If you're ready to start up a new business and think vending food products a good fit, then you might consider Italian ice. As with any commercial venture, this project entails both its challenges as well as its hidden gold. The trick will be to navigate franchising agreements, locale, weather and licensing. Once the optimum results are gained from these considerations, you can be well on your way to a successful entrepreneurial endeavor.
There are several things on which your business will probably rely, including the weather and the sales venues available to you. As opposed to cart vendors who sell a variety of products--hot and cold--you will be selling icy cool Italian ice. This means you need to capitalize on hot spring and summer weather where you are likely to sell the most product because demand will be highest. In terms of venues, the more sports fields, parks and other public facilities in your target area the better. Also, hit any fairs or festivals that occur nearby. If you are able to make regular appearances in these places during peak seasons, you could become quite well established.
Depending on your state or local area, licensing could be both a pro and a con. It depends on how difficult local or state authorities make attaining the proper vending licenses, permits or food service documentation. It also varies on whether you need to purchase supplemental insurance in order to operate the cart. Contact your state's department of health in order to see what is required of you in order to be an authorized Italian ice vendor.
First, you won't really need a staff or a lot of extra help to do business. That will limit your overhead. Another pro is that there is information available for this line of work. There are entities that even sell business plans specifically for Italian ice. They offer marketing strategies, revenue speculation and legal handbooks. In the end, this is potentially a business with low start-up costs and, as stated by American Business Builder, "you get to be your own boss."
Unless you are making your own Italian ice, you're most likely going to have to go for an already established, recognized brand-name. While this is not necessarily all bad, there are some headaches. First, you will probably have to make an initial investment for franchising in the brand. As of March 2010, Rita's Italian Ice for example, requires between $198,000 and $445,000, and Ralph's famous Italian Ice calls for $66,000 to $120,000. You may also be required to use their logo and other marketing devices thus limiting your creative input. On the other hand, recognized names can be a boon and there are often small business loans available through the state or federal government that can defray initial expenses.