As summer is on the horizon, today I want to talk about a Business trend that not only have I recognized but also experienced as a summer project. Last summer I decided to run my own business close to my heart, or should I say stomach… I set up an Ice Cream Business trading from an old pashley ice cream bike. With minimal start up costs and a father who is crafty with bikes, this seemed like a great opportunity for my to get some experience in running my own business.
Ice cream bikes have been around since 1923, I am sure you can remember the ‘Stop me and buy one’ walls trikes. The history of the bikes is not something I was aware of when starting the business, but it was clear to me that people love the traditional feel of buying from a bike, especially the older age group. This feeling of reminiscence is not shared within Ice Cream Vans… most vans look like they were involved with an explosion at the paint factory.
So I set my Ice-cream bike up, loaded it with fine Belgium choc sticks and lollies scheduled 8 events to attend and ran my business. Sad to admit that the business wasn’t as successful as I hoped, the four months gave me nothing but experience and a freezer full of ice cream, I still have some stock left today… but no I’m not sharing! The experience certainly taught me a few lessons that could be useful for anyone thinking of starting a similar business. Here are my 5 tips.
You can’t ride anywhere -Before you start your business you really need to be aware of the places you can trade and the legislation around your town/city. When starting the business I had plans of sitting on the seafront on a hot summers day… unfortunately legislation prevented me from trading anywhere on the beach… worse than that the legislation prevented me from trading from any street in my local town. To trade you also need to obtain a local Hawkers License, if you don’t you can get given a hefty fine!
Plan events well in advance – One thing I learnt is that big events are organized well before the event date, some around 6-8 months before. Do some research and get to know the events that are taking place, then you will be in for a good chance of getting the right spots. Try to get any as many events as possible planned in advance. Also be wary that not all events will be a success… look out for how the events are promoted; this is usually a key indicator to their success. I attended a few quiet events that were simply not worth the time of me being there, however they were still a way of promoting the bike for future events. Look out for more frequent and smaller events such as car boot sales and markets.
Be aware of health and safety – Health and safety is very important when dealing with frozen goods. It is important that you keep the stock at a low temperature roughly below -10’; this will ensure that they are safe to consume. I was working with a cool box with a battery operator… but you have to be wary that a heat wave could change everything in a blink of an eye. There is nothing worse than being left with a cool box full of melted stock, fortunately this didn’t happen to me! When trading at big events they often ask to see your health and safety licenses.
Get the stock right! – My stock consisted on a range of ice pops and different flavours of ice creams on a stick with Belgium chocolate. As you could guess the children loved the ice pops and the adults loved the ice creams. The biggest margins were made on the ice-lollies, as they are simply flavored water. There are also big margins to be made on whippy ice cream however to sell this you need a washbasin and the right equipment. The whippy’s are also the most popular ice cream and definitely the most asked for. I believe you can operate successfully without the whippy as long as you have a good range of ice cream for your customers to chose from.
Don’t trust the weatherman! – My biggest event planned was the Harwich motorbike festival, bringing over 5,000 people from a far to visit the scenic side of Harwich. I was in a prime location, had all the right stock and was ready for my last day of trade. Suddenly the forecast fell on its face and the heavens opened making it my worst and final day of trading. Unfortunately things like this happen and you have to respect this is what happens in a seasonal business… the unexpected. You cannot forecast sales for future events because you can’t trust the weatherman. You just need to assure that you do not predict your success based on a few major events. It is the smaller and more frequent events that will keep you going!
If you are looking to start your own business you can find some great ice cream bikes and carts at www.cartsandcrafts.co.uk similar to one displayed!
I hope you have found this advice useful; I’m off for a strawberry split!