Local entrepreneur serves up ice cream, advice at Robinson Gardens
Springfield businessman Alvin Woods had a thing or two to offer up to a packed house at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Youth Group on a recent afternoon.
And for dessert, he served his homemade ice cream.
Woods has been in the all-natural ice cream business in Springfield for the past 15 years, peddling his homemade, tasty product from April to October beneath a tent on Walnut Street. He’s learned through trial and error what people like, what they love, and when they’ll come back for more.
He’s also learned the business end of planning, budgeting, buying, marketing and selling a product that he created and is close to his hear.
At Robinson Gardens, Woods told nearly two dozen teens that first and foremost, a business person must believe in, even love, the product and the work of it.
“You want to love what you’re doing,” he said. “Find your passion in life and go after it. It’s about enjoying life and maintaining yourself.”
There’s another secret to making and keeping a solid customer base. Woods knows from experience that customers come back when they like the product, and the people who serve them. It also helps that he’s at his stand near Six Corners, every day and on time.
“You have to prove yourself over time. You have to let them know that you’re serious, and that you’re going to be there,” said Woods, whose business is known as ‘Alvin’s All-Natural Ice Cream,’ featuring traditional ice creams and tropical sorbets.
Woods visited Robinson Gardens courtesy of SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell, who runs an after-school group for the teens at the family development in the Pine Point section of the city.
For Mitchell, the visit was close to his own heart – the retired high school counselor spent 15 summers himself running an ice cream truck up and down the streets of Springfield. Plus that, he and Woods have been good friends for many years.
Mitchell said he believes Woods motivated the teens because he had a great story to share, and he had the enthusiasm reflective of a successful businessman. His Monday afternoon guest speakers aim to expose his group to a variety of professionals and business people so that they can make dreams, and then make them happen.
When working with teens, Mitchell keeps his focus on education, and jobs. Typically, teens who are regulars get summer jobs with his help.
“This is all about the kids,” Mitchell said. “With Alvin, I want them to see that they can start their own business, and make it work. That’s what he’s done.
Since Mitchell began his work at Robinson Gardens five years ago, the numbers of youth spending afternoons with him has grown steadily. On the day of Woods’ visit, there was an overflow crowd in the Community Room that is a converted apartment, with teens standing in the corners, spilling out into the hallway and onto the stairs.
Teens like Stacey Sands said the Woods made an impact, for sure.
“He was so interesting,” Sands said. “I learned a lot of new things. He really made you think about things you never thought of before.”
Chris Ortiz, who is 14, agreed.
“I stayed focused the whole time. He made you want to listen to everything he was saying,” she said.
Azariah Mabry, who is 17, said she found the talk “inspiring.
“It was so interesting,” said the junior at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy.
Woods said he can’t imagine a time when he won’t look forward to April, when the business gets up and running after winter, or a day when he’ll stop.
“I love everything about it. I’ll be doing this until the day I die,” Woods said.
After his talk, Woods opened up a cooler and shared bowls of chocolate chip ice cream and tropical sorbet.
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