SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Finalist: Paige Tierney

Flapdoodles: A small business experience

Two years ago my family and I decided to pursue our dream of starting Flapdoodles Homemade Ice Cream. Although the store’s unusual name has a dictionary definition of “nonsense and foolish talk,” it holds a lot of meaning and is anything but random. The Flapdoodle was the name of the sailboat that my dad spent many happy hours sailing on as a boy with his family in Alaska. Sailing was one of my grandpa’s great passions, along with ice cream and entrepreneurship. Since my grandpa’s passing five years ago, my dad had always loved the idea of not only starting an ice cream shop but also dedicating it to Gramps’ memory by naming it Flapdoodles. I like to think that the story behind the name embodies the idea that Flapdoodles has been a family effort.

The beginning of Flapdoodles and its continued operation have certainly been an adventure, but it’s a process in which I feel truly privileged to have been involved. Flapdoodles has not only impacted me on a personal level, but on a professional and educational one as well.

In our community, my family’s name has become nearly synonymous with ice cream and Flapdoodles — something of which we are all proud. To be honest, starting Flapdoodles was one of the most demanding times my family has experienced, but I believe we are closer as a family because of it. We all had doubts at the beginning, and there were endless decisions to make. I remember all of us sitting in the living room agonizing over a color scheme for the interior of the store and developing flavors in our little home ice cream maker. Then, of course the tile, chairs, lights and chocolate syrup had to be chosen.

There were many little setbacks, but opening day finally came. That first summer is one that I look back on with mixed feelings. It was all my dad could do to keep up with ice cream production, and although we were ecstatic that the store was a success, he worked incredible hours to keep the operation running. The whole family rallied together to get Flapdoodles off the ground that first summer. Flapdoodles represents a lot of hard work and emotional investment on both my part and that of my family. Even on busy, exhausting days it’s hard to not stand back and feel proud of the end result. Looking back, I’m so grateful for my dad’s effort to involve my sister and me in the starting process. He asked for our input on everything; he wanted us to be a part of Flapdoodles so we could feel proud when it succeeded.

My employment at Flapdoodles has been one of the most valuable experiences of my adolescence. Honing the skills that are necessary to do a job well, such as time management and efficiency, is something that I believe can only be improved by experience. Working at Flapdoodles has certainly given me this opportunity. Additionally, Flapdoodles has shown me what it means to interact with people on a professional level, something I believe is a lifelong skill. As my boss, my dad expects the same quality work from me as he expects from other employees. Consequently he respects my opinion on matters involving Flapdoodles. Working with the other employees has also been a valuable life experience — although not a difficult one considering many of them have become good friends.

Perhaps the area that I’ve grown the most in as a specific result of working at Flapdoodles is learning to interact with customers. It’s always interesting meeting many types of customers and learning to serve them according to their unique expectations.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many valuable lessons I’ve learned simply by watching my dad run Flapdoodles. His work ethic is inspiring to observe. Our family jokes that he can work the equivalent of three normal people, and truthfully I know few people who work as hard as he does. He pours his all into Flapdoodles as only the owner could and acts on his belief that no mundane task is beneath anyone, especially not him.

On a larger scale, Flapdoodles has given me an immense appreciation for small business owners in general. Before Flapdoodles, I had a limited perspective on what it truly meant to run a business. Only after seeing my dad develop and refine skills in countless areas — from finance to food development to customer service — did I realize the unique attributes required to be a small business owner. In many ways they are ordinary people, but no one can deny the rare amount of dedication and perseverance with which they passionately run their businesses.

One of the most satisfying conclusions that I’ve come to by being involved in Flapdoodles is that people genuinely enjoy patronizing small businesses. Because of Flapdoodles’ professional image, customers aren’t always initially aware that it is a privately owned business with a single location, but almost every day I have the opportunity to tell them that it is. I honestly never get tired of seeing their genuine expressions of excitement at hearing this. Sometimes they find out that I’m part of the family that owns Flapdoodles, and I’m constantly amazed at their interest in its background and beginning. For me, these conversations are definitely some of the greatest highlights of being involved in Flapdoodles. Small businesses have a certain intangible quality that give people the desire to support them. My involvement in Flapdoodles has taught me many things, but perhaps the one that has affected me the most is the realization that small businesses are rewarding to all who are involved in them.

This essay was written by Paige Tierney, one of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Paige and the other finalists were selected from more than 500 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Paige or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.