The process of opening a joint ice cream and coffee shop in a small town is not that different from the way you would do it in a big city. You should try to find a unique niche for the shop that will appeal to most of the town's residents and you can do this by interviewing friends, relatives and neighbors in your town. As with any business you plan to start, you should ask yourself if you have the determination, commitment and time it takes to plan for and seek out the funds that are necessary for the ice cream and coffee shop.
Develop a unique idea for the ice cream shop. For example, if you want to open a shop that specializes only in ice cream made from fruits, vegetables and herbs, do research on this idea and find out if other ice cream shops in the area are already doing this. If not, prepare a few samples of your ice creams and give them to church members, friends, relatives and students in secondary schools and nearby universities.
Prepare your business plan for the shop. In the business plan, state why your ice cream and coffee shop stands out from the competition, the amount of money you'll need to open the shop, who your business partners will be and their responsibilities, how you plan to market the business and what your future projections are for the shop.
Seek out funds for the shop. Visit your local branch of the Small Business Administration and meet with a representative to discuss business loans and grants that you can apply for. If the town doesn't have Small Business Administration branch, visit the banks in your area and ask about the business loans they offer and how you can apply. If possible, seek out a small loan from a relative and have him or her write the agreement for you to sign. Finally, pay back the loan as quickly as you can to reduce tension between you and the relative.
Look for qualified employees. Specifically hire employees who are reliable, who have a few years of work experience, and who are interested in a food service career. Start by hiring some good friends and relatives, then place help wanted ads in the local newspapers and independent magazines. Also post a job opening on websites such as Craigslist or your local workforce center's website.
Promote the new ice cream and coffee shop. Hold a free community ice cream social at a public park for the town's residents and create the flyers which give detailed information about your shop and the date, place and length of time of the ice cream social. If you have coupons to give potential customers, pass these out at the ice cream social. Finally, include games for the children who come.
Thea Theresa English is a freelance writer who lives in New Orleans. She has written articles on career development, maintaining healthy relationships, politics and cultural issues. She is currently a graduate student at Tulane University where she will receive her Master of Liberal Arts degree.