Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is on a “relentless pursuit to create more jobs for people with intellectual and developmental differences using the power of smiles and amazingly delicious ice cream.” The Texas-based company has conducted more than 100 sampling events employing people with special needs. 

The ice cream can be found in a variety of flavors, including Chocolate As All Get Out, which features the company’s vice president of Franchising on the label. Other company employees, many of whom also participate in special events including in-store sampling, are featured on other flavors. Pints are available at stores including H-E-B and United, and through catering and delivery. The company was recently featured in a People Magazine article and is preparing for a national footprint.

What inspired Howdy Homemade and how did you decide to go from a scoop shop to retail distribution?

 Legendary college football coach Gene Stallings wrote a book about his son, Johnny, who had Down syndrome. That was 2013. I kept coming back to the fact that Johnny, and so many like him, are the overlooked workforce gold. The overall strategy from the start was a unique symbiotic partnership between retail and scoop shops. As long as we can pioneer jobs for those with IDD, we will move into and eventually own that category. 

How is Howdy Homemade produced?  

We have six scoop shops and two more on the way. Each of these makes ice cream on premise with only the freshest local ingredients and flavors. For our large scale retail, we have Hiland Dairy in Tyler, Texas, manufacturing our pints. 

Howdy Homemade has a distinctive staffing model and you’ve said believe there is no reason its model can’t be implemented by other grocery stores and retailers. What makes the model special?

Our model doesn't have to do with our product, although people are truly shocked with the quality. The creaminess. The richness of a 12% butterfat. Our model is based on the 61 million Americans with a disability who want a shot to prove they can do a better job. In grocery stores, we have implemented more than 100 marketing initiatives via sampling. Simply put: people with IDD serving ice cream samples with smiles. This is the most effective means of marketing, according to the experts, but the hardest to hire. Our team members, with Down syndrome or Autism, or maybe just bullied way too much, they can sample and sell better than anyone. We've proven it over and over and over. 

Howdy Homemade has flavors like Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip; how do you approach product development?

Great question.  Two steps:

  1. Our employees with special needs have special talents. One is not being afraid to suggest and idea. To dream a dream. To offer a word of encouragement.  All the things needed to come up with the flavor of all flavors.
  2. To be creative, go to the Creator. We don't rip anyone off.

The company in September launched in Albertson’s stores in Texas. What’s on the horizon for Howdy Homemade?

We launched in 160 Tom Thumbs, Albertsons and Randall's in September and we're currently in 135 H-E-B stores also. Thanks to Debbie Velenta, our president of our retail, wholesale and private label division, Howdy Homemade will soon have an even bigger footprint: we will be national by the end of 2023! We’re gonna need a bigger ice cream truck.