By Andrew Hurst
Southwestern Assemblies of God University alumni Scott and Ashley Cieri have been serving Ellis County during the pandemic through their local franchise, Pokey O's. Through Pokey O's, the Cieris have been able to spread joy to families within the community, many of whom have been feeling stuck at home due to COVID-19 circumstances.
Pokey O's serves a variety of ice cream and dessert products, both in stores and through food trucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Scott and Ashley became the owners of Pokey O's in Ellis County during the summer of 2019.
Before the pandemic, the Cieris explained that their business was mostly comprised of catering events such as birthday parties, special events, and school and church events. With many of these gatherings now canceled, they had to start thinking creatively to reach customers while still maintaining social distancing protocol.
"By April, we knew this quarantine time was really taking a toll on families being forced to stay at home, so we started looking for a new way to bring some joy!" they said.
They began to visit a few different communities every week with the food truck, and it did not take long before locals started requesting Pokey O's to stop by their neighborhood. Business was booming for the Cieris as they traveled around in their food truck, serving ice cream and treats to local residents and first responders.
"We have had a huge response to this new format of business during this quarantine time and have continued to operate this way for a while now. To say God has blessed us would be an understatement; He has gone above and beyond like He does each time we turn to Him."
For Scott and Ashley, their faith continues to serve as the highest priority in their personal lives and the way they conduct business.
As the couple reflects on the continued blessings from their business, they believe their time at SAGU has been a strong influence on their lives and careers.
Ashley graduated from SAGU with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing, and Scott obtained a degree in Professional Studies.
As part of Ashley's business degree plan, she completed a marketing internship with the football team in the SAGU athletic department during her senior year. She was over marketing for a season and found new creative ways to promote student and community attendance and engagement. This internship opportunity strengthened her love for marketing and learning new technology. Today, she is behind the marketing and public relations of Pokey O's Ellis County.
At SAGU, Scott was able to complete his student teaching in Waxahachie ISD, where he would go on to teach for 11 years. He believes that it was the relationships at SAGU that helped propel him into his teaching career.
After SAGU, Scott worked for Waxahachie ISD, and Ashley starts her 14th year with Waxahachie ISD in the fall. Both Scott and Ashley were selected as "Rookie Teachers of the Year" during their first year of teaching.
"While in the classroom, we strived not only to reach our students but to make an impact on their futures," they said.
While teaching, Scott also pursued a side business called Dasher & Dancer Lighting, which handles Christmas light installation and storage. As that business grew, Scott knew that working in education full-time while simultaneously growing a business was not feasible. He began to look for other business ventures for the offseason, eventually leading the two of them to Pokey O's.
While Scott is no longer teaching, he enjoys the opportunity to employ his former students both at Pokey O's and at Dasher & Dancer.
"We didn't always get to see the amazing adults our students would someday become. However, one of the biggest highlights now is that several of our former students now work as our main employees for Dasher & Dancer Lighting and Pokey O's Ellis County. The best part is even though we're not in the classroom anymore with them, we still get to pour into their lives in the work environment!"
Andrew Hurst is the public relations manager at Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
"Integrity is a value that we will not back down from. Honesty and hard work are also key players that we focus on in maintaining a business built on Christian values." - Scott and Ashley Cieri