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I was just wondering if any of you all do this or have thought about going this,

I have few school vending accounts and sometimes on Fridays I see a kona/Hawaii ice vendor set up outside of the schools selling these drinks and their making seems to be good money,

I've also seen these setup at summer events

What your all thoughts

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'Sup KyC,

Remember when you first looked at vending and it seemed like a straight-forward proposition of buying some stuff and selling it for 2x or 3x cost of goods? Snow cone/shave ice is just about the same, with the same reality once you get into it. It makes decent money, but you earn every penny of it.

When a food truck (or mobile vending vehicle if everything is prepackaged (like an ice cream truck) or treated like a concession stand) crosses from one jurisdiction to another, the rules can change dramatically. This means that a shave ice truck can be treated like a restaurant in one city (inspections, commissary, lots of special equipment - all of this is above the normal business license stuff), like a vending machine in another (ice cream truck that only needs a business license, liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, property tax, and sales tax), and like a concession stand in the next county. Differences in rules can include, but are not limited to:

-safety lighting and decals

-use of loudspeakers prohibited

-licenses and inspections (some states have special laws and regulation for businessss selling dairy-based products (most shave ice trucks sell some amount of prepackaged ice cream to provide a different choice to customers) or businesses that use ice (regulation-writers can get reeeaaallly creative)

-special purpose taxes (like an extra 1% sales tax for education)

-peddler license

-requirements for permission from commercial property owner (some jurisdictions require notarized written permission from the property owner (ever try to find the actual 'owner' of a commercial property?)

-rules about doing business in the right-of-way (which includes street or sidewalk or more)

-where curbside business is allowed, rules about distance from intersections)

-rules about number of days in one spot (comes into play when you do multi-day fairs or festivals)

-rules about what can be outside the vehicle (trash can, sign, freestanding canopy)

Very important!

You must have:

-mobile power to run compressors for freezers (32 degrees Fahrenheit is a fun temperature in school to see when a small amount of water starts changing state to ice, but ice cream novelties and ice for snow cones/shave ice needs to be 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit below 32 degrees - seriously, and there is no getting around it)

-backup mobile power to run compressors for freezers

-backup power for the backup power to run compressors for freezers (if you ever hit 30 degrees with ice cream novelties or 40 degrees with ice/water, your life just changed)

Find a way to keep ants out of your life/truck.

If you ever worry about bad guys watching a vending guy drive around with the cash from a few machines (most of the time in a plain white box truck or van), think about people watching a snow cone guy taking in $900 in six hours (and driving home in the most recognizable and follow-able vehicle in town). Start carrying protection and drive around for a while before going home, or you may end up like a Korean convenience store owner or dry cleaner owner who gets shot in the driveway one night coming home with the day's cash (seldom ends up in the newspaper, but it happens way more often than you would think). I feel bad for these hard-working people (I have stories).

Competition gets tough - tougher than with vending. Lots more to this, especially when working events (or losing out to a competitor) near home.

Franchise fees (if you go the franchise route). There is one big company, and there are a lot of copycats coming behind them. Some have good support and processes for a reasonable cost), while others have a deal that leaves you feeling like a vending 'business opportunity' scheme. Leaves you broke, too.

I suppose I could finally tell anyone here who cares that our other business is an independent ice cream truck. We have built a great business out of it. Most of it has been in our own community, which has both very good and moderately bad aspects. We have a few overlaps and mutually-beneficial aspects between the two businesses. Mostly, though, it is just a headache keeping everything separate. Vending keeps us busy between big and small events. (I have a wonderful and patient wife.)

My vending machines sell stuff for me, make change, and do not have to talk with customers. When I sell out of a window in a truck, I hand each and every item (carefully) to each customer. I count their three dollars of nickels, and I speak to every customer. Those ice cream boxes tear my fingers and hands to pieces when I reach into them two to 400 times per hour. The first 4,500 pieces I sell each year just about covers vehicle and liability insurance. A little more than half of that can buy gas for the year. A backup generator or a new inverter costs about 700 pieces of ice cream profit.

