Sweet success

Darby Johnston carefully scoops out shaved ice with a blue spoon, dumps it in a white paper cone and hands it to her friend, Ella Holman. Holman spins the various syrup bottles around until she finds the right one: a deep brown syrup labeled “root beer.” She pushes down on the top of the bottle and squirts out six long streams into the ice-filled cup, handing the final product to the eager customer in front of them as Hailee Brandon takes the appropriate change from the till and passes it over the picnic bench. 

They work together perfectly in sync.

The three young businesswomen are the first to test out Mary Hathaway’s start-up venture for kids, Sideyard Snowcones.


Coffee Stop owner, Hathaway, has had a hand in starting a variety of different businesses.

From professional photography and trucking, to catering and an embroidery business, one could say she is lives an incredibly fast-paced entrepreneurial lifestyle.

But recently she’s tackling a new, playful, yet educational, business venture.

Sideyard Snowcones is designed specifically for local youth to gain real-world working experience before they set out to apply for their first job.

“I’m a big pusher of self-employment,” she said during a rare, quiet moment in the family-owned coffee shop.“My goal would be to teach these kids how to come in and learn how to be their own entrepreneur, and there’s no reason why somebody can’t teach them how to do that.”

Hathaway said she was frustrated watching how the younger generations treated customers and clients. She felt the urge to help the youth in the community acquire important professional skills before they get their first real job.

“I just get tired of poor customer service, and it’s not the kids’ fault,” she said. “They don’t know, they’ve never been trained.”

The first bosses the youth will have will do their best to train them, she added, but with the sno-cone business, they’ll at least have a solid start and some experience in their pocket before they enter the workforce.

“A salesman will make or break a business. You’ve gotta have that presence up front,” she said Thursday afternoon, a day before the first group of eager workers started the first shift.

“I remember, back in high school, walking into the Dairy Queen and working there and not having a clue,” she recalled. “I never waited on anybody, I didn’t know how to run a till — I didn’t know anything.”

She hopes that Sweet Grass County kids will have a different experience. 


Each young employee, in grades 6-9, who signs up for a spot on the team will receive a 30 minute training on “sno-cone selling 101,” Hathaway said, which will include customer service, setting up the till, counting money and keeping logs of ingredients used during their shift to stay organized, as well as how to properly make a sno-cone.

“They don’t know how to count back money — it’s an old, lost art. You just don’t see that anymore,” she noted. “And if somebody walks in the door and you don’t like them … you have to like them and you have to learn how to put yourself out there.”

The young businessmen and women will pay Hathaway back for the inventory used, but they’ll get to keep the rest of money earned as well as any tips they accumulated during their shift.

The shifts will start around 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, depending on sign-ups, and kids can sell sno-cones for as long as they want to throughout the day. Hathaway also mentioned the possibility of allowing interested parties to rent the machine out and take it to some of the summertime events throughout town.

The sno-cone machine was a pretty cheap investment she said, and made sense for her new idea. The new machine cost around $450 and the cost of start-up supplies was a couple hundred dollars. 


To read the full story, pick up the June 8 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.


Story and photos by Olivia Keith 


Ella Holman makes a root beer flavored sno-cone Friday afternoon. 


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