An ice cream trailer business could be an ideal choice for a new entrepreneur. The financial hurdles to entry aren’t outrageously high, and the business allows for some scheduling flexibility. Aside from that, an ice cream truck business is easily scalable. If you want to understand how to start an ice cream truck business, then these unique tips will be useful.
Facts About Starting Ice Cream Trailer Business
The first thing to consider is the type of ice cream trailer business you want to run. Some ice cream trucks only sell prepackaged ice cream novelty items.
This type of business is significantly less labor-intensive and cost-effective than selling soft-serve or hard-packed cones of ice cream and sundaes.
Owning and running one ice cream trailer is not only fun—who does not desire to put smiles on the faces of clients of all ages?—but it is also profitable. However, it can also offer an opportunity to make money while having fun.
According to some reports, ice cream trailers make between $200-$300 in sales revenue per day when the weather is good.
Depending on where you are and how many months of nice weather you have, you could earn $5,000 per month working 20hrs or less per week.
Working part-time, you could make an estimated net profit of $30,000 per year after expenses.
Skills Required to Run a Successful Ice Cream Trailer Business
While you do not need a college education or specialized skills to own and manage an ice cream trailer, you will need to have or learn certain skills. For example, you’ll need expertise in:
Previously, simply driving around in an area full of kids could yield enough customers to meet weekly and daily sales targets.
Customers would flock to you to buy their preferred ice pop, covered with an ice cream cup, or caramel cone if you had a cool logo, a crazy truck exterior, and a cute jingle.
Many of today’s ice cream trailer vendors offer their sweet treats at fixed locations because of road congestion and other public safety issues.
These locations could include tunes, art, and school carnivals, as well as parks and recreational areas, and other huge event spaces.
Understanding how to market in order to attract customers has become increasingly important for all food truck business owners, including ice cream trucks.
As a food truck owner, you’ll be interacting with the public, so people skills are essential.
Because your ice cream trailer will attract people of all ages, you’ll need to be sociable and likable when speaking with children, seniors, and everyone in between.
Your company’s success partly depends on your friendly and welcoming demeanor. Even when a customer complains about your products or services, you must maintain your cool.
Experience in Management
Managing a small business usually requires management abilities. If you hire people, you must understand how to train, plan, and pay them.
Even if you run the business entirely on your own, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of record keeping, stock control, tax filing, and workspace maintenance.
Working from a mobile office requires you to understand the mechanical aspects of your truck in order to keep it in good working order.
Acquiring the skills to carry out your own regular maintenance and even repairs could save you a lot of time and money.
If your specific business relies on freezers and, possibly, equipment for making and serving ice cream, knowing how to maintain these critical appliances will be helpful at some point.
Food Services Management
Any business that requires serving food to the public will require some knowledge of food services management.
You’ll have to learn not just how to manage and store fresh food that is prone to melting or going bad, but also how to manage the amount and frequency of product orders in order to make a profit and minimize waste.
How to Start an Ice Cream Trailer Business?
Now that you know what it takes to run an ice cream trailer, it’s time to plan your venture. Let’s go over this checklist to see how it can help you as an ice cream trailer owner.
1. Have a Business Plan
A good business plan is the foundation of a good business. Simply put, a business plan is a written document that details your company’s operational, financial, sales, and advertising facets.
The document serves as a road map to assist you in planning and executing all the tasks required to get your business up and running, as well as a forecast of how and when you should expect to see a profit from your investment.
A business plan typically follows the following format:
a. Financial Forecasts and Funding Requirements:
This section is especially important if you are looking for business financing.
You’ll outline whether you want to fund your business yourself or seek equity investors or loans, as well as the terms you’re looking for.
You’ll also explain how you intend to spend the startup funds, your projected revenue, and your long-term debt repayment strategy.
Even if you don’t intend to seek outside funding, creating cost estimates can help ensure you have enough cash flow to stay in business.
b. Marketing and Sales
You will define your marketing and sales strategies in this section. How will you attract customers? How do you gain and keep a competitive advantage?
Because marketing strategies are dynamic and change over time, you don’t need to go into great detail. However, outline your overall strategy for acquiring and growing a customer base.
c. Market Analysis
This is where you delve into the “why” of your expected success. You’ll show your understanding of the food truck industry in your area, with a focus on your capacity to compete with other mobile ice cream vendors.
