(This column originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer)
Like many Philadelphians, Chase Anderson loves a cool water ice on a hot day. In fact, he likes the frozen treat so much that he decided to make and sell his own.
So he launched a business — when he was 6 years old.
Two years later, 8-year-old Chase is the proprietor of Da Cooler Boyz, a fast-growing, homemade water ice business based out of his home in North Philadelphia.
Since the company’s start, things have taken off.
According to both Chase and his mother, Breonna Anderson, Da Cooler Boyz has had “hundreds” of gigs so far this year, supplying unique flavors like passion fruit, sour apple, and Swedish fish to both children and adults.
They’ve sold their product at fire stations, summer camps, birthday parties, and other events in multiple states.
“It makes me feel so good to give people water ice. I love it. It’s kind of my thing,” Chase told 6ABC earlier this year.
Chase balances this hectic business schedule with school, camp, and other outside activities. He gets help from younger brother Sebastian and. of course, his mom.
Sensing his passion, Breonna — who holds a full-time job at Philadelphia International Airport — spends most of her spare time assisting Chase with buying ingredients (which includes dry ice for storage), mixing up new batches, delivering product, serving water ice, and answering questions.
“When your child is starting or running a business, my main advice is to be encouraging,” Breonna said.
“Sometimes you have some trials and you have some errors and you also have some frustration along the way. You have to believe in what they’re doing and be as supportive as you can,” Breonna said.
Breonna says one of the biggest — and most unexpected — demands on her time is maintaining their social media accounts.
“Just keeping up with all these accounts and making sure that our posts contain the right details takes longer than I thought,” she said.
“It’s important because that’s where we get most of our customers and Chase is very particular about being accurate and making the presentation of our photos look nice,” she said.
Breonna is also teaching Chase about how much time is required to run Da Cooler Boyz, reminding him that operating a business and meeting commitments is a responsibility.
“Sometimes I kind of feel lazy and just want to sit back and relax,” Chase said. “But my mom has taught me that you have to do stuff even that you don’t like doing or want to do because it’s good for the business.”
An important part of ensuring Da Cooler Boyz’s success is complying with local business regulations.
In 2021, Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a law that exempts any business operated by a minor under age 18, open for less than 84 days in a calendar year, and generates less than $5,000 in profit from any licensing, permit or health rules.
New Jersey has a similar law.
“Da Cooler Boyz is a great story and we want to do everything we can to help young entrepreneurs succeed,” said Karen Fegely, Philadelphia’s Deputy Commerce Director.
Fegely, though, acknowledges that even with the state exemption the city’s licensing and permit rules can be complex as a business grows or hires people, so she encourages parents to proactively reach out by phone or emailto the Commerce Department for assistance.
“We’re available to talk parents through whatever questions they have,” Fegely said. “Regardless of your company’s size or the age of your child, there are things to be aware of and we want people to know what they’re getting into and to know when permits or licenses may be needed in the future.”
Breonna takes care to get permits and insurance for every event where Da Cooler Boyz sells water ice and brings along a copy to display for customers.
Breonna says she gives Chase “full control” over the money he’s earning … with limits. She keeps a close eye on the funds and requires him to save most of what’s earned. She also checks with Chase before booking any event to make sure he wants to do it.
“Anytime I think he feels overwhelmed or things are becoming too much, we step back,” she said. “But that hasn’t happened yet. Every time he goes to parties or events he gets excited because the people are excited, so he’s really enjoying it.”
Both Breonna and Chase have felt from the beginning that Da Cooler Boyz isn’t just about earning profits. It’s also about giving something back to their community.
They’re donating money, product, and time to a “back to school” drive in late August that aims to give away 800 book bags as well as uniform vouchers to parents and guardians of school children in Philadelphia.
According to Breonna, seeing her son achieve his dreams has been the true reward of all their hard work.
“Every day I’m amazed by Chase and happy that he’s so passionate about what he’s doing.”