How to Start a Shaved Ice Business

Shaved Ice Business

Are you looking for a flexible, low overhead, high-profit margin business to quench your entrepreneurial appetite? A Shaved Ice business just may be your ticket. The cost to produce one 8 ounces shaved ice serving is only about 16 cents. The average cost to the consumer is $3.00. That’s over a 1,500% profit! We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill snow-cone stand here. Ask any shaved ice vendor and they will quickly tell you there is a big difference between snow-cones and shaved ice. Unlike the average snow-cone which is usually nothing more than crushed ice, shaved ice can only be produced with a quality shaver made specifically to produce fine, powdery snow that will even hold any combination of delicious syrup flavors.

There are several key factors that must be considered before investing in a shaved ice business. Above all, choosing a location and type of setup is the most important decision you will have to make. You have to be where the people are. A successful shaved ice business depends on volume selling. This is why the majority of shaved ice vendors choose to run a mobile operation versus a fixed site.

A nice, shaved ice ready kiosk or mobile cart varies in price from around $3,000.00 to $8,000.00, depending on the bells and whistles. Concession trailers are generally a bit more expensive, ranging anywhere from $15,000.00 on up. With a keen eye, you can come across some great deals on used equipment at flea markets or on the Internet. These mobile setups will allow you to follow the crowds and maximize profit potential. Advertising can be kept to a minimum because of the high visibility. When business slows down, it’s simple to move on to the next location and set up shop.

Popular locations for mobile setups include fairs, sporting events, school bazaars, flea markets, and recreation areas. There are usually vendor fees associated with these markets, but compared with renting or buying a retail outlet, the costs are minimal. Fixed-site locations generally tend to do better around major tourist attractions or shopping mall type settings. When considering this option, it is imperative that you research your market thoroughly to determine the possibility of selling enough product to cover overhead expenses and still clear a profit. A permanent light and water bill alone can eat heavily into your profit margin.

Once you’ve decided on the perfect setup or location, it’s time to look at the equipment you are going to need. There are many specialty outlets throughout the country that specialize in complete shaved ice business packages. Based on your budget you can get everything from a single commercial shaver to a full-blown concession trailer with the works. Spare no expense when it comes to choosing an ice shaver. After all, your business depends almost entirely on this piece of equipment.

This expense can be recouped within a month or two if a good location strategy has been implemented. Once again, there are many options. Expect to fork out somewhere between $1500.00 and $2500.00 for a decent shaver that will hold up to the daily volume demands. Most ice shaving machines utilize blades that skim pre-formed blocks of ice at various settings to produce the desired snowy consistency. There are commercial grade machines that use crushed ice or generic ice-cubes, but the consensus from most vendors is these machines tend to produce more of a coarse or crunchy product instead of the desired fluffy consistency of real snow.

Some shavers produce more than one serving per operation. If your traffic is sporadic, this could be a potential problem as the product could be wasted. Better quality machines will usually allow single servings to be dispensed with minimal waste. Ice shavers are available in AC, DC, or Dual configurations. DC power can be very important to mobile businesses negating the necessity of access to a power outlet. Just hook up to a small generator or the vehicle battery and it’s ready to go.

Block ice makers are available for those who want to manufacture their own blocks. However, these items are quite expensive at an average price of about $2,500.00. An alternative is to arrange with a local ice distributor to have blocks delivered as needed. According to a leading shaved ice equipment dealer in North Carolina, the biggest thing affecting profit margin in the shaved ice business is syrup strategy. Ready-made syrups in almost any flavor are widely available, but the preferred method is to buy concentrates and make your own syrups at a fraction of what pre-made flavors cost.

Concentrates also allow you to manufacture only what you need and reducing the worry of unused amounts spoiling. Many vendors have also developed their own unique flavor recipes that have helped to win loyal repeat customers. The flavor spectrum is nearly endless, which is great when it comes to distinguishing yourself from the competition. The cost of serving accessories for a shaved ice business is extremely low. Basically, all that will be required are two or three sizes of disposable cups, straws, and plastic spoons. Bulk purchase of about $300.00 should get between 2,500 to 5,000 servings worth of accessories.

Though a shaved ice operation can easily be managed by a single person, a two or three-person crew is usually the most efficient method. Of course, the amount of customer traffic will definitely be a deciding factor here. Customer satisfaction should be the top priority and one individual working the shaver and one doing the collecting and serving is usually ideal. The majority of shaved ice vendors are owner-operators, but should you decide to hire employees it may be necessary to find out if your state has any laws governing insurance or liability requirements. It is also very important to investigate your state’s requirements for business licensing, health codes, and permits needed for the operation of a food vending business.

Overall, a shaved ice business can give any aspiring business owner the opportunity to run a highly flexible and expandable operation without having to go deep into debt. This type of business tends to be seasonal, but with a little planning and creativity you could keep the snow falling and the cash flowing all year long.


Leave a Comment