Opening up a new business is always exciting but opening up an ice cream business is even better because everyone loves ice cream!
While having an ice cream business might sound like every child’s dream, let me share with you my top 9 tips on how to make your new ice cream business a real success.
1. Choosing the name of your ice cream business
A lot of ice cream businesses choose an Italian sounding name with ‘Gelato’ at the end of their own name. Although it does make sense to use ‘Ice-cream’, Gelato or Sorbet in the name, it’s not a written rule. It’s more important to choose a name that your future customers will remember and can pronounce easily, so don’t go for something too elaborate.
Once you brainstorm a few name ideas check if you can get a website domain and social media handles for your chosen name. Even if you don’t want to start an account on every social media channel, it’s a good idea to secure them at the beginning, just in case you need them later on.
2. Choosing your ice cream business style
Before you get started you’ll need to decide what type of business you want to be. Do you want to open a gelato parlour shop in one location or have an ice cream van to cover different locations? Do you want to sell directly to the customers or do you want to go wholesale and focus only on the production of your ice cream?
In many cases, ice cream businesses start small, and they grow and expand with time. However, if you know that you’d enjoy more developing new exciting flavours than to talk to customers, there is not much point buying an ice cream shop, when you can just start in a commercial kitchen and sell your ice cream wholesale.
3. Choosing the right equipment
This will very much depend on your space and set up. You’ll need to choose different sizes of ice cream machine, chiller and freezer most suitable for your business and your budget.
4. Get the right mentorship and support
There is plenty of general advice on how to set up a food business, but if you want to succeed, I’d strongly recommend that you find a mentor who has a working knowledge of the ice cream food sector. Approach ice cream companies that you admire to see if they have any mentorship programme or get in touch with other smaller ice cream companies that are not directly competing with you (e.g. different location).
5. Preparing for seasonality
Having an ice cream business also means that you’ll need to make plans for seasonality. The reality is that the sale of ice cream depends on good weather and while people will still enjoy ice cream in the winter, you won’t get as many customers as on the hottest day in summer.
It’s good to be realistic about this and work out some alternative plans for the quieter months of the year. For example, you can prepare large tubs of ice creams that your customers can buy in the winter to eat at home. You could also decide to trade just in the summer months (for example if you have an ice cream van) and take on a completely different job during winter. If you have an ice cream parlour, offering cakes, sweets and hot drinks will also help to bridge the gap of lack of ice cream sales. As well as offering ice cream to take out, you can also have a range of ice cream sundaes that people can order and eat in.
6. Finding your unique selling point
What is going to be your ice cream business unique selling point? What will make you different from your competitors? If you want to ride the wave of ice cream trends, you should pay attention to fresh ingredients, fruit sorbets, no-dairy milk ice creams and experiment with unusual flavours.
7. Developing your ice cream flavours
This might sound very basic, but since you’ll be championing your ice cream brand, you need to be the first fan of your ice cream.
Start developing flavours based on what you like personally. To get feedback, ask friends and family to a tasting session and share with them your new ice cream flavours. I’d also recommend that you ask for the opinion pf somebody who you don’t know personally. They are more likely to be honest about your ice cream and have some constructive feedback.
8. Do your own ice cream research
If you want to make ice cream, you need to taste it too! You can start sampling ice cream in your local town to see what your competition is doing. This will also give you an idea if there is a potential gap in the market. Does your competition make any vegan ice cream? Do they only make very sweet full-fat ice cream? Does that mean that there is a space for another ice cream maker to start selling fruit-based sorbets with some fresh flavours?
9. Getting all relevant paperwork ready
Before you start selling your ice cream, you need to make sure that you have all the business legal paperwork in place. This usually includes registering with your local council, completing basic Food Hygiene Course or other relevant training and taking out business insurance. You’ll also need to register as self-employed or a company, depending on your business scale and set up, open a business account and start a working relationship with your ingredients, packaging and machinery suppliers.