People of Northwest Public Radio
Ice Cream Truck Business
Mon July 23, 2012
With Few Prospects, College Duo Start Summer Business With A Twist
This summer, college seniors looking for jobs are low on options. In fact, government statistics show that more than half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or working jobs that don’t require college degrees.
Two seniors at the University of Oregon decided to stop waiting for conventional jobs. Instead, they set out to create a new version of one of America’s staple summertime businesses.
When you think of college start-up businesses, ice cream truck is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But for Trevor Mathwick and Taylor Robart, inspiration had to come somewhere, and it did when the two were at a rowing competition last fall in Georgia.
“An ice cream truck pulled up and someone said, ‘What if it played Dubstep?’” Mathwick recalls.
Dubstep is the robot-sounding, bass throbbing, electronic music that has been consuming college campuses in recent years.
“As far as a small business idea, it was the best business idea I’ve ever heard," Mathwick says. "And it stuck with me.”
Three months and $10,000 later, Mathwick and Robart had their ice cream truck, and this thing is unlike anything local neighborhoods had ever seen before.
Robart says the plan is to be as big and loud as possible.
“We went supersize with it. We have a 22-foot truck as opposed to the usual 16- or 18-foot van that somebody would usually drive," he says. "Our whole premise is that we want to be more of a social event and a social phenomenon than a business that just goes out and plays annoying music and takes your money.”
The two were enthusiastic at the beginning of the day, but quickly music wasn’t the only thing filling the truck. They got started two hours later than scheduled, and tempers roared.
“We can’t rush this stuff, like there’s no way to do it," Mathwick says. "There’s just no time, it doesn’t exist.”
“That’s called giving up,” responds Robart.
“It’s not called giving up.”
“Yeah, ‘There’s no time, it doesn’t exist to do it’ is called giving up.”
Eventually cooler heads prevailed, and we set off down a busy Eugene thoroughfare.
It wasn’t long before we were brought to a halt by a hoard of car dealership salesmen, who came out of their office waving and shouting for us to pull over.
“We flagged you down to come in here and give us ice cream,” one of the salesmen says.
Ten minutes later, driving down the highway, Mathwick and Robart encounter their most enthusiastic greeting of the day: a woman in her 20s actually flashed her breasts.
The reception was certainly warm, but, on this particular day the cash flow was cold. Above the sales window of the DubCream truck a cutout cardboard sign reads ‘debt clock - $10,000.'
Mathwick says it will require at least 200 sales per day this summer to recover that amount -- far more than the 95 on this afternoon. But, the more I talked to the duo, the more I realized that this wasn’t really a scheme to make money. In today’s economy, it was more about the experience. Any experience.
“A lot of students are starting up businesses right now because they just don’t have any other options," Mathwick says. "I think a lot of them will start ‘em and quit halfway."
"Today was a pretty brutal day. They're all pretty brutal. If I still have a friendship with Taylor by the end of the summer that would be a pretty epic thing.”
The Dubstep Ice Cream Truck can be seen seven days a week on Eugene streets this summer.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network
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Dubstep Ice Cream Truck