Ice Cream Trucks:
The Mobile Ice Cream Business Option
Ice cream trucks are the stuff of summer days in the neighborhood, conjuring up images of kids playing on sidewalks and mothers strolling with their babies. They are also good business.
Owning an ice cream business can be a profitable enterprise when you plan properly. It can also be loads of fun! If you love ice cream as much as interacting with people and would like to be your own boss, this could be just the right business for you.
Planning Your Ice Cream Business
Any business requires careful planning if you're going to make it. Nowhere is the saying "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail," more accurate than when starting a new business venture. If you're serious about ice cream trucks as a business possibility, here are some of the factors you need to consider:
- It's your own business
- You make your own hours
- You sell what you want to
- You cultivate your customers
- The profits are all yours
- It is seasonal work – don't expect to drive your route in the winter. Unless you live on the equator, there will be several months a year that your business will be shut down. Depending on your point of view, that's good or bad.
- The buck stops with you - you're the one responsible for everything.
- You have to be committed to your route, or you'll lose customers and leave the route open to competitors.
- As with any business, if you want to make it work, you'll have to work – hard!
Develop Your Ice Cream Business Plan
Every successful business began with a business plan. This is where you look at your local market, estimate consumer demand, analyze your competition, and figure out how you will make your business stand out from the rest. It is also where you look at the nitty gritty, like how much money you will need, how much you have, and what you are going to spend it on.
Each field of business has its own particular requirements. We've put together some ice cream business plan resources that you may find helpful when developing your own plan.
One of your early decisions will have to be whether you wish to be an independent operator, or if an ice cream truck franchise might offer you more advantages.
In addition, you will have to research the following points:
Local Laws and Regulations
Part of your preliminary work will be to check out your local regulations for ice cream trucks and mobile food vendors. Go to your city hall and ask what is required – you may need to apply for a business license in addition to a variety of other things. Make sure you are aware not only of general business requirements, but also of all regulations applying specifically to ice cream vendors and their vehicles. Never take the word of someone else – go to the official government source and find out, in writing. Regulations vary tremendously from town to town and cover anything from food safety issues to how loud you can play your ice cream truck music. (Some places have even banned the music altogether, and allow only hand bells, so find out before you invest in an ice cream truck music box.)
This may sound daunting, but please don't let this step stop you. Most people who start small businesses are not lawyers and they manage to navigate all the official forms just fine. If you are overwhelmed at the thought of going to city hall, then contact your local small business bureau or chamber of commerce for help. There are many resources available to first-time entrepreneurs.
Some of the requirements you have to meet, depending on your jurisdiction, may include:
- A valid driver's license
- A business license
- Criminal background check
- Food handling permit
- Health certification
- Vending permit
Ice Cream Trucks
If you've never operated an ice cream truck before, you might want to consider leasing one
for a season to see how it goes. This will let you start your business without committing to the biggest expense in this field: the truck itself.
Once you have your vehicle, you'll want to give thought to how to decorate it. This is not a frivolous decision – your business may depend in part on how you present yourself.
Realize that part of your business expenses will include maintenance costs, vehicle registration fees and passing safety road tests where necessary.
You'll want to brush up on safety guidelines and safety equipment, such as a backup alarm, safety lights, a swing-arm stop sign if permissible in your area, and appropriate safety stickers.
This is by no means an exhaustive overview of what you'll have to cover as you prepare to launch your business. Don't be surprised if unexpected requirements or expenses pop up – it's all part of being an entrepreneur.
To simplify the process, you may find that this ice cream business plan is an invaluable resource.
Remember that at the end of the day, the satisfaction you'll feel at owning your own successful business will be worth all the effort you put into it!
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