Programs help young entrepreneur start business
Twenty-year-old Zac Flu likes visiting with people, so the idea of a business where he would have contact with the public seemed like a natural fit.
Blind since birth, Zac has attended classes through his senior year in the 509-J School District, with an aide provided to help guide him around the schools.
This being his last year at Madras High School, Dennis Crepeaux, regional director for the Oregon School for the Blind, and Alicia Simms from the Opportunity Foundation, have been working with Zac to help him find employment after he leaves school.
The idea of a snack cart in a local business area surfaced as a favorite idea, and last August the young entrepreneur opened "Zac's Snacks" in the south entrance of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The Oregon School for the Blind not only provided him with a wooden wagon-style snack cart, but outfitted Zac with a stylish denim shirt embroidered with a logo featuring a picture of his cart and the words "Zac's Snacks."
His business venture is encouraged by his parents Jeff and Tamie Flu, and they joked that his siblings Chelsea, 18, and Caleb, 11, also help with the business by sampling the snacks to be sure they're good enough for customers.
For a location, Zac's dad said, "They kicked around ideas. They wanted to keep it in Madras and decided on the courthouse since it was enclosed and would have some traffic."
The cart offers drinks, candy, jerky, nuts, muffins, breakfast bars, chips and other snacks.
Zac is on duty every school day from 1 p.m. until school gets out, and has gotten to know several courthouse employees while on the job.
"Hi Scottie," he says cheerfully, recognizing the voice of county human resource assistant Scottie Miller as she greets him with a hug.
Miller said she enjoys shopping at Zac's Snacks. "He's always very very polite and very friendly and always has a smile. People come over from the courthouse annex to buy things," she said, adding, "I usually buy chocolate candy. He said he thinks I've bought most of the Hershey's kisses in the cart."
Miller said an aide always comes along with Zac and is training him to figure change in his head and count it out to customers. The customers choose what they want from the shelves, then pay him.
Another good customer is Judge Neilson, and every once in a while inmates are escorted down the hall.
"Criminals pass by but can't buy treats. But occasionally the guards are nice and let them pick something and the guard says it's OK," Zac said.
He estimated an average of 10 customers a day shop at his snack cart, but he's anxious to build up his business and would like more people to know about it.
His dad said they've considered moving to another location. "He likes chatting with people, and there's not enough traffic here to keep him happy. After school is out we might see if we can get him set up in a mall," he said.
When not running his business, Zac said he enjoys singing in the MHS choir and helping out in the Educational Resource Center by delivering messages between the teachers and the office.
At home, he likes to listen to country music, play his guitar and likes camping and fishing with his family "big time."
Last week, his friend Zach Sperry was in town visiting for the week. The pair used to hang out together when Zach lived in Madras.
"Now he calls Zach for phone support," Mr. Flu said, noting they discuss the snack cart business on the phone.
For helping get his business off the ground, Zac wanted to thank his parents, the Oregon School for the Blind, his customers -- especially Judge Neilson, Full Access Brokerage, which pays for his aide during the summer, and his school-provided aide Jody, who helps him during the school year.
Zac's Snacks has been closed during the holidays, but was back open for business on Monday, Jan. 3, with its owner hoping the new year will bring a boost in business.