Student Spotlight: Miranda Oropeza, ’06
It all started as homework. Assigned to conduct a feasibility study on a potential business in a class for her Entrepreneurship major, Miranda Oropeza, ’06, came up with a sno-cone stand. As she completed the assignment, she soon realized the potential of her imaginary company: Selling sweet ice in a city that rarely suffers a cold day wasn’t such a bad idea.
Oropeza spent her Spring Break finding a location (5300 Manchaca Road), tracking down equipment, and convincing her parents and boyfriend to invest in her sugary vision. Her fantasy business model became a reality called South Austin Sno in 2005.
South Austin Sno prides itself on “homegrown sno-cones.” Oropeza says that by listening to customer suggestions, she’s grown the list of flavors to 2,663 possible combinations that span the traditional (grape, cherry and lemon-lime) to the adventurous (coffee, cajun red hot and “tamarindo,” made from the same fruit used in Worcestershire sauce). That number bumps up to an estimated 10,000 when she factors in toppings like chocolate syrup, fresh-squeezed lime, cream and
“Sno-cone lovers come in all ages, shapes and sizes, so I get to meet a lot of different people,” she says. “Sno-cones can be addictive, so our customers often return on a regular basis for their dose of sweetness. I’m lucky to get to hear updates on their lives and meet their family
Though already a small business owner, Oropeza considers herself first and foremost a volunteer. While still in high school, she created the pilot big sister/little sister mentoring program for the Girls Empowerment Network of Austin, which grew into a weekly after-school activity group called clubGEN. Oropeza has since become a clubGEN sponsor and the designer of its 300-page mentor training manual.
“I like the relationships that I build with these younger girls I mentor,” she says. “I get to help them grow and mature into such strong and confident young women.”
Oropeza also finds time to nurse her true passion: playing music. She and her father, a professional musician, often pick guitars together at Austin’s Green Mesquite Barbecue and outside South Austin Sno, where customers sometimes join in for rollicking sno-cone jams. They keep a spare guitar in the stand for just such occasions.
Oropeza’s future goals are as varied as her present. She plans to continue her education in Organizational Communication, possibly toward a PhD; open more South Austin Sno locations; find a way to conquer her “corporate fears” (she has only ever worked with start-ups and nonprofits); look into opening a spa or a Montessori-esque charter school; and continue to play music.
“To the outsider looking in, I’m sure that I appear to have no direction at all!” she says. “My life is a jumble of big projects, all swimming around as I reach to hold on to them. I feel like I have an overly curious mind that just wants to experience everything and sponge up as much knowledge as possible. Life would be so boring if I didn't continue to seek and learn every day.”