Lifelong Madison resident Ryan Tobin, 21, isn't letting autism get in the way of his entrepreneurial spirit.
He recently started his own business venture called Tutter's Treats, selling ice cream from his specially designed, vintage-style ice cream truck. His family accompanies him to help the business run smoothly.
This summer, the Tobins are serving organic soft serve and hard ice cream from Brooklyn-based Blue Marble Ice Cream company as well as homemade snow cones and cookies for ice cream sandwiches. The Tobin family travels into Brooklyn twice a month to pick up the ice cream.
Ryan is a 2012 graduate of Daniel Hand High School. He says he received support from Patricia Drew, his keyboarding teacher, and William Keim, who was Ryan's paraprofessional at Daniel Hand High School and for part of his time in the Step Forward program at Gateway Community College, a transition program for students aged 18 to 21 with mild cognitive disabilities.
Ryan's mother, Maryjean Tobin, who accompanied Ryan in his interview with The Source, says, "Patricia Drew worked with Ryan for years on computer input. She worked with him for all four years he was there on the technology part of it, and that was one of his big strengths. He does all the ordering [for Tutter's Treats]. It's a learning curve as far as how to stock the truck, but he's the one who's gone online and ordered all the cones."
And it was Keim who told Ryan, "You can do anything you want." Ryan took that message to heart.
Ryan completed internships in food preparation while enrolled in the Step Forward Program, but it was much easier for him to start out by serving ice cream, his mother says.
"Ice cream is a happy product," she points out.
Ryan says inspiration to start his own small business also came from his sister Brynn, who was his paraprofessional at the Step Forward program, and the owners of Tuxis Lumber and Hardware, at which he works during the week. But on weekends, it's time to bust out the ice cream scoop.
The name of the food truck comes from Ryan's childhood nickname, Tutter-"Brynn calls me that," he says.
Ryan has three sisters- Brynn, Taylor, and Shannon-and a brother, Kyle. He also works with his father Alan.
The truck is available for private parties and events and will be at the Fourth of July parade in Madison as well as dispensing treats at the farmers' markets in Madison and Clinton and Madison's Concerts on the Green all summer.
Ryan says, "My favorite part of the business is making hot fudge sundaes, and eating them."
He adds that hot fudge sundaes are his favorite type of treat to make for himself at home.
Maryjean says that Ryan is learning about social, money, and inventory skills with the help of his family, which helps Ryan to break down all of the tasks. For example, his sisters helped him design the website.
When Ryan isn't serving up his frozen treats, he likes to be active.
"I play unified sports: soccer, basketball, and track," he says.
He's also a Red Sox and Patriots fan.
While Tutter's Treats only plans to serve ice cream into the fall, the Tobins hope to expand their offerings for the changing seasons and serve items like apple crisp with ice cream, candied apples, soups, and hot chocolate.
They also hope that the ice cream truck can become a learning tool and provide opportunities for other people in the community with disabilities.
To learn more about Tutter's Treats, visit www.tutterstreats.com.
For more on the Step Forward program, visit www.gatewayct.edu.
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