Teenager’s ‘Honest Cooler’ business told to chill by city
It’s not always easy being an entrepreneur, especially for a kid trying something for the first time while wanting to help others.
Adults, rules and laws often get in the way of something that appears to be quite simple. And adults that are just doing “business as usual” come off as dream destroyers.
Just ask Neveah Valdizan.
Somewhere between a Little Free Library and a kid’s lemonade stand was teenage Neveah’s self-run business — the Honest Coolers.
In the summer of 2021, these coolers were set at the trailheads in a couple of places, like the popular hiking area of Rock Canyon in Provo. She had the support of her father, entrepreneur Cesar Valentino Valdizan.
The coolers offered bottled water and snacks with an honor system for hikers and nature lovers who needed sustenance along the trails. Items were $1 each. The Valdizans would check on the coolers a couple of times each day.
A number of parched hikers took advantage of the honest coolers and, in a couple cases, the coolers came in handy for people who were sick or overheated.
Since that summer, and the one just ended, the coolers have been confiscated from the trailheads by Provo city, leading to numerous discussions over several months between the Valdizans and city officials.
Cesar Valentino Valdizan believes the Honest Cooler business should have been protected under Utah law.
“The bottom line is Neveah’s Honest Cooler business operation is protected by Utah SB 81, at least throughout Provo Parks & Recs property,” Cesar said. “Additionally, by allowing Super Pedestrian (scooters) to commercialize Provo Parks’ trailheads in the name of ‘transportation’ and denying Neveah’s honest coolers to serve water and snacks at trailheads in the name of ‘that’s not where food vendors belong’ is a clear violation of her business civil rights to have the same privileges to operate given to her by Utah Civil Rights Code chapter 7, that state that all businesses need to have equal opportunities to operate.”
He argues his daughter’s business is being dismissed and discriminated against at the same time contracted businesses — motorized scooters — are available at the trailheads.
It appears the difference is a business license and contract with the city.
“Neveah’s business is a small food kiosk that can’t operate in private food areas because it’s specifically designed to operate as outdoor vending machines. The city of Provo has yet to prove that the outdoors community prefers scooters at trailheads more than food and water, while Neveah’s cooler has proven that not only is food and water options at a trailhead wanted by the outdoors community at trailheads, but a necessity,” Cesar Valentino Valdizan said.
Cesar thought Neveah could have a cooler next to the skate park at the Provo Rec Center, but said they were told by Scott Henderson, director of Parks and Rec, that Provo is not allowed to have for-profit businesses operate on site due to the-tax free general obligation bond that built the facility and surrounding areas.
The Valdizan’s request was denied at the Rec center just like it was at the trailheads.
According to Cesar, Henderson lamented, during a meeting between Henderson and city attorney Brian Jones, that Neveah had not come to him first before putting out the coolers and concerns on social media. Henderson, according to Cesar Valentino Valdizan, said he actually liked the idea.
The Valdizans have been pushing the issue with several city staff including Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Keith Morey, economic development director. Kaufusi, has refused to meet with Neveah multiple times and continues to turn the issue over to Jones for investigation and to serve as the contact between the city and family.
“We do not allow daily private business sales throughout our parks and facilities system and will not in this case,” Henderson said.
It appears that Neveah, who was 15 at the time this all started in 2021, and her father will continue to pursue legal action in the matter.
If they were to continue to try and sell from the Honest Cooler without licensing — when told they cannot — they could receive a fine and potentially up to six months in jail, according to Morey.