Buffalo’s ‘Ice Creamcycle Dude’ Gives Kids Popsicles If They Answer A Math Question
Buffalo, New York’s Ice Creamcycle Dude is used to giving kids in poor neighborhoods a free popsicle or ice cream treat if they answer a math question correctly. Entrepreneur James Karagiannis has been like that his whole life. The Buffalo resident began his entrepreneurial ways as a kid when he sold his artwork to neighbors. Because of his enthusiasm, his neighbors were often willing to pay more than the price on the tags he attached to his work. Karagiannis also sold candy bars out of his backpack at school — until his principal ordered him to stop.
But candy bars and a child’s artwork can’t compare to what James does now. The Northeastern University, Boston alumnus started his Ice Creamcycle business in 2007 when he cycled through the city, selling ice cream pops for $1. Instead of taking his business through middle-class neighborhoods, James decided to serve the less privileged kids in Buffalo’s so-called “harsh” neighborhoods.
During a stop at a street corner in Central Park, James noted, “When I first started, everyone said I should go to Elmwood Avenue, Thursday in the Square, Delaware Park. But I needed to be right here.” James added, “I like bikes. I like joking with the kids and exploring my city.”
After nearly 10 years of selling ice cream to kids, James revealed that it still makes him sad when a child can’t even afford $1 for an ice cream treat. So, James and his crew always keep a stash of freebies to give away — just in case. However, there’s one catch. In order to earn a free popsicle, the kids must answer a math or history question correctly.
When word got out about the Ice Creamcycle Dude’s free treat exchange, the donations flooded in. Buffalo News reports that so many customers donated toward the free treat program that it became difficult for the crew to keep track of the donors.
So, Karagiannis tinkered with the business plan. Instead of answering a question, kids now have to write a thank-you note for their cold treat. The notes were mailed to donors and eventually they morphed into postcards designed by Ezekiel Miner, a freshman at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.
There’s been so much interested that Karagiannis started a “Pay It Forward” campaign on. That, too, exceeded all expectations. The entrepreneur noted, “I thought [we’d get] maybe $400 to $500 max, but we’re at $4,500 right now. It’s crazy. People add comments when they make their donation online. I really didn’t think it would make such an impression. Expats thank me for taking care of their hometown.”
While Karagiannis may spend his summer months peddling around with ice cream in Buffalo, he also admits to an “extreme wanderlust” that took him to New Orleans last winter. This October, he’s heading to Seattle. But until then, the entrepreneur will peddle the streets of Buffalo offering sweet treats to kids for either $1 or a thank-you note.