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Back To [Business] School

Sister and brother Sydney and Carter Rieckhoff each have after school jobs…at companies they own and operate; meet the owners of The Chill and CR Popcorn.

Meet Sydney Rieckhoff, a 15-year old sophomore at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids.

Meet Carter Rieckhoff, Sydney’s brother, an 11-year old sixth-grader at Taft Middle School.

Sydney and Carter are getting ready to head back to school—excited like most teens in the Corridor to spend time with friends and not so excited about getting back to the homework.

Backpacks packed: check.

Class schedules memorized: check.

First-day outfits picked out: check.

After-school activities: um…it’s complicated.

While Sydney and Carter’s friends are heading back to school, many are on the look-out for after-school jobs. This brother and sister pair are doing the hiring.

Sydney is owner of The Chill Ice Cream Shop. Carter is the popcorn guy, owner of CR Popcorn. Their businesses (yes, you read that right) are located in adjacent stalls at the NewBo City Market.

These young entrepreneurs are running their own shops and getting real-world experience in balancing life and work.

There’s inventory, scheduling, and sales to worry about—after their homework and studying is done, of course. And cross country season starts for Sydney soon, too.

But Sydney and Carter don’t complain about work. They have always been interested in business—from setting up lemonade and vegetable stands in their driveway to helping on the family farm. They jumped at the opportunity to make their dreams a reality.

The idea to open The Chill and CR Popcorn was a family one, in fact.

Sydney and Carter’s parents—Robyn and Bill Rieckhoff—own Morgan Creek Market, the anchor produce vendor at the NewBo City Market—the 18,000-square-foot, block-long indoor/outdoor local marketplace in the heart of Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia neighborhood.

Having always helped with the family business, Sydney and Carter knew they’d have a role to play.

“We figured we would be down here (at the market) anyway and it would be a fun family thing if we could each have our own shop,” says Sydney. “We can bond as a family while we work.”

This made sense to mom and dad.

“I really believe that growing up working helped me to have a good work ethic today,” says Robyn, “and I want my kids to have that too. I want them to do well. Plus, we all really believe in Cedar Rapids and it’s a fun time to be a part of this.”

The next step, deciding what type of shop to open came naturally.

“I tend to get ice cream whereever I go,” says Sydney. “And ever since I could eat it, I have loved popcorn,” says Carter.

Both Sydney and Carter admit people were astonished when they first told them of their ventures.

“Everyone was surprised but really excited for me,” says Sydney. “And now all my friends want jobs.”

“No one in my fifth-grade class believed me when I told them,” Carter remembers, “until I brought my business cards…”

Nearly a year after opening, Sydney says they still get a lot of surprised customers, but there is plenty of support.

“Overall everyone is impressed and wants me to succeed, so that’s been great.”

She does get a chuckle out of parent’s reactions sometimes.

“A lot of people turn to their kids and say ‘Why aren’t you doing something like this?’” Sydney laughs. “Even kids can be business owners. I say take a risk and just do it.”

There have been tough lessons along the way too.

“I’ve learned a lot so far,” says Carter. “But my advice is to pick something you love and try to stick with it. There will be challenges but you will get through them.”

Sydney says she’s learned a lot about dealing with employees, for instance.

“Even if your employees are your friends, if they aren’t willing to work hard, then I’m not willing to employ them.”

It’s with statements like that, one realizes Sydney and Carter are already surprisingly knowledgeable about the business world. Some of what they learned they gathered during time spent at the week-long Jacobson Institute Youth Entrepreneur Summer Camps at the University of Iowa. (Carter’s been a camper three times!)

This coming school year, Sydney and Carter will be putting in a lot of hard work—as any entrepreneur would—to make their businesses successful. But there are certain perks to owning your own business that a kid—or kid at heart—might only appreciate.

“I do get to eat ice cream whenever I want,” says Sydney, whose current favorite flavor (which she admits changes weekly) is Caramel Chaos. Carter admits to enjoying his fair share of popcorn access as well.

Their business wisdom comes with a side of honesty and passion.

“If you want to do it and you love it, make sure you find a way to make it happen,” says Sydney, a true ice cream aficionado.

Carter agrees.

“Business is not easy. It takes time and learning and I’m not sure I have it all figured out yet,” says the 11-year-old. “I’m just a small-time entrepreneur at the moment and I need to learn more.”

Don’t we all.


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