A Snow Cone business is an ideal candidate for your summer side-hustle. The margins are incredible, you get to be outside soaking up the sun, and you’re giving people a constant stream of sugary ice. What could be better than making money and making people happy at the same time? Before we discuss how to start a snow cone business, let’s take a look at the profit potential.
The Snow Cone Opportunity
- Startup Cost: $4,571.75
- Peak Season: June-August (90 Days)
- Cost Per Snow Cone: .80
- Retail Price: $3.00 (6oz)
- Profit Potential In Peak Season: $15,840 – $26,400 (Net)
Snow Cone Profit Calculator
Are snow cones really THAT popular? Not only are snow cones popular, they never go out of style! Sure, you may decide to brand yourself as the more premium ‘Shaved Ice’, (There is a difference, more on that later), but it’s pretty much the same thing; sugar and ice.
Consumer Snow Cone Trends
According to Google ads Keyword Planner, the phrase ‘Snow Cones Near Me’ is searched an average of 45,500 times per month.
As you can see below, peak seasons for Snow Cone searches are the summer months, topping out in June & July.
Locational Trends: The best states to start a snow cone business in
Good news if you want to start a snow cone business in texas, it commands 48% of Google’s TOTAL SEARCH VOLUME for the phrase ‘Snow Cones Near Me.’ Texas benefits from being a large state with a warm climate, so it’s no surprise.
The best states by search volume % are:
- Texas 48.8%
- Oklahoma 6.5%
- Florida 4.5%
- Louisiana 4.0%
- California 3.3%
The rest of the United States makes up a total of 32.9% of the total searches for the ‘Snow Cones Near Me’ phrase.
Where’s Hawaii? Don’t forget about shaved ice!
You may have wondered where Hawaii is in all of this, aren’t they the king of tropical sweets? Of course, they are, but let’s keep in mind over there; it’s all about the Hawaiin shaved ice. If you’re starting a snow cone business there, you may want to re-brand to shaved ice.
The search term ‘Shaved Ice Near Me’ is searched on average of 33,100 times per month, with 22.9% of the searches coming from the State of Hawaii.
Does this mean I shouldn’t start a snowcone business if I’m not in one of the top states?
In short, no. There are plenty of successful snow cone sellers in states with a much lower percentage of the searches. Keep in mind; this is only data from an online search engine. It’s important to remember that snow cones are also an impulse buy.
Many of your customers won’t be searching for snow cones, snow cones will find them. They will be hot, tired, and ready for a pick-me-up.
There are plenty of seasonal opportunities throughout the US to make good money slinging cones! Although living in a colder climate might not be the best idea if you are planning a full-time snow cone venture.
Snow Cone Business Pros
- Low overhead: Once you purchase the necessary equipment, snow cones have a very low overhead cost.
- Good Margins: Depending on the location and flavors, you can charge between $2-$5 for a snow cone!
- Simple non-perishable menu: Snow cones consist of only two necessary ingredients: Ice and flavored syrup. The only other element would be paper or plastic containers to put them in. Your syrups will last quite a while before going bad.
- Working outside: If you enjoy being outdoors, this is a great way to spend time outside while bringing in some cash.
- Freedom & Flexibility: You get to be your own boss, your own schedule and take time off whenever you want.
- Seasonality: For some, this is a con, but for others, they love the idea of a cash-generating side business. You get to make your burst of money and then put it away until the next summer.
- Cash-Flow business: Snow Cones should produce an immediate cash flow positive business. With low overhead, you should be in the positive the first year in business. If your profit margins are right, you will be able to pocket money very soon after getting started.
Snow Cone Business Cons
- Seasonality: For some, this is a con. If you want to build a full-time snow cone empire, you may need to live in one of the states we covered above.
- Hard work and hot temperatures: It’s a good problem to have, but slinging cones can get a little hot and exhausting. Often you will have a rush of customers all in a hurry, and it takes someone that can manage that stress.
- Occasional Slumps: You may have situations where days are slow, or the event that promised a lot of customers was a bust.
Now that we’ve discussed the opportunity and the pros and cons let’s get to the step by step process for launching your Snow Cone empire.
