Hugh: Is this happening a lot? Are there bad ice cream dudes?
Beau: I think that's why they went away because no one can trust them.
Hugh: Well, you look very trustworthy. I don't think anybody's not going to buy ice cream from you. You're nonthreatening – I gotta to be honest.
Beau: Arrr! (laughs). Basically, I just like to have new faces and young people, trustworthy people instead of (you know). Old ice cream men are still good. But now our people trust them again, so we can have new people on the face of ice cream. And we can have another generation come into ice cream and change the world with ice cream.
Hugh: Two words. Drone delivery.
Hugh: You know you gotta make it work. I trust you to do this, but it's gotta be cold. There's some issues we need to figure out, but we can work on it. I'm always happy to give advice.
Community inspires you, I see that, so what are you working on right now in the business or even outside the business that really excites you?
Beau: Right now, we're working on getting a place, so we can have a commissary. So we can have a commercial kitchen, where we can make our own ice cream, so we can actually (have) my own brand with ice cream in it. What's a brand without ice cream, if you want to be an ice cream brand?
Hugh: What's your favorite ice cream flavor that you would make?
Beau: I would make my own flavor of me and my logo on the back.
Hugh: But, what flavor – like vanilla, chocolate chip or mint?
Beau: It would be chocolate chip, vanilla, whatever ice cream you could make.
Hugh: But what do you want to eat?
Beau: I want to eat every ice cream – just a full ice cream – a rainbow ice cream.
Hugh: You are non-preferential when it comes to ice cream flavors.
Beau: They're all good!
Hugh: Any ice cream is good.
Hugh: Give me a name of somebody within the community in business who you really look up to?
Beau: I look up to really a lot of people, but the most I look up to is my friend, Broderick (Flanigan) and Life the Griot. Broderick does painting, and Life, he's in charge of Chess and Community, and he does all types of conferences and events to help the community.
Hugh: He is an amazing man who does so much for the community, and that trip to Africa they just took, that was cool. That was very cool. Someone we should interview within your field, who sells you the ice cream? Is that an interesting person in the community?
Beau: Very interesting. (Laughs)
Hugh: Very interesting. Not sure if that's a good thing. What's his name?
Beau: His name is Mr. Gerald Scoggins.
Beau: He's the distributor. He helps me a lot. I'm very thankful for him. I like that even though we may disagree, we still love each other, and it's a very nice friendship between me and him and my business.
Hugh: You are a peacemaker in this world. We need more of you. OK, well, I think that, that really does it. I think in this world of being an entrepreneur and being involved in your business and in your community, you're just blazing a trail at such a young age. That's so cool to watch. I see greatness in your future.
Beau: Thank you very much.
Hugh: That's a fortune cookie.