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Ice Cream Entrepreneur Who Hires Special Needs Workers to Speak at TLU

4:00pm – 5:00pm
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In 2015, entrepreneur Tom Landis opened Howdy Homemade Ice Cream on Lover’s Lane in Dallas specifically to provide jobs for people with special needs. Now he wants to change the world one friendly scoop at a time. Landis’ employees – or “peeps” as he calls them – are trained in everything from food preparation and customer service to point-of-sale.

The entire experience – from selecting your ice cream flavor to paying for it – is designed with his peeps in mind. Customers have just three choices: one scoop for $4, two scoops for $6, and one pint for $7. Guests are also greeted with buckets of golden-metallic plastic spoons in several places on top of the ice cream coolers. Why so many spoons? It’s a communication tool, according to Landis. “People sometimes have a hard time talking to people who have special needs so the spoon is the spokesperson,” he explains. “Our people use the spoons to give guests plenty of samples. A lot of ice cream shops are stingy with their samples. Not us.”

The uniqueness of Howdy Homemade doesn’t end there. Landis proudly displays his signature Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream. It’s a unique partnership because he was able to receive exclusive rights to use Dr Pepper in his ice cream – something no other business has been able to do.

Want to learn more about Landis’ story, taste his Dr Pepper ice cream, and hear more about his future plans for Howdy Homemade and employing people with special needs? You can hear Landis speak at TLU on Wednesday, April 3, at 4 p.m. in Dunne Conference Room in Tschoepe Hall.

For more information, contact Judy Hoffmann at or Ashlie Ford at

Howdy Homemade and Founder Tom Landis In the News:

"Entrepreneur Opens Ice Cream Shop So He Can Hire Special Needs Workers" (DFW CBS Affiliate):

"North Texas Ice Cream Shop That Hires Special Needs Workers Throws Surprise Party for Special Needs Toddler" (DFW ABC Affiliate:


Born in Washington, D.C., Tom Landis grew up with a mom who had polio, never drove and never ever complained. She taught GED classes in the toughest parts of D.C. Tom worked for someone else from March 2, 1992 to October 31, 1993. It didn’t go well.

After launching his own marketing firm, with blue chip clients like World Cup USA 1994, M&M/Mars and Pepsi, Landis opened his first restaurant in 1996. By 2000, Landis had opened 13 restaurants and had an incredible staff that lacked English skills. So, he transformed his restaurants into classrooms between lunch and dinner in a partnership with Dallas County Community Colleges. More than 1,300 Hispanic employees throughout Dallas were able to learn English and move from hourly kitchen jobs into management. He is the only non-Latino to earn the LULAC Businessman of the Year award. For his work he was also awarded the Center for Nonprofit Management’s “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in 2004.

In 2015, Tom opened Howdy Homemade, the first for-profit restaurant run by people with special needs. Legendary Coach Gene Stallings’ book, “Another Season,” was the genesis for Howdy. Tom was awarded the inaugural “Ryan Albers Lifetime Achievement Award,” for his efforts to champion the rights of those with special needs in 2016. He also received the Texas Governor’s “Lex Friedan Employer of the Year Award” and the George Washington National Honor Medal.

There is now a Howdy franchise in Salt Lake City, and more than 100 people are in line for franchising. Landis created Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream, and his partnership with Dr Pepper has enabled more than 175 people with special needs to work at the State Fair of Texas over the past three years. On May 14 of this year, Tom will be the 8th recipient of the Johnny Stallings Award, where he will share the podium with Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly.


Mollie Cullinane’s dedication to helping social entrepreneurs become successful business leaders has inspired a special speaker series. A TLU alumna and lecturer, Mollie and her husband Jeff manage the Cullinane Law Group—an Austin-based firm advising nonprofits and social enterprises on how to create business plans and assisting with establishing business tools needed to sustain success. Throughout the academic year, the social entrepreneurship program invites several guest speakers to share their personal and professional stories with students.