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Juniata Student Gets $5,000 to Start Ice Cream Business

(Posted April 18, 2005)

Demetri Patitsas and his ice cream truck

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Demetri Patitsas didn't hear a bell when he came up with his winning business idea, but customers will hear bells, whistles, and maybe a little music when he starts operating his ice cream truck business this summer in the streets of Huntingdon and surrounding areas.

"Most kids in the area have never seen an ice cream truck and all the adults remember these fantastic treats from their childhoods, so I am counting on both sales from children and a nostalgia-related business," says Patitsas, a sophomore at Juniata College from Huntingdon studying entrepreneurship. "My business model is providing delicious ice cream and modern service to the community."

Patitsas will debut his truck and his business at a ceremony with JCEL executive vice president John Hille and JCEL director Dr. Michael Lehman at 1:30 p.m., Thursday April 21 at the side circular parking lot next to the von Liebig Science center. Patitsas is the second Juniata student entrepreneur to receive $5,000 in seed capital from the Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (JCEL).

"When Demetri told me his idea I thought it was the perfect business idea for a freshman or sophomore to start," says Dr. Lehman. "He can work during the summer and plan strategies to grow the business during the academic year. He also will learn about negotiating, pricing and supplier relations. Selling the ice cream will be the easy part."
The 20-year-old student came up with his ice cream idea after realizing that he missed seeing these mobile treat machines after athletic events when he was a high school student. "I'm going to be the owner, manager, employee and probably a good customer," Patitsas says.

Patisas has already incorporated his business. Absolute Creo LLC (creo is the Greek word for "cold"), and is in the process of building up his ice cream-man wardrobe. He's thinking about an all-white look, but hasn't decided whether to wear a hat or a bow tie. "My ice cream experts tell me it gets pretty hot in the truck."

Although most of his assets will be frozen, Patitsas already has purchased the most important part of his operation -- the truck. He purchased a 1979 Chevy Good Humor truck for $8,300 from an ice-cream businessman in Philadelphia. He spent most of this year scouring want-ads, auctions and e-Bay for ice cream trucks and closed the deal on an e-Bay auction Friday, April 1. The popsicle-ready panel truck is currently parked at Patitsas' parents home in Huntingdon.

Patitsas says the truck will follow a regular route throughout Huntingdon from May through August. He also plans to market the truck for special events such as birthday parties, reunions, fairs, graduations and other events. For further information, call (814) 643-5026. The truck he purchased is called "Mr. Mustache Ice Cream" but the clean-shaven Patitsas plans to hold a naming contest for his business.

During his search for a truck, Patitsas also made crucial contacts in the frozen treat trade and currently e-mails several ice-cream truck entrepreneurs to seek advice and counsel. "I think what will make this different than my competition is that I'm selling an experience that is almost like an amusement park ride," he explains. "My brother is nine, and his face just lit up when I drove the truck home. It brings out a magical response in children."

He believes his business will be profitable by the end of the summer, although he is concerned about gasoline prices. "My biggest expenses are gas and insurance," he says. "But my goal is not to make a lot of money, it's to provide the community with a new experience and to learn as much as I can."

He plans to operate the business at least for the next two or three summers, but he says his first aim is to learn how to be a successful business owner. "It takes a certain kind of person to be an ice-cream man. They must be friendly, open and willing to provide great service," he says. "I know I can do that."

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.