Howdy Homemade Ice Cream: Providing Employment Opportunities for Cary’s Special Needs Community 

Courtesy of Howdy Homemade

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream was born out of a vision to see and realize the potential in everyone by providing employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). After getting its start in Texas, the franchise recently spread to North Carolina — and thanks to Phillip Lin, a Triangle-based entrepreneur, delicious ice cream and smiling faces are coming to Cary this fall at 370 S. Walker St., Suite 123.

After recently attending a fundraising event for Howdy’s Homemade, we caught up with Lin to learn more about his mission to positively impact the lives of people with IDDs and the community at large.  

Introduce yourself!

My name is Phillip Lin. I grew up in the small town of Forest City, NC, and my parents had a Chinese restaurant. I worked in our restaurant growing up, all through college. I attended Gardner-Webb University for a degree in mathematics and computer science and eventually received my master’s degree in mathematics from NC Central University. As far as my career goes, I spend most of my time working at IBM and SAS. Currently I own Catering By Design, Fayetteville Fury (a professional indoor soccer team in Fayetteville, NC), and I’m the owner/operator of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in the Triangle area.  

What was your inspiration for opening Howdy Homemade?

When I was younger, I would tell my mom how smart I was compared to other people in my class (like most kids, I would imagine). My mom always said that if you are as smart as you say you are, you should be able to make the world a better place. I started the foundation in memory of my mom (Tsai Chung Ling Foundation) and am using it for Howdy Homemade Ice Cream.

How are you partnering with Gigi’s Playhouse (a Down syndrome achievement center) here in Cary?

I am very new to the nonprofit world, and I wanted to connect with organizations with similar missions. After talking to Esteamed Coffee, I was able to get a lot of good information, including a contact at GiGi’s. I found out that GiGi’s was planning on relocating to downtown Cary. We (Esteamed Coffee and I) discussed how it would be nice if all three of us were in downtown Cary to start a hub for people with special needs. I reached out to GiGi’s to see if they could get me an introduction to the builder of The Walker, a mixed-use development center coming to downtown Cary, and ended up getting a space next to GiGi’s. Gigi’s Playhouse has helped tremendously with getting the word out, assisting with fundraisers, and providing us with initial staff members.

What kind of impact do you hope that Howdy Homemade has in the Triangle?

Matthew Schwab, guest speaker at Howdy Homemade’s May 16th Fundraiser

People with special needs deserve a chance to have a career like everyone else. I am hoping to train and mentor them to improve their skills and fulfill their potential at the ice cream shop or elsewhere, if they choose.

Why Cary?

With Esteamed Coffee in downtown Cary and GiGi’s moving to downtown, this is the perfect opportunity to create a hub for people with special needs. Catering By Design is also located in Cary and can provide additional support in this venture.

For more information, follow us on social media — @howdytriangle on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Our next fundraiser will be on August 12 at Evermore Farms in Apex.

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