The idea is to think about things like market saturation, the possibility for a new concept to enter the market, and the chances of success.
d. Executive Summary
This is the beginning of your business. It is here that you will include your stated mission, introduce yourself and any other interested parties (e.g., partners, investors, or staff), and explain briefly how you intend to make your ice cream trailer company successful.
e. Company Description
In this section, you’ll provide more information about how you intend to operate your ice cream truck, such as the products you’ll sell, your target customer, and how you will reach customers.
This is the section where you will describe your company’s vision and how it varies from the competition. You may also provide details on the structure of your company.
Are you, for example, a limited liability company (LLC), an S corporation, or a sole proprietor? You might hire an independent business consultant to assist you in determining the best framework for your company.
2. Make a Budget
Too often, aspiring entrepreneurs, who are normally creative go-getters with a lot of passion, energy, and ideas, become perplexed about creating a reasonable figure for their own business. Don’t worry if you fall into this category.
The financial planning and modeling experts could guide you through the budgeting process and even perform the heavy lifting of predicting what your start-up costs would be.
How much working capital you’ll need to stay functional, and many other key factors in ensuring that you begin your venture in the best financial health possible.
They will accomplish these tasks for a fixed fee and with agreed deliverables.
3. Get the Right Equipment
Once you’ve created a business model and a spending plan for your expenses, it’s time to consider where you’ll get all the equipment and inventory you’ll need to run your business. Consider the following suggestions:
- Find a vendor to sell your novelty ice cream products, as well as any ingredients needed to make ice cream, gelato, or hard-packed ice cream varieties (including disposable cups, plates, toppings, cones, utensils, and napkins).
- Choose the best freezers and chillers to keep your inventory safe and in compliance with health regulations and laws.
- Install a generator or inverter to transform power from your truck battery into the electricity required to keep your chillers and other equipment running when you’re parked or if you lose power while driving.
- Determine whether you will run the business with a money box and a calculator or if you will need to set up a point-of-sale (POS) platform such as those offered by Square or PayPal.
- Choose a sound system that will keep your favorite ice cream truck jingle wafting through the air and attracting potential customers.
- Purchase or lease a trailer for your ice cream vending operation. This will most likely be your most expensive initial investment, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 per month to rent or a minimum of $10,000 to buy.
4. Get Required Permits and Licenses
To run a legal food truck business, you must follow all state, county, and city and county laws.
Some municipal governments require extra licenses, permits, and inspections besides getting an overall business license and registering with federal, state, and district tax authorities.
If you plan on taking your ice cream trailer to different towns or states, investigate each venue’s license, permit, and fee requirements to make sure that businesses like yours are allowed to operate.
Local authorities may have different rules regarding where food vendors can park, how loud music can be played, and what hours they can operate.
5. Promote Your Company Using Online Marketing Tools
As you identify your target audience and create a potential customer base, you’ll want to invest some resources in marketing your small business.
As first priorities, consider securing a brand name, registering a web domain, and designing a logo.
Developing a great logo for your company is an important part of your sales and marketing strategy.
If you aren’t an experienced graphic artist or marketing expert, probably hire an independent logo design specialist to assist you in creating the right feel and look for your company.
Project Catalog is brimming with logo product designers who can work with you on a per-project basis at an affordable price. Because your truck serves as your shopfront, paint, or wrap it with a logo and look that is unique to your company.
Online Marketing Tools
Maybe you can create an Instagram-worthy photo location that will entice people to come to your truck for photos and then stay to buy your products.
Consider employing design professionals to assist you in creating flyers and other advertising material for your ice cream truck business.
If you’ve purchased an established ice cream truck business, hire one of these experts to assist you to rebrand the company.
To help customers recognize your brand and find you, integrate email advertising and social media approaches into your operations.
The best ways to accomplish this are to develop an email marketing strategy and to generate buzz for your company through social media.
Don’t worry if you’re not an expert in digital marketing. There are independent digital marketing professionals who can create and implement a detailed plan for your new ice cream trailer business.
Using the reach of Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and other streams through influencers, paid posts, and other tested tactics.
6. Get Insured
Any food trailer business, including an ice-cream van business, must have not only normal business insurance but also insurance that is specific to automobiles and food operations.
Because an ice cream truck business is mobile, you’ll also need extensive collision auto insurance, as well as cooking insurance. Consult with your insurance agent to determine the best combination of policies.
