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Driving a Dream Into A Reality

Riley Eden scooping ice cream

Feature Story

Driving a Dream Into Reality

See how an OU student turned a good idea into a sustainable business with a social mission.

 

Anyone can have a great idea, but very few fearlessly drive that idea from conception to reality. Riley Eden, a public relations major in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is one of those rare few.

 

When he realized his community was lacking safe and supportive workplaces for adults with special needs, he thought of a sustainable solution, and he didn’t waste time making it happen.

 

An Oklahoma native, Riley volunteered at a program called Wings for several years during high school and college. The mission of Wings is to enhance the lives of adults with developmental disabilities by providing job training, community events, and educational opportunities. The program plays a crucial role in the community, but after years of volunteering there, Riley recognized there was still a gap. “After high school, there aren’t that many options for adults with special needs,” said Riley.

 

He decided he would open an ice cream store called The Super Scoop, where he could train and employ people with special needs.

 

He found another ice cream store with the same mission in Dallas called Howdy. Without hesitating, he jumped on I-35 heading south, and visited the store in person. He wanted to see the business in action and meet the employees and owner.

 

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“I knew this business idea could be a great opportunity for my friends at Wings, and it was an even better opportunity for the entire community in Oklahoma.”

Wings provided job training, but there was a short list of places where adults with developmental disabilities would feel comfortable and safe working. His idea: he needed to create that workplace. The very next day, this public relations major began taking steps to launch his own business.

 

When Riley walked into the store, the employees greeted him with an enthusiastic, “Howdy.” “From that moment on, I was sold,” said Riley smiling.

The store front of The Super Scoop, an ice cream store in Edmond
Riley Eden scooping ice cream
An ice cream scoop in a bright red cup

His Gaylord courses took on new meaning that spring semester. In class, he was a student. Outside of class, Riley was working toward opening the Super Scoop in May.

 

He designed the shop logo for a course assignment and had a new frame of reference for everything he was learning. Lessons suddenly had a direct application to his business venture. 

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Gaylord FTF Photoshoot

When he opened the doors that May, his hard work had paid off. “We had a line out the door every single day,” Riley said.

 

The shop’s location in downtown Edmond, an emerging entertainment district surrounded by other local stores and restaurants, primed it to be the city’s summer hang out. “Our lawn was like the city’s backyard,” Riley said. “In the summer, it feels like the whole city is here, sitting at the picnic tables, playing corn hole and checkers.”

“Getting the word out about the ice cream shop, knowing how to tell our story, building our brand on social media, I credit all of that to Gaylord,” said Riley.

Riley Eden, an OU student, standing in front of the ice cream store he started

So far, the most rewarding part of starting The Super Scoop is seeing the confidence of his employees increase every day.

 

After a successful year at the Edmond location, Riley was able to open a new location on Campus Corner in Norman. Now in his senior year, he splits time running both locations and taking classes. If the opportunity is there, he plans on continuing to run the stores and expand.

The Super Scoop's big blue sign in front of the store

His favorite part of the job is working in the summer, when the whole community comes together at his shop.

 

He especially loves to overhear how customers explain the game of checkers to each other. “I’ve noticed that everyone plays it a little differently and has their own way ofexplaining it,” he said. “I think it’s a good metaphor for how people with special needs learn. Everyone learns differently, and that’s a good thing. It’s something to be celebrated.”

 

The Super Scoop could have stopped as a good idea. Most do.

It’s easy to have a good idea. Everyone has them. But few take the risk to see them through. Riley worked hard, used resources at OU, garnered support from friends and family, and dedicated himself to a great idea. Because of this, he transformed that intangible dream into inclusive and joyful businesses for his entire community.