It is so hot in that truck. We keep making engineering improvements, but I have worked an event with an inside truck temperature of 108 degrees - more than once. (Sweat and Gatorade become important factors.) We have to keep drinks cold, snacks below 90 degrees, and ice cream and ice novelties at 10 - 20 degrees below zero.

Waking up to rewire a freezer compressor at 3:30 AM (lightning strike nearby) stinks. I barely remember that sleepy event, but the freezer still works today. Which brings us to...

...Dry ice. What a pain. When something goes wrong, you have to have it. You have to know where to find it (sometimes outdated directory online), you have to leave your ailing freezer to get it, you have to pay for it!, you have to not let that stuff (painfully) take your fingertips off.

Kids (and, sadly, some adults) do equivalent things to your truck that they do to your vending machines. This is more frustrating when working close to home (little Bobby from church scratched a dirty word onto the back side of your truck).

No bathroom breaks at a busy event. I see that becoming a business problem as I get older.

It is getting late here, so I will leave the very bored person who actually read this whole thing (hey, I had to type it on an iPhone) with this bit of information:

A $4.00 snow cone has about $.30 of cost in ice, flavor syrup, cup, spoon, and napkin. Franchise fees, insurance, and other junk cost a whole lot, but volume sales can make it worthwhile.

Ice cream novelties are not nearly as profitable, but it is better than the markup you can put on a Snickers bar.

Reader beware:

Way more than you wanted to hear.

Others may have different opinions on a few things I have written, but my experiences say I am pretty close to having all of that written stuff right.


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I am familiar with the Kona Shaved ice trucks at schools. They give back anywhere to 30 to 45% back to the schools. Still good manoey considering what they have in a shaved ice. However that truck they have is a franchise and its over 100k to get in. 

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Oh snap that's a lot for a Franchise

What these guys were doing was pulling a trailer with kona ice graphics on it, they had push carts they look like a little truck


Yes, they offer their franchise partners different options such as the "mini" truck which is the one you saw, a trailer, etc but it is my understanding they have to buy the truck first before they can add to their fleet with these other options. 

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Just a little more info that is important about this. The key with this is a few points.


1. To get in the schools they offer a pretty large percentage which I have already said is still worth it based on the margins. 

2. You have to have special ice shavers capable of doing a large volume quickly. Many of these schools have as many as 500 plus students that have to be served in a very short window that is around 1.5 hours to 2 hours max. 

3. The other key part is you will need to have the syrup portion of the shaved ice being self serve by the students. This is key to keep the line flowing and doing that large volume in a short period of time. 


Just fyi, I was one of the directors/ vice president of the MFVA (Mobile Food Vendors Association) so I am pretty familiar with many of these mobile food vending businesses out their. Along with vending I have/had mobile food vending operations from hot dog carts, fresh squeezed lemonade, pretzels, etc. 


The cheapest you could get into the shaved ice business correctly doing this business model is around $8k give or take a bit. You would think that the shaved ice business is seasonal and it is to a certain degree but kids will eat it in the dead of winter which is the reason you see them in schools. Take that along with the summer business with fairs, festivals, etc it can work as a year around business. 

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I was just wondering if any of you all do this or have thought about going this,

I have few school vending accounts and sometimes on Fridays I see a kona/Hawaii ice vendor set up outside of the schools selling these drinks and their making seems to be good money,

I've also seen these setup at summer events

What your all thoughts

I used to sell Hawain shave ice sst festivals. Shoot me a message or give me a call if you want to learn about it.

Long story short, it takes 3-5 years to build a decent route, and some weekends you work 18hrs a day and hope to break even.

Very territorial and tough to get good spots imo.

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Yes it's s idea I was throwing around inside my head, yes kids were going crazy over it plus a few teachers, at one point I thought he was getting mugged lol I was waiting for him to yell man down man down

Since this time of year it slows down for us snack vendors I was thinking of ways to help supplement the void, I have several Gumball machines that I use during this time,

Anything that might generate a few dollars lol legally lol

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