Start an italian ice business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your italian ice business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an italian ice business?
Starting a small water ice vending business is inexpensive. Some types of Italian ice carts are available for less than a thousand dollars, and even top-of-the line carts are less than $4,000. The cost of buying wholesale water ice is also a lot less than the price for ice cream.
The real cost of vending is obtaining the right permits and staying legal. In most cities, vendors need to belong to a commissary to obtain a vending license, and the rent for the use of the commissary is from several hundreds of dollars to thousands each month. Italian ice vendors who only operate at festivals usually can avoid the commissary charge, but will need to pay vendor fees directly to the festival organizers. All in, a mobile water ice vending business can cost less than $7,000.
Opening a storefront to sell Italian ice is much more expensive. The cost of additional freezers, dipping cabinets, and other equipment is much more than a simple cart. In addition, owners of a storefront need to pay rent and utilities, even when the store is closed during the winter. Locating a storefront water ice business in a location which is warm throughout the entire year offers a better chance for success.
What are the ongoing expenses for an italian ice business?
The ongoing expenses include rent or commissary charges, restocking, and fees for festivals and labor.
Who is the target market?
Children love Italian ice, but many adults buy scoops for themselves, too. This is especially true at festivals or other active outdoor activities when ice cream may be a little too heavy. Italian ice has a perception among many customers as being a healthier alternative to other sweet snacks.
How does an italian ice business make money?
An Italian ice business earns money through selling scoops of Italian ice.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices for a scoop of water ice is usually the same as the average price for a scoop of ice cream. Many vendors sell a single scoop in a cup for two to three dollars.
How much profit can an italian ice business make?
A small scoop of water ice in a cup with a spoon costs around 35 cents to make and will sell well for two dollars. That is almost 600% profit! Italian ice has a long shelf-life if frozen, and it is rare to lose money through spoilage.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Combining an Italian ice business with other food businesses which are popular throughout the year helps to reduce the risk of poor weather forcing a business to close. Food businesses like soft pretzels, roasted nuts, smoothies, and cookies are great options for adding to a water ice menu.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Italian Ice Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your italian ice business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an Italian ice business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
An Italian ice business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an Italian ice business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Italian ice business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market an italian ice business
The best promotion method for a water ice business is to just show up where the customs already are located and offer free samples. Customers usually purchase an Italian ice without planning, so investing in advertisements is not the best use of resources. On the other hand, Italian ice shops with a permanent location need to heavily advertise throughout the season to drive business in the door.
How to keep customers coming back
A well-known brand combined with a good location is usually enough to attract customers, especially if it is a mobile vending cart. To keep customers coming back to brick and mortar storefront, owners need to create a child-focused and exceptionally fun experience. Loyalty programs and other specials, like limited-time flavors, will keep customers coming through the door.
Italian ice shops should remember to send out a flyer to past customers to remind them when they are planning to reopen for the season.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start An Italian Ice Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
An Italian ice business is perfect for anyone who is looking for a mostly seasonal or part-time food business. The owner of an Italian ice business should enjoy working outside during hot weather. In addition, any water ice business owners who are planning to travel to fairs or festivals in other locations for work should feel comfortable pulling a trailer on the highway.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an italian ice business?
After restocking an Italian Ice cart or dipping cabinet, the remainder of an operator's daily activities involves selling and scooping water ice. At the end of the day, the equipment needs to be cleaned and any leftover Italian ice needs proper storage.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful italian ice business?
Besides basic business skills, Italian ice business owners should have some food experience. Most areas of the country require an operator of an Italian ice business to have a business license, a food handler's license, and for mobile businesses, a vending license. Past experience dealing with the various permitting agencies can speed up the process. Owners of an Italian ice business should love to interact with a wide variety of people and have great customer service skills.
What is the growth potential for an italian ice business?
The easiest way to increase the growth potential for an Italian ice business is to extend the number of days the business is open. To successfully extend the season, mobile Italian ice businesses which operate in Northern states can head South to take part in festivals during the colder weather at home. Purchasing additional mobile vending units will also increase gross sales, but will lead to more expenses as well.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an italian ice business?
A great idea to jump start a water ice business while reducing expenses is to partner with an existing business. Many businesses attract large numbers of young people throughout the year like indoor playground and arcades. These businesses may allow a water ice cart to set up permanently inside for a cheap rent or a small percentage of sales.
Business owners who want to sell name-brand Italian ice and step into a fully tested system should consider a franchise opportunity. Many water ice franchises are available online with prices to meet almost any budget.
How and when to build a team
Small vending businesses usually do not need additional employees, but for storefronts, it is important to have a good team from the start. Employees who work in this type of business are generally students or others looking for short-term jobs and do not earn much more than minimum wage.