Because an ice cream truck business is mobile, you’ll also need extensive collision auto insurance, as well as kitchen insurance. Consult with your insurance agent to determine the best combination of policies.
One of the most appealing aspects of this venture is that you can run the entire operation while learning how to open an ice cream truck business and taking the first steps.
If you’re more concerned with growing your business than with day-to-day operations, take a lesser role and employ at least one staff to drive, scoop, sell, and serve.
Ice Cream Truck Insurance
Because selling ice cream does not require extensive training or expertise, it is an excellent first job for young people who are still in or have recently graduated from high school.
Make certain that whoever you hire has a clean driving record. Hire people who get along well with children and have a pleasant demeanor.
It’s also a good idea to conduct a background check on any prospective employees, especially if they’ll be working with children.
After you’ve hired people, you’ll need to set up payroll. You can do it yourself or hire a payroll service that will not only process and send paychecks but will also manage all of your tax reporting and withholding obligations.
7. Plan Your Route
Consider where you’ll take your mobile ice cream shop and which neighborhoods you can incorporate into your regular ice cream truck route.
Try visiting parks and schools and offering ice cream at nearby festivals, birthday parties, and other weekend and occasional activities if permitted.
Of course, you’ll want to research the competition to ensure you’re not encroaching on someone else’s established path.
The idea is to locate an area where there aren’t already any ice cream truck drivers and carve out your own territory.
Be wary of local laws that prohibit mobile food trucks and ice cream trailers in particular, from operating in certain areas.
8. Decide What Type of Ice Cream to Sell
While most typical ice cream trucks sell novelty ice cream, a few do well-selling soft-serve or hard ice cream. Novelties are by far the simplest option because the only requirement is enough freezer space.
Because the ice cream is pre-packaged, it also eases some of the food safety concerns that come with operating an ice cream truck business. Your stock will also be simpler to manage and track.
This is one aspect of starting an ice cream truck business that you should take your time deciding on.
Consider your options carefully, as they will have an important impact on everything from your brand image to the demographics you attract, and most notably, your bottom line.
Though pre-packaged ice cream may be easier to manage, a truck selling soft serve or hard ice cream has the potential to be more lucrative. With this type of product, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Know the Types of Ice Cream to Sell
Scoop, a combination of ice cream flavors, toppings, and other factors can vary prices, making your options more appealing to potential customers.
Also, whether you sell soft serve or hard ice cream, you can add novelties to your stock, such as pre-packaged goods.
However, if you decide to serve soft serve or hard ice cream, you will need to make a larger investment in equipment and personnel.
Your truck may even be more expensive. As a result, deciding between novelties and soft-serve/hard ice cream is one of the most important decisions you will make as you strategize your ice cream trailer startup.
9. Observe All Local Health Agency Regulations
Even if you sell pre-packaged novelty items, you must comply with your local health department’s regulations.
These usually go beyond the licenses and permits you’ve already dealt with, though some overlap is possible.
Begin by contacting your city’s health department to learn about the regulations you’ll be operating under and what you’ll need to do to stay in compliance.
If you only offer pre-packaged ice cream novelty items, you are likely exempt from food handling regulations.
Health Agency Regulations
Even if you’re just dispensing soft-serve ice cream from equipment or scooping out a cone of vanilla ice cream, you’re now preparing food and must meet the food handling and preparation requirements.
In fact, you won’t be able to start your first route until you’ve fulfilled those requirements. Health inspectors will inspect you regularly before you start operations.
The inspectors will need to see all of your documentation, including licenses, permits, and proof of ice cream truck ownership.
The safety inspectors will ensure that your truck complies with the health codes. They would then want to see that your chillers are operating at the proper temperature and that all of your truck’s machines and water lines are clean and operational.
They may also want to inspect your truck storage facility beside any commercial kitchen you use as a supplier. If you fail your health inspection, you will be fined, possibly severely, and you will be required to correct any violations of the health regulations before you can operate.
Start Your Own Ice Cream Business
Building a profitable ice cream truck business is a lofty goal that can be realized with proper planning and the right materials, including the help of independent talent.
Don’t be put off by the amount of work required to get your own ice cream shop up and running.
Use the steps and tips in this guide as a starting point and seek help when needed. There are many independent professionals ready to help you become a successful ice cream truck entrepreneur, with affordable options and per-project pricing.