Step 1: Name Your Snow Cone Business
Though it might not seem that important, choosing a good name can give you an edge in any business. Since you will be selling a common item, a name that sticks out from the competition is always preferred.
IE of a bland name: Ben’s Snow Cones
IE of a name with more pizazz: Ben’s Big Bad Cones
The second example still has a good keyword signifier (Cones) but also ads a fun angle. It sends a message to the consumer that these are not only snow cones, but they must also be extra big and sugary
It’s a good idea to spend some time choosing a name, but eventually, rip the bandaid off and make a decision. You can run potential names by your friends, family, spouse, etc.
Some Snow Cone Business Name Ideas
- Game of Cones
- The Cone Heads
- The Coninator
- Ice Ice, Baby (Check copyright)
- Snow Cone Cabana
- The Cone Zone
- Big Bad Cones
- Ice Town
- Mr. Bailey’s Magical Ice
- Snow & Co.
- Snowtal Recall
- Snow Day
- Sugar & Snow.
- King Kone
Have A Logo Made
After choosing a name, it’s time to get a logo made! This can be used on your cart, truck, and website if you have one. Having a good professional logo is vital for marketing your business. In a way, it can be the first impression for those considering making a purchase.
It also gives a sense of psychological legitimacy to your business, and I always feel like it’s more ‘official’ when I have a logo.
There are many styles of logos, so it could be beneficial to ask yourself these questions before commissioning a designer:
- Do I want a classy traditional logo or something more on the fun side?
- What elements can I add to make it stick out?
- What colors do I want my business to be associated with?
Having a logo made can be very overwhelming if you don’t know where to look, so we’ve made this easy for you. You can take the answers to the questions above and send them to the designer you choose.
2 Great-Cheaper places to have your snow cone logo made
Fiverr is a marketplace to find pretty much anything you need online, including logos. Prices and freelancer talent varies, so it may take some time to filter and find some designers you want to get mockups from.
You will search from the available designers HERE, and then see what styles you like. They all have examples in their portfolios. You can also filter based on the aspects you’re looking for, such as Text-Only, 3D, Mascot-Themed, etc.
Pricing varies mainly on the type of logo and talent level. You can pay anywhere from $5 to $500 for a logo. We suggest paying between $20-$50 for Fiverr designs.
Since Fiverr tends to run on the cheap side, we recommend hiring a few different designers to do mockups and see what they come up with. We suggest paying between $20-$50 for each. After you get the logo concepts back, choose the one you want to go with and provide any necessary edits.
99designs is different than Fiverr. You will launch a contest for a flat rate, starting at $299. While this is more expensive than Fiverr, you will actually get back at least 30 logo concepts. You can rate each design which gives cues to the designers if they’re on the right track.
For there, you can narrow down the finalists, and they compete for the winning logo. You can communicate directly with each designer and even make notes on the designs, telling them any changes or ideas you have.
Eventually, you will pick the winner, and the design files will be delivered to you. I’ve used this service four times now and have always got back fantastic designs. I say if you have the $299 to spend, it’s worth it. It eliminates a lot of hassle going back and forth on other logo platforms.
Step 2: Come Up With A Basic Business Plan
While it might not be as extensive as opening a restaurant in NYC, you should still put together a basic plan for your snow cone business. A business plan will help you think of scenarios you might not have thought of before. Answering these questions can be extremely helpful for your success, viability, and profitability.
What am I selling?
Before you say duh, let’s go back to the Hawaii issue from earlier. Are you going to make a clear decoration that you are a Snow Cone business or a Shaved Ice business? Or, are you going to offer the option for either?
It’s probably best to choose one and stick with it for branding identity purposes. Also, will you be selling anything else to compliment the cones? Would selling bottled water make sense to passers-by just looking to quench their thirst? Upsells and variety are a good thing, but it also means more upfront costs and a complex menu.
Snow Cones Vs. Shaved Ice
Snow Cones have larger ice crystals that make the texture more crunchy. Shaved Ice is fine and fluffy like snow.
How & where am I selling?
There are a few options on the type of setup for your snow cone selling. You may determine one of these is more viable than others depending on where you live, population, and opportunities in your area.
How Am I Selling?
- A permanent cart set up at a single location: Best for seasonal setup in a well-trafficked area.
