Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t always easy, especially for a kid trying something for the first time while also trying to help others.
Adults, rules, and laws often get in the way of seemingly simple things. Adults who just do “business as usual” can be dream busters.
Just ask Neveah Valentino.
Somewhere between a small free library and a kid’s lemonade stand is teen Neveah’s own business, Honest Cooler.
In the summer of 2021, these coolers are set up at trailheads in several locations, such as Rock Canyon, a popular hiking area in Provo. She is supported by her father, entrepreneur Cesar Valentino.
The cooler provides bottled water and snacks for hikers and nature lovers who need to make ends meet along the trails, as well as an honor system. Items are $1 per item. Valentinos checks the cooler several times a day.
Some thirsty hikers take advantage of honest coolers, which in some cases are handy for people who are sick or overheated.
From that summer, which had just ended, the city of Provo seized the coolers from the trail, leading to numerous discussions between Valentino and city officials over several months.
Cesar Valentino believes that the Honest Cooler business should be protected by Utah law.
“Most importantly, Neveah’s Honest Cooler business operations are protected by Utah SB 81, at least throughout the Provo Parks & Recs property,” Cesar said. “Furthermore, by allowing Super Pedestrians (scooters) to commercialize the trails at Provo Parks in the name of ‘transport’ and denying Neveah’s honest coolers water on the trails in the name of ‘this is not where the food vendors belong’ And snacks, which is a clear Utah Civil Rights Code Title 7 requirement that all businesses need to have an equal opportunity to do business, violates her business citizenship rights and gives her the same privileges as her to do business.”
He argues that his daughter’s business was fired and discriminated against, while contracting businesses — electric scooters — can be found on the trail.
It seems that the difference lies in the business license and contract with the city.
“Neveah’s business is a small food kiosk and cannot operate in a private food area because it is specifically designed to be used as an outdoor vending machine. The City of Provo has yet to prove that the outdoor community prefers scooters on the trail to food and water, And Neveah’s coolers have proven that outdoor communities on the trails need not just food and water options, but a necessity, says Cesar Valentino.
Cesar Valentino thinks Neveah could put a cooler next to the skate park at the Provo Rec Center, but says Parks and Rec director Scott Henderson told them Provo wouldn’t allow for-profit businesses on the site because of the tax exemptions for building the facility and the surrounding area General Obligation Bonds.
Valentino’s request was rejected at the Rec Center, as it was at the starting point.
According to Cesar, Henderson lamented during Henderson’s meeting with City Attorney Brian Jones that Neveah didn’t come to him first before posting coolers and concerns on social media. According to Cesar Valentino, Henderson said he actually liked the idea.
Valentino has been pushing the issue with several city staff, including Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Economic Development Director Keith Morey. Koffsey turned the matter over to Jones for investigation and acted as a liaison between the city and the family.
“We don’t allow day-to-day private business sales in our parks and facility system, and we won’t in this case,” Henderson said.
It appears that Neveah, then 15, and her father will continue to pursue legal action in the matter.
According to Morey, if they continue to try to sell from Honest Cooler without a license – when told they can’t get a license – they could be fined and could face up to six months in prison .