When walking into this chic ice cream shop, you will be greeted with a warm smile followed by a welcoming HOWDY. Howdy Homemade is an ice cream shop in Dallas that trains and employs young adults with down syndrome or autism.
Before starting Howdy Homemade, founder Tom was working to make a positive impact on the restaurant industry. Through Tom's experience growing and selling restaurants, he was always looking at the employees. Tom noticed there were a lot of hispanic employees who needed english classes, but were unable to attend due to the lack of transportation. During slow hours at Tom's restaurants he started a program that taught employees english, allowing them to earn promotions and hold higher positions within the industry. Around 1300 employees went through this program and were able to advance because of Tom's initiative.
In 2015 Tom decided to switch directions and create a positive impact within a different community. Tom founded Howdy Homemade, an ice cream shop located in Dallas that trains and employs young adults down syndrome or autism. Currently fourteen out of sixteen of Howdy Homemade's employees have special needs. These employees are friendly and are excellent ice cream scoopers!
Howdy Homemade employees aren't like your average teenage who dreads working over the summer. These young adults are incredibly grateful for their jobs. Tom brought up an interesting point that special needs people could help decrease the turnover rate in the restaurant industry. Although it may take more time and a unique approach to train an individual with special needs, given the right environment and training, this will create dedicated employees who look forward to coming into work everyday. Currently there are around 240,000 special needs individuals searching for jobs in North Texas. When Howdy Homemade needs back-up for events, they do their best to engage this community in need of jobs. Howdy Homemade sets-up shop at the Texas State Fair and hires locals with special needs to meet the high demand of customers.
However, in certain work environments there tend to be low expectations for special needs individuals. A lot of the "honorary" roles assigned to these individuals are not empowering. Special needs employees have skills and talents, that if utilized correctly can increase the efficiency of businesses. Tom was telling me that it is becoming popular for autistic adults to code because of how their brains function. Similarly, at the mail center there is a man with special needs who loves stuffing the mailboxes. This is something your average employee might dread and put off, but utilizing the skill set of this individual gives him purpose and makes him part of the team. Similarly, Tom focuses on the strengths of his employees. For example, the minds of Howdy Homemade's autistic employees are typically fast paced. Tom utilizes this strength by encouraging them to train and help other employees who may not be able to pick up on tasks as easily.
Tom hopes Howdy Homemade customers leave acknowledging that some of his employees may look or act different, but are capable of doing their job and make an effort to say howdy to each customer that walks in the door. Howdy Homemade strives to create a positive, can-do image of those with special needs. In the future Tom hopes to franchise Howdy Homemade and tweak his business model to put ice cream shops in low income neighborhoods to employ community members there too.
If you are in the Dallas area, I encourage you to stop into Howdy Homemade and cool off with some ice cream. Along with traditional ice cream flavors, Howdy Homemade has unique flavors such as avocado, hot tamale, and their signature flavor Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip. Howdy Homemade employee, Jessica was nice enough to scoop me some Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip. Let me tell you....the Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip is AMAZING! This ice cream shop is trendy and friendly. Employees are lovely and the service is great! I cannot wait to go back! Howdy Homemade will definitely be my go to place this summer.