- A Mobile Cart: Best for setting up at temporary locations and events
- A Traditional ‘food Truck’ setup: Best for experienced business owners who may have a year-round opportunity. It also eliminates the hauling equipment equation. Of course, this option is much more of an investment.
Where am I selling?
Location, Location, Location. A key to having a successful snow cone business is having the right location or locations. If you plan on selling in specific areas, you want to make sure there’s enough car or foot traffic.
Here are some things to consider when picking a location to sell:
- Is there heavy foot traffic? Places like shopping centers and grocery stores may have a lot of people walking by, making it an ideal location for you to set up.
- Is there a competitor nearby? Sure, there might not be another snow cone cart, but maybe an ice cream shop is nearby. Make sure you aren’t competing too closely with another business.
- Do I have to break down and pack things up every day? Did you get permission to leave things set up overnight? Finding a spot to store your equipment could save you a lot of setup hours.
Will my business model include special events?
Special events are a GREAT way to make good money selling snow cones. Not only is their guaranteed built-in foot traffic ready to cool down, but you can also charge premium prices. Think about it; most food at events is highly-priced. If you’re in an area with many activities, you could make a lot of money going from event to event.
Is the event model viable? Ask these questions:
- How many events are there in the peak season within a specific mile radius?
- Do these events charge rent or fees?
- What is the anticipated attendance of each event?
- What are the anticipated sales and costs for each event?
Anticipated Startup Costs
Having an idea of the total costs to get going is vital. You want to be sure you have enough money and run-way to get you to opening week. We will do a detailed breakdown of costs later, but for now here are some things to consider:
- Equipment costs
- Costs of goods
- Business licenses and permit costs
- Event or location fees/rent
- Misc. costs such as marketing, branding & design
COGS – Cost of Good sold
The next phase in your business plan is to add up the total costs for each unit sold, minus the special one-time costs. In other words, each time you sell a snow cone, what will it cost you? Things like providing napkins and plastic spoons will add to your bottom line.
Make sure you include every cost when adding up your COGS. Things you should not include are the one-time purchases such as the snow cone maker, cart, or generator. However, if you are using a gas generator, try to add gas into this equation. For that, it doesn’t have to be exact, make an educated guess.
Menu and Pricing
After determining your COGS, you’re ready to set up the menu to be offered. For basic setups, this will be your variety of the syrups provided. The more flavors, the more it costs to keep your cart fully stocked.
Don’t paralyze people by having too many choices. You don’t want to be the Baskin Robins of snow cones. Try limiting your menu to 6-10 flavors. Odds are someone will like one out of 10.
People are in a hurry, and if you have long lines, you’ll want them to make quick decisions. Giving them too many choices could end up backfiring. To start, keep it simple. You can always add more options later if necessary.
The great thing you will discover is Snow Cones offer huge margins! Say your total costs of good per snow cone is .50. It is not uncommon to see people selling them Between $2-$5 per cone. Pricing can depend on several factors, including where you are selling and demand.
Will you be offering different sizes? Sizes are a great upsell. Say a 6oz snow cone costs you .50 and a 12oz snow cone only costs you .75. You’re already using the container and spoon; the only addition is extra syrup and ice.
This doubles the size for the consumer, but your costs are only .25 more. Now you can offer the 6oz cones at $3.00, or double the size (12oz) for only $4. Your profit margin went from $2.50 for the 6oz to $3.25 for the 12oz.
Calculate Anticipated Profit Scenarios
This will be a guessing game, but once you figure out your cost per snow cone, it’s time to anticipate monthly profits. Since you may be changing locations and perhaps attending special events, it will not always be a consistent calculation. The important thing is to get an average of what you think will happen.
Taking things like special events and locations in consideration, use the following formula for a rough profit estimation:
Say you worked four days a week and planned on selling 100 cones per day at an average price of $3. Your COGS per unit are an average of .65.
Step 3: Form A Business Entity And Obtain Permits
You’ve got to protect your assets! There are many reasons why you should form a business entity for your snow cone empire. For one, you may need to get special permits and licenses to operate your business in your state or city. Having the legal paperwork sorted out will ensure you don’t lose valuable time when the sun starts shining.
