If you are looking for a low-start-up-cost, people-oriented, flexible, primarily cash-based small business, a raspa shaved-ice stand might be your dream endeavor. Raspas are a syrupy sweet treat made from shaved ice and usually including fruit flavors. They may also include ice cream and fresh fruit.

Whether you live in a colder climate or in the sunny south, raspa snow cone stands are everywhere. The syrupy concoction has been around since 1919, and more retail outlets are springing up every day. A good business plan even allows for multiple outlets. As a second-generation raspa stand owner Eddie Margo, explained, "People love raspas. I love raspas."

Things You Will Need
  • Outdoor kiosk or stand or indoor rental space in a high-traffic area

  • Business license and permits

  • Syrups

  • Shaved ice machine

  • Paper or plastic cups or other holders

  • Spoons

  • Fruit (optional)

  • Ice cream (optional)

Location Selection and Permits

Step 1.


stand on the beach image by Cindy Haggerty from Fotolia.com

Locate your raspa stand in a high-traffic area with good visibility. Look for a place within your budget, either a free-standing building, an open air kiosk or one inside a high volume retail establishment.

Step 2.

Consult a commercial realtor for potential office space bargains.

Step 3.

Consult your city government office of licensing and permits to find out about the legal requirements for opening your business. You will need to register a business name and pay for a food handler's or street vendor's permit. You may also be required to pass an examination.

Product Selection

Step 1.

Identify your market niche. An upscale market or college campus dictates "healthier" choices on your menu. Raspa stands now frequently include sugar free and fresh fruit items on their menu.

Step 2.

Price your product to cover all costs, including overhead. Adding fruit and ice cream to your product can make it more unique, but it also adds to the cost.

Step 3.

Survey your competitors to review their product offerings: flavors, pricing, sizes and extras. Elicit feedback from customers to discover any unmet needs that you can target.

Step 4.

Sample several syrups to determine your favorite. Talk to several suppliers to make sure you have a good working relationship with them and understand their terms (minimum order requirements and shipping costs if you are not buying locally.)

Equipment and Accessories Selection and Quality Control

Step 1.

Purchase a shaved ice machine. Review available equipment thoroughly to find the one that best meets your needs. Indoor kiosks can use electric machines. For outdoor stands, use a battery-operated or gas-powered shaved ice machine.

Step 2.


little paper cones in a cone image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com

Purchase paper or plastic products, including cups, straws and napkins. If your concept is more cost-conscious, stick with the plain plastic cup or traditional white paper cone. For a gourmet product, use unique packaging. For the health crowd, look for bio-degradable or green products.

Step 3.

Survey your customers regularly to ensure the quality of your existing products and to develop new product ideas.


If you don't already have a background in food service, consider taking courses at your local community college or through an online concessionaire's program.


Make sure your food service permits are visible for local health officials to review at all times.

Have three to six months of operating capital on hand when you start your business.