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We all scream for ice cream

Family builds business smarts this summer

July 3, 2012

A Wauwatosa family is pedaling through Wauwatosa neighbors peddling ice cream treats.

Melissa and Matt Stippach have started TundraTrike to provide their children Kaitlin, 11, and Ben, 9, with some business experience and a lesson in responsibility.

Last fall, the family purchased an ice cream bicycle and formed a company.

"The kids have always liked to operate a lemonade stand," Matt Stippach said. "This is taking it to the next level."

Budding entrepreneurs, the kids were enthusiastic to participate.

"When I heard about it, I thought 'money and exercise,' " Kaitlin said excitedly.

The family had the hard job of sampling frozen treats and deciding on their inventory, which includes Kaitlin's favorite, Drumsticks, and Ben's top choice Swiss Miss Fudge Bars.

"I pretty much like everything," Ben said. "It's hard to choose."

Customers also will find Klondike bars, ice cream sandwiches, Bomb Pops, frozen lemonade and Italian ice in a variety of flavors.

The Stippachs applied to the city for street vendor and food licenses, a process that took a bit longer than expected because there's never been a request for a vending bike, Melissa said.

The business launched on Father's Day in East Tosa. The family lived in that neighborhood for many years before relocating within Tosa, and they wanted to sell to friends and classmates.

The family put on three miles that day, finding that Drumsticks and Italian ice proved exceptionally popular, Ben said.

The city doesn't allow amplified music coming from vehicles, which would let people know the ice cream bike was in the neighborhood. So the youngest member of the family has been perfecting his sales call - ringing the bell on the bicycle, yelling "ice cream" and ringing the bell once more.

It's possible the Stippachs will approach the city about changing the law as a lesson in government for the kids, their mom said.

If the family wasn't out selling, they'd be taking bike rides together. Either way it's bonding time, Melissa said.

They plan to stop at Longfellow Middle School while Ben plays baseball or the Recreation Department offers T-ball, set up shop at Chili'n on the Avenue and be available to show up at special events and birthday parties.

The initial proceeds are going to be reinvested in the business.

"We are thinking of buying another bike," Kaitlin said.

When the kids are older they will be able to take the bikes out themselves and raise money for college, their parents said.

For now, they're busy learning about small business and having dinner table discussions about supply and demand.

"It's rewarding to see them excited about it," Matt said. "They're already paid back for the initial ice cream investment."

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