Problems with the Shaved-Ice Business

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A shaved-ice business can be a great moneymaker when the weather’s hot, the location’s perfect and the area’s filled with folks needing a sweet and cold dessert. But making this type of establishment work isn’t as simple as grabbing some ice and flavored toppings and sitting back to count the money. Selling shaved ice carries some challenges that can greatly inhibit a business owner’s chances of success.

Hard Work in Hot Weather

Running a shaved ice business takes more effort than picking ice pops out of a freezer or scooping ice cream from a tub. The ice has to come from somewhere, and the source is usually heavy blocks that have to be carried and manipulated by hand. Shaving the ice requires both skill and practice, and doing it wrong can leave a long line of angry customers looking elsewhere for their summer treat. If you also make your syrups by hand, it's easy to underestimate the work involved.

Finding Venues

Whether your shaved ice business is in a bricks-and-mortar store or a portable trailer, location is critical. If you have a stand at the beach, there's a big difference between being on the boardwalk and a block away from the ocean. If your business is a trailer or similar mobile operation, you need to keep a close eye on where your customers are. Particularly for a start-up, this might mean taking a chance that the local little league venue will provide bigger business potential than the flea market being held at the same time. Guess wrong, and it’s a wasted opportunity that’s bad for the bottom line.

Rising Competition

As shaved ice becomes more popular, there's increasing competition for business, especially during the summer months. A shaved ice business not only has to stand out among the other snack and dessert options, it also may be competing with other shaved-ice stands. This means that sticking to the standard-flavor syrups won't be enough to make your business stand out. If you can't develop unique flavors or create an ambiance that draws attention from your target market, you may not be able to sustain the traffic you need to stay in business.

Seasonal Dependence

Demand for shaved ice generally tracks with the weather – when it’s hot, people turn their attention to colder treats. This doesn’t mean that a shaved-ice business can’t operate year-round, but it does mean that the owner needs to go the extra mile to find customers and accentuate demand. A shaved-ice trailer that runs a set schedule between the local pools all summer may have to work the phones to win a place at community events or develop relationships with local businesses and schools for opportunities the rest of the year.

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