Sunday, January 11, 2009

Summer Snow in Minnesota!

Summer Snow is a mobile concessions business in Minnesota. In a phone interview, I had the opportunity to speak with Jamie about her business. Over the past two years, her business has experienced rapid growth. Their sales tripled between their first and second season. Now, her goal is to double sales in the third season. Here’s how she answered some of my questions.

How many years have you been operating your business?

Jamie: We will be entering our third season starting in May. Our first season, we were only open June, July, and August. Our second season went from May through September 1st. We are planning on running our stands on that schedule this year too.

Why did you decide to open a shaved ice business?

Jamie: While growing up in the Dallas, TX area, we had numerous shaved ice stands around us. It was a summer tradition. When we moved to Minnesota, we realized that there were pretty much nonexistent. Because we like and enjoy shaved ice and the market seemed to be wide open here, we decided to venture into the business.

Are you a dedicated neighborhood stand or do you sell at special events and festivals?

Jamie: Our first season, we tried setting up in one consistent location. We quickly found out that it wasn’t how we wanted to operate. We started concentrating on special events in our area and things started to take off for us then. Our first year was “hit and miss” as far as finding good events. However, after receiving customer referrals on other good events and being directly invited to participate in high attendance events, we have grown rapidly. We now set up our trailer at a local soccer complex during the week and then operate at events on the weekends.

What advice do you have for a potential shaved ice business owner?

Jamie: If they were up here in our area, I’d advise them to do special events. I would also recommend that they visit the website and download the free business manual there. It was very helpful in answering some of our questions. It also gave us the confidence we needed to push forward and open up our business. One thing that we did in the very beginning was use the recommended ‘Free Day.’ Our first day, we probably handed out over 1000 sample cups of shaved ice. Even though it was free day, we still sold around $400 worth of products!

Another thing to remember as a mobile concessionaire: a line attracts more people. During slow times, we will sometimes send out an employee who will give away sample cups of shaved ice. Pretty soon, you have a few people in line and the line starts growing again. At some concerts, we use printed coupons that give the customer 50 cents off. When it’s slow, we’ll have an employee or two go out and start giving those coupons out. Again, our line will start growing and sales start increasing again.

We have experienced great growth. We started out with a small, older trailer our first season. Our second year we sold the smaller trailer, ordered a custom 8x12 trailer and still ended up adding a tent, tables, and a second machine. With our newer trailer, we have been invited to work at events because of the professional appearance we maintain. Entering into our third season, we have replaced the tent and tables with a cart setup. At some events, we plan on operating in two different locations within the same event. We are also planning to do private party catering (setting a flat rate for a certain time limit) with the cart.

What has been your best day as far as gross sales?

Jamie: Our goal at any event is to average $200 per hour for an 8 hour day. If we do this, we are very successful.

What is your profit margin?

Jamie: This is hard to calculate since overall our company is still losing money. We have expanded quickly. We also have about 8 employees that work for us each season. It’s expensive to maintain employees in our state. However, if we hit the mark of $200 per hour at our events, we do pretty well.

How has 1-800-Shaved-Ice helped your company?

Jamie: When we initially found their website and used their Cold Cash Business Manual, we were very pleased. Now we order our products over the phone and it has been great. We have had several other companies try to get us to purchase their products, but we have stayed with 1-800-Shaved-Ice from the beginning. We like their flavors!

Do you sell other items in addition to shaved ice?

Jamie: We sell quite a few other items. Mini doughnuts, fruit smoothies, frozen coffee drinks, ice cream sundaes, soda, water, and candy are all items that are on our menu. It varies sometimes from one event to another as far as what we sell. Our goal is to get people to our stand however possible. Another thing we like about having multiple products is that if a family comes up, we can potentially serve all of them. One person might want a shaved ice, another a smoothie, another may want a bottle of water, etc.

What are your favorite shaved ice flavors?

Jamie: Wedding cake is my favorite flavor. My husband also likes the sour flavors.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your business with me Jamie. I appreciate it. Everyone at 1-800-Shaved-Ice appreciates you too! We are thrilled about the growth of your business. We hope that your third season will be the best yet!

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