By James Barragan Austin American-Statesman.
When I called Liz Mewborne to ask what her daughter's ice cream truck looked like so I could recognize it when we met up, she replied with a chuckle: "Oh, you'll notice it."
She was right. I did.
Las Hermanas Ice Cream Truck, operated by Mewborne's teen daughters Julia and Nina, is identifiable not because it's a bombastic ice cream truck calling out for attention, but because of its charming cuteness.
The vehicle is a small cargo van with a logo that has two ice cream cones with faces meant to resemble the two girls.
"We wanted to be different," said Nina, 14, who was only 13 when the sisters started tackling their business plan. "We wanted our logo to look cute. We're two young teen girls and it fit our personalities."
But the girls are serious about their business and also about giving back from their earnings. They recently began making enough money to donate 10 percent of their earnings to the Alzheimer's Association Capital of Texas Chapter, in honor of their grandfather, who has lived with the disease for 10 years.
"He was always super supportive of anything we've done -- our lemon stands and any other crafts things," said Julia, 18. "We wanted to pick something where we could help."
The sisters had kicked around the idea of an ice cream truck business since they were children, when they saw one while visiting North Carolina. Why didn't their neighborhood have one?
Last year, with Julia licensed to drive, the sisters put their plan into action. With some funds from their parents they began preparing to launch their business, which included filing for operating licenses and tax requirements.
Luckily, their dad is an accountant, so he guides them through some of the fine points in that area, which the girls say is "not as fun as the driving around part."
They also had to line up an ice cream supplier, which initially was Blue Bell. But after the recent recall, they had one of their first business decision to make when they temporarily shifted to local Yumi's Ice Cream as a supplier.
The girls spent the summer getting their paperwork in line and started operating in September. Since then, they've gained some fame in the neighborhoods surrounding their home in West Austin. During the four days a week that they operate, little kids chase after their ice cream truck and an elderly couple on a cul-de-sac they regularly visit eagerly await their ice cream truck.
They usually operate within a five- to 10-mile radius of their home near Lake Austin.
"My favorite thing about driving the ice cream truck is when adults come up to us and say it reminds them of when they were kids," Julia said.
The girls have been invited to sell their products at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, which they both attended until this spring when Julia graduated, and have also attended charitable events like the Walk to End Alzheimer's. They credit their increasing popularity to their social media efforts, which are led by Nina, who monitors their Facebook and Instagram page and also put together their website.
And the sisters hope to keep growing the business. Next fall, Julia will enroll at St. Edward's University after taking a year off school. By that time, the girls hope to have grown their business enough to expand and hire other employees to help Nina carry on the business.
For now, the girls are enjoying their early success and working to keep it going.
"It's cool to say we're business owners and entrepreneurs," Julia said.