Another benefit of having an official business entity is legitimacy and ease of business with your clients or landlords. If you are at a special event and are being paid directly from a coordinator, making a check out to you personally may seem a little unprofessional.
Additionally, you will need thins like an EIN (Employer Identification Number) when you go to get local permits for doing business.
Types of entities suitable for a snow cone business:
1. Sole Proprietorship
If you choose this option, you will report and pay taxes for the business on your personal tax returns. While a Sole Proprietorship may seem like less work legally, you’re also liable and leave yourself exposed personally for mishaps.
IE: Little Suzy may be so excited to eat her Snow Cone that she runs as fast as she can towards the stand. Suzy loses her balance and falls face-first right into the wooden corner. Her parents think you’re to blame, and therefore file a lawsuit. Guess what, you are personably responsible for any damages.
2. Limited Liability Company (LLC)
If you choose an LLC, you will be covered against legal issues under your business, and it would be hard for someone to come after you personally. LLC’s also make having employees easier if you think you may get to that level someday. You might as well plan ahead and give them the business room to grow.
Besides the legal and employment benefits, LLC’s also offer some tax advantages. Moreover, they are essentially the same price to form as a Sole Proprietorship, so why not have the extra protection? Whatever you decide, you can expect the process to take about 2-4 weeks.
Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits
After you have your business entity setup, it’s time to get the necessary permits to run your Snow Cone business. Some permits needed will vary state-by-state, so make sure to do your own research and obtain everything you need.
Licenses and Permits you may need:
- Business license (Not the same as forming an LLC)
- Food vending and handling permit
- Business registration certificate
- Health department permit (Sometimes)
Step 4: Purchase Necessary Equipment
When you make it to step four, you’re getting to the fun part of starting a snow cone business. Buying the necessary equipment and supplies will help make this entire venture start to feel real, and it’s exciting!
It’s very important to buy the right materials, and critical to think of everything you will need. The last thing you want is to be missing a crucial tool for your first job. To make it easy for you, we’ve put together a complete checklist with pricing.
Note: These are suggestions; there are several options when it comes to equipment, so please do your due diligence.
1. Commercial Snow Cone Machine
The most critical piece of your business! There are a surprising amount of options when picking out the best snow cone machine, but here are a few things/tips to keep in mind.
- Keep it commercial! You are going to be (hopefully) selling a lot of snow cones, steer clear of the home-use style machines. There are several machines not meant for substantial output. Make sure it says ‘commercial’ or ‘industrial.’ The small machines meant for birthday parties just won’t ‘cut’ it.
- Not something to be cheap with. You’re on a budget, but this is your racehorse, don’t go cheap with the machine quality. There are plenty of viable options that won’t break your bank.
- Look at the specs. Check things like wattage, horsepower, and any other operational requirements.
We recommend: Paragon Simply-A-Blast SNO Cone Machine
- Commercial-style snow cone machine; made of heavy-duty aluminumized metal
- 1/3-horsepower, 1,725-RPM motor can shave 500 pounds of cube or chunk ice per hour
- Tempered glass panels; safety switch; removable, slated drain deck; 36-inch drain tube and scoop
- Measures 22 inches wide by 17 inches deep by 16 inches high; weighs 50 pounds
2. Snow Cone Cups Bulk (1000)
- PREMIUM QUALITY; extra thick, heavy duty, dry wax paper construction creates a waterproof barrier and rolled rims provide reinforcement for heavier...
- LEAK-PROOF WAX COATING; durable waxed paper minimizes leaks and spills so the cup is strong enough to go the distance until the last cool mouthful is...
- VINTAGE DESIGN; these cups feature a vintage "Genuine Sno-Kone" design that creates a nostalgic feeling
- 6 OUNCE PORTION SIZE; provide for a standard 6 ounce serving size, making these perfect for vending carts, concession stands and other special events
3. Spoon Straws
Spoon straws are a great idea when thinking about customer experience. Use the spoon side when the snow cone is still icy, and flip it around to the straw side when it starts to melt (Or you want to slurp the syrup from the bottom).
- A spoon and a straw all in one!
- Perfect for shaved ice, sno-cones, floats, and all types of frozen drinks.
- 400 Pieces - A large pack to last all summer
- High Quality - Not flimsy or too thin.
