There are some 27 million small businesses in the U.S. You want to be 27 million and one. Your business of choice? An ice cream shop. Starting a business isn’t easy, but it’s also not the impossible task that some people make it out to be. Here’s how to get started and cut the learning curve.
Know Your Product
Do you know your product? Do you know the ingredients you’ll need. Any good ice cream has at least a few basics including eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring or fruit. But, there’s more to it than just the basic custard. Customers have a lot of choices these days. If you’re not intimate with the nature of your product, and how to create the best imaginable ice cream experience, you’re wasting your time selling to the general public.
Go for the super-premium ingredients. Get ice cream packaging suppliers to make you customized containers and supplies. Get to know the overfill that’s optimum in ice cream and even experiment with different amounts of air in the finished product.
Get To Know Seasonality
You’re in a seasonal business. You’re only going to be making money for five or six months of the year. The rest of the time, you’re off. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily out of work completely. You can always use the off-season for experimentation, R&D, product improvement, and marketing for the uptick in the spring and early summer.
One of the biggest challenges new ice cream shop owners face is scalability. You’re local, but you have to learn how to scale up your business in the spring so that, by summer, you’re making more money than you were last year.
Be Prepared To Be Hassled By “The Man”
OSHA is not your friend. The local health board will want to inspect your operation for cleanliness and they’re not always the friendliest of people. Be prepared for the working and business permits, licenses, and other regulations – many of which will never make any sense to you (but you have to follow them anyway).
Be prepared for regular health and safety inspections. Every city has their own safety laws that get piled on top of federal regulations.
Know Your Customers’ Tastes
What do your customers like? Knowing what the locals’ tastes are will also be necessary for long-term survival. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with the basic neapolitan flavors. However, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla aren’t enough anymore.
A great way to figure out what’s selling is to visit other ice cream shops – particularly the more successful ones. What flavors are gone by the end of the day? Use this as a guide for your own flavorings, but don’t be afraid to experiment after you have a few solid flavors down.
Know What The Market Will Accept
How much can you charge for your ice cream? A lot of the pricing will be baked into the local economy. If you live in a rich neighborhood, then your customers can afford more. But, if the state, and city, in general, where you live is poor, don’t price people out of your business.
Spend time studying the local economy, the trend in unemployment, and the average worker wages. Let this, and your competitors, be your guide to pricing.
Understand The Local Nature Of Your Business
An ice cream shop is one of the rare businesses that cannot go online in a practical way. Imagine being able to ship ice cream in anything less than an insulated dry ice container. You’d have to ship bulk quantities for it to be worthwhile, and even then it’s questionable.
Your business is hyper-local. So, take advantage of that knowledge by grabbing the best real estate in your city or town. You should spend as much as you can afford for the foot traffic, because this will make or break you in the beginning – it could determine whether there is even a long-term to your company.
Ruth Sirmans has been running her family’s ice cream parlor for several years. With a great mind for business and marketing and an unquenchable sweettooth, she loves writing about her tips and tricks for the nostalgic, tasty ice cream shops across the nation to help improve their businesses.