It’s not always easy to be an entrepreneur, especially for a child trying something for the first time while wanting to help others.
Adults, rules and laws often get in the way of something that seems simple enough. And adults who just “business as usual” portray themselves as dream destroyers.
Ask Neveah Valentino.
Somewhere between a small free library and a children’s lemonade stand was teenage Neveah’s self-managed business – the Honest Coolers.
In the summer of 2021, these coolers were installed at trailheads in a few locations, such as the popular Rock Canyon hiking area in Provo. She had the support of her father, the entrepreneur Cesar Valentino.
The coolers offered bottled water and snacks with an honor system for hikers and nature lovers who needed food along the trails. The items cost $1 each. The Valentinos checked the coolers several times a day.
A number of arid hikers have taken advantage of honest coolers, and in a few cases, coolers have proven useful for people who are sick or overheated.
Since that summer, and the one that just ended, the coolers were confiscated at the trailheads by the town of Provo, leading to many discussions over several months between the Valentinos and town officials.
Cesar Valentino thinks Honest Cooler should have been protected by Utah law.
“The bottom line is that Neveah’s Honest Cooler business operation is protected by Utah SB 81, at least throughout Provo Parks & Recs’ property,” Cesar said. “Furthermore, allowing super pedestrians (scooters) to market Provo Parks trailheads in the name of ‘transportation’ and denying honest Neveah coolers to serve water and snacks at trailheads trails in the name of “that’s not what food vendors belong to” is a clear violation of his corporate civil rights to have the same operating privileges granted to him by Chapter 7 of the Code of Utah Civil Rights, which states that all businesses must have equal opportunity to operate.
He argues that his daughter’s business is being fired and discriminated against at the same time contracted businesses – motorized scooters – are available at the trailheads.
It seems the difference is a business license and a contract with the city.
“Neveah’s business is a small food kiosk that cannot operate in private food areas as it is specifically designed to operate as outdoor vending machines. The town of Provo has yet to prove that the outdoor community prefers trailhead scooters to food and water, while Neveah’s cooler has proven that not only food and water options at the trailhead are sought after by the outdoor trailhead community, but a necessity,” said César Valentino.
Cesar Valentino thought Neveah might have a cooler next to the skate park at the Provo Rec Center, but said Parks and Rec director Scott Henderson told them Provo was not allowed to operate for-profit businesses on-site due to the general tax-free bond bond that built the facility and surrounding areas.
The Valentino’s request was denied at the Recreation Center, just as it was at the trailhead.
According to Cesar, Henderson lamented during a meeting between Henderson and city attorney Brian Jones that Neveah didn’t come to see him first before voicing the coolers and concerns on social media. Henderson, according to Cesar Valentino, said he really liked the idea.
The Valentinos pushed the issue with several city employees, including Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Economic Development Director Keith Morey. Kaufusi turned the matter over to Jones for investigation and to serve as the city’s contact with the family.
“We don’t allow daily sales from private companies across our system of parks and facilities and we won’t in this instance,” Henderson said.
It looks like Neveah, who was 15 when it all started in 2021, and her father will continue to take legal action over the matter.
If they were to keep trying to sell from the Honest Cooler without a license — when told they can’t — they could be fined and potentially up to six months in jail, according to Morey.