Syrups are sticky, and if you don’t offer napkins, you may run into some frustrated customers. Another item that is not expensive at all, so make sure you spend the extra pennies to ensure happy and clean customers.
- Includes 300, 1-ply white napkins
- Just about a penny per napkin, a great value!
- Perfect for everyday meals and snacks
- Each napkin is 11.4 in x 12.5 in
5. Snow Cone Syrup/Concentrate
The flavored syrup is another key element to your snow cone enterprise. As stated before, we recommend starting out offering around ten flavors. Many people will want to mix and match these to make interesting flavor profiles. We suggest buying concentrate and then mixing with water. It’s cheaper and will last longer!
Question: How much syrup will each 6oz snow cone require?
Answer: A 6oz snow cone will require about 2oz of syrup
This means a gallon of syrup will fill 64 6oz snow cones. (128oz / 2oz =64)
7. Snow Cone Scoop, Ice Scoop, Ice Bucket, and Cooler
These four items are one-time purchases, except for the occasional replacements. All four will come in handy and make your job easier. You also don’t want to be handling ice with your bare hands, so be sure and use the scoops and bucket.
The cooler will be nice for storing extra nice if you need it. The last thing you want to do is run out of ice when you have a line of hot customers.
8. Menu Board
Don’t forget to let customers know what your menu is! They will want to know all the flavor options, and it will also help them decide before they get to you. There are many signage options for menus, but if you want to keep it simple, use a sandwich board style like the one below.
- Stand Only, capable of holding two signs 24" wide 36" tall
- Quick Change System allows display panels to attach with no adhesive
- Weighs 20 lbs, and can be ballasted with sand for additional weight
- Folds for easy moving and storage
9. iPad for POS (Point of Sale) System
Don’t forget you will need something to process payments on! Fewer people carry cold har cash these days, and if you only take cash as payment, you will miss out on a lot of sales. Many great POS software options connect right into an iPad for easy transactions.
10. Gas Generator (Optional)
Will you need power? If you plan on setting up at a grocery store for the entire summer, then maybe the answer is no. However, if you plan on moving around and going to events, you will need a generator to power your snow cone machine.
Things to consider when choosing a generator:
- How long will a tank of gas last?
- Is it quiet enough not to disturb patrons?
- Does it have enough wattage to power my snow cone machine?
- Is it small enough to move around and not hurt me?
- Dimensions: 18" x 11" x 18" | Weight: 50 lbs
- Noise Level: 53 dB operation
- EPA III and CARB Compliant 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine produces 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts
- Great for campgrounds, construction sites, tailgates and power outages
11. Snow Cone Machine Starter Cart With Wheels (Setup Option 1)
12. Vendor Tent With Table (Setup Option 2)
A vendor tent setup is a great and economical option. Not only is it ideal for attending events and parties, but it’s easy to tear down and move. You don’t need much, and while it may not be the most professional-looking setup, it’s a great way to validate your business before putting money into a cart or trailer. The setup consists of an awning and 6-foot plastic table.
13. Full-Service Cart (Setup Option 3)
You get what you pay for, and this cart will save a lot of time and hassle. It has space to store all your syrups, ice supplies, cups, and everything else comfortably. Although it might not be a great option for beginners, the full-service cart will give your set up a serious upgrade.
- A place for snow cone machine
- Menu board
- Compartments for extra crushed ice
Step 5: Secure Your Locations And Events
The last official step in the guide is securing locations and events to sell your snow cones at. This is an essential step in ensuring the success of the business. Give yourself a chance by researching the best spots to set up.
Parking lots, open food courts & permanent locations
If your primary business plan is to set up in a more permanent setting, you will need to contact the appropriate landlords and negotiate how the money will work. There are two options you could discuss with them:
- Offer to pay them to pay rent for space. Whether it’s per day, week, or month, this is a great option. You pay a flat fee no matter how many snow cones you sell.
- Profit Share. Another option is to offer them a royalty per snow cone sold. A royalty system may be fun for some space owners and also take the ease off of paying rent no matter how many you sell. However, if sales don’t do well, you might get kicked out of the space.
