My husband and I owned a real estate investment company in Ohio, and for many years, did well flipping and renting properties. However, when the market began to crash, we decided it was time to make a change and we moved all the way to Southern California where his (bad) back would feel better and we would re-start our lives.
He took a job in sales with a hotel chain and I started teaching as a sub and tutor with the school district. We soon discovered our income was not enough to support our family and began to investigate business opportunities.
One night, we happened to be at a weekly street fair in our town, where we spotted the Snowie (what we call “The Bubble”) but is, in fact, the enclosed 5×8 building, and we were amazed. We had NEVER seen anything like it. It was state of the art looking, totally fun looking, and the man working it had the longest line of anyone there! We made note of the equipment and that evening I was on the internet investigating the company and shaved ice as a business opportunity. $3 (MINIMUM) for a cup of ice with some sugar and flavor on it? Got to be some good margin in that!
So after investigating many companies and equipment, the Snowie Company continued to rise to the top of what we were considering. We decided we absolutely did NOT want to do a franchise. Why pay someone for the right to sell their stuff and we’re doing the work? McDonalds franchise? We understand. Shaved Ice franchises? ABSOLUTELY NOT. We didn’t feel there was that much proprietary (especially with the Snowie options – everyone thinks it’s a franchise because of the quality of the equipment anyway!) PLUS, the folks at Snowie were willing to let us come to the warehouse and be trained.
We were so excited about the opportunity; yet a bit skeptical about the cost of the trailer and equipment. We decided to print off a picture of the equipment and try to get a space in the local twice weekly street fair in our town. We told the managers, “we have this on order and we want to bring it here. Will you allow us in?” When the Wednesday manager finally agreed, we “loaded up the truck …actually it was a Jeep Cherokee we installed a Uhaul hitch to, and we drove to Salt Lake City!
After touring the warehouse (SO impressive and to see Americans working and building the equipment RIGHT THERE meant they could fix it/service it too (if we needed it) – my husband and I bought our first Snowie equipment. September, 2007, we officially began our new career as concessionaires/caterers.
O.K. it wasn’t as easy as that. We took a loan from our 401K to buy the equipment. This scary move ended up being a great move because shortly thereafter, the market crashed and we lost a significant part of our fund…BUT WE NOW HAD THE SNOWIE BUILDING!…
Within one month of starting the business, my husband took a leave of absence from his job. We were just too busy for him to work anywhere else. Within two months, (yes, we got approval for the Saturday t
oo…people were so excited about our shaved ice trailer – no one had seen anything like it at that time), we were so busy, we started hunting for another building. We ended up buying a 5×8 open kiosk three months into our new business SIMPLY based on the demand. Now we could do two locations on the same day.
Then we bought an umbrella stand (our birthday parties start at $300 for 50 people) and a food truck (we can do shaved ice from); a 5×8 cart, and last year, we were blessed to be able to purchase a Snowie Bus!
We can do whole schools (1500 kids) in two hours…(this smaller cup is $2/serving.) Street fairs, car shows, sports leagues, 4th of July celebrations, …we even do an occasional wedding from time to time! Typically on a Saturday, just with the bus we have 3-4 birthday parties booked – (we do not use our bus for route sales/driving neighborhoods. We rent ourselves out for events.)
In retrospect, I think the biggest thing people considering this business should understand is that it is hard work, but it is work that is fun. EVERYONE is happy to see you coming (especially in the Bus. People take pictures of you driving down the road, they wave, and give you the thumbs up…then they call to book you for their events!) It’s also a business your children can help you with. Our kids were 9 and 13 when we started – now our son is in college and our daughter in high school, but they and their friends work for us. What an invaluable experience it has been for them too.
We now have five shavers (1000’s and 3000’s) and we have dealt with the Snowie company since 2007. Early into our career, we had a problem with our water heater early on a Sunday morning…we actually called Carl on his cell phone and he had no problem walking us through our issue so we didn’t have a problem with the health department. EVERYONE at Snowie will bend over backwards to answer your questions (and they work the business too so they know what we experience in the field), give you information, and help you to be successful. They are the best, in terms of quality companies and you will never regret having their equipment. They build it and they know how it works and will walk you through how to fix anything that may need fixing as you go along. I have to add here that the shavers are the absolute BEST thing made in America. (I am bias maybe, but I mean it.) The ice you shave is superior to anyone else’s, the machine shaves literally a cone a second, they are indestructible (and our’s have hit the “deck” more than one time!) and they are definitely a competitive advantage over anything we’ve seen in all of these years in the field.
So as you consider getting into this business, the main question you have to ask yourself is: Is this business for you? It’s mainly week-ends, it’s mainly cash, and you have to be willing to find contracts and/or events. I guarantee you, even if you just need some part-time income, you will be hard pressed to find a more lucrative opportunity. We live in Southern CA and yes, we may have a longer selling season than some areas in the country, however, we have more competition in our markets. If you are in a cooler region, you may have a shorter selling season, but you will likely not have as much competition AND you will be slamming in your warmer months!
After considering the above and your answer is “yes”, then you have found the absolute best company to partner with (Snowie) and we wish you fun and the best in your new part-time (or full-time) venture.
Bob & Beth Smith
Palm Springs, CA