Remember to be friendly and mention the perks of having you in their space. Snow cones are bright and make people happy. You could potentially draw new customers into their businesses as well as yours.
Public and Private events
Public events can be an ATM for your snow cone venture. They have built-in crowds; people are generally in good moods and looking for a refreshing snack.
These events include things like:
- Street Fairs
- Music festivals
Many vendors make a living just going to events; you can make a lot of money in a short period of time. You will typically pay a flat fee for the tent space. The bigger the event, the bigger the fees tend to be. A larger event also most likely means more people, and that means more snow cone sales.
Private events are another way to monetize your snow cone business. The benefits of private events are you usually charge a flat rate per event. Taking into consideration things like party size and snow cones allowed per person, you quote them one fee for the entire event. Private events put guaranteed money in your pocket.
Types of private events include:
- Birthday parties
- Family Reunions
- Bar Mitzvah’s
- Private Parties
Total Costs And Profit
With the steps completed, let’s breakdown all the startup costs associated with opening your snow cone business. Keep in mind these costs vary, but we want to provide the most accurate numbers possible. Section one will be total startup costs, and section two will be focussing on COGS (cost of goods sold).
Total Startup Costs: $4,571.75
*To make things simple, we’ve included Setup Option 2 in the equipment costs (Tent and table setup).
Equipment Costs: $2,976.75
|Item||Cost||Quantity||Total||One time Purchase|
|Snow Cone Machine||$353.00||1||$353||Yes|
|Snow Cone Cups (1000pcs)||$45.99||3||137.97||No|
|Spoon Straws (400Pcs)||$9.99||8||$79.92||No|
|Syrup Concentrate (1gallon)||$14.99||48||$719.52||No|
|Snow Cone Scoop||$14.00||1||$14.00||Yes|
|Plastic Table (6ft)||$69.99||1||$69.99||Yes|
|Misc. (Gas, tools, etc)||$100||1||$100.00||No|
|iPad For POS||$379.00||1||$379.00||Yes|
Other Costs and Fees: $1,595.00
|Item||Cost||Quantity||Total||One Time Cost|
|Food Handlers Permit||$70.00||1||$70.00||Yes|
|Estimated Location Rent||$600.00 (Month)||1||$600.00||No|
|Misc. Branding Materials||$200.00||1||$200.00||Yes|
Adding these together, your total snow cone business startup costs are $4,571.75. You may choose to spend less or more depending on how many snow cones you want to be able to produce. Notice we also included one month’s rent at $600 per month.
Total COGS – Cost of Goods (Snow Cones) Sold
Now we get to the fun part, determining the gross profit you will make for every snow cone sold. We will calculate this by adding up every piece that’s needed to make up a snow cone order.
We will base it off of one 6oz cone. To get the price per piece, divide the price of the item by the number of items in each pack. IE, a pack of napkins costs $4.99 and has 300 napkins total.
$4.99 / 300 = .016 per napkin. We will round up to make the math easier, and that will also account for mistakes.
|Item||Price||Quantity||Cost Per Item||Total Cost Per Cone|
|Snow Cone Cups||$45.99||1000||.05|
|Syrup||$14.99||64 (128oz / 2)||.25|
Gross Profit Per $3 Cone: $2.55
Total Expenses Per Snow Cone
It’s important to remember the expenses also associated with the cost per snow cone. It may be more of a guessing game compared to the supplies. We are basing the expenses on the assumption that you do not have an employee(s).
|Item||Cost Per Cone||Total Expenses Per Cone|
|POS transaction fees (3% Per Cone)||.09|
|Misc. (Transportation, etc.)||.05|
Net Profit Per Snow Cone: $2.20
When you add up the COGS and expenses, a snow cone ends up costing you .80. That leaves you with a nice $2.20 profit margin. Now, don’t take it as an exact science, keep these things in mind:
- A good percentage of your customers will order more than one cone at a time
- You can upsell by offering things like extra syrup.flavors or scoops of ice
- Don’t forget a tip jar for your cash customers; this can increase your profit margins significantly
With everything planned, you’re ready to start your entrepreneurial journey as an official snow cone business owner. Being prepared will help reduce stress as your getting started. You can make great money as a seasonal or full-time vendor. Enjoy the sunshine and profits.