Yes, anyone looking to start a snow cone business will need to obtain state and/or city licensing and permits. In the United States, a snow cone business will have to seek approval from the local health department. A good number of cities and municipalities also expect an owner or employee to take a food safety class and obtain a food handler’s permit.

Snowcone businesses (sometimes referred to as shaved ice businesses) make and sell delicious frozen treats at convenient locations, like beaches and fairs. Without doubts, a snow cone business can be quite captivating, and when done on a smaller scale, startup costs are not overwhelming.

Note that one of the numerous benefits of this business is that it is seasonal – you can do it in the summer for extra income but doesn’t need to transcend into a full-time, year-round business. Snow cones are often confused with shaved ice. Shaved ice is known to be much finer, almost like fluffy snow, while snow cones feature bigger pieces of ice compacted into shape. The ice is then topped with various syrup flavors.

Although snow cone businesses share similarities with other food-related businesses with regards to selling food, there are some key differences between the permits and licenses needed to run a snow cone business and those required for food truck vendors. Read on as we provide you with an extensive list of the most common snow cone licenses and permits required in almost every state.

Basic Permits and Licenses Needed to Sell Snow Cones

The basic permits and licenses you need to sell snow cones will depend on the business model you choose. Have it in mind that these licenses may vary in their name; therefore it is necessary to check with your county clerk or state business offices to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases. Irrespective of where you stay in the United States, here are basic permits and licenses you will need to sell snow cones.

  1. Business License

Most often referred to as a “vendor license” or “basic business operation license”, a business license is what gives you the right to operate a business in a particular city or state. Obtaining the license simply means that the government recognizes your business venture as legitimate and can track your business for tax purposes.

In the United States, a business license costs from $50 to $500, but application prices and terms will vary from city to city. A good number of cities tend to limit the number of mobile food vendor licenses they give out, and in most situations put new vendors in a lottery, therefore do not forget to apply as soon as you complete your snow cone business plan.

  1. Food Handler’s Permit

A food handler’s permit also referred to as a “food handler’s license” or “food manager certificate”, and is a permit given to individuals who complete food handler training and a food safety course. Almost all states require that at least one person in a food business (where there is unwrapped foods or food preparation) is mandated to have a food handling permit.

Note the requirements also differ in each municipality and may vary from state to local requirements regulations. You can find out what you need by calling the health department of the city you operate in then double back and check with your state. Food handlers’ permits cost less than $50 and are valid for approximately 5 years.

  1. Local Health Department

The local health department is the enforcement agency for food producers, and regulations tend to vary exponentially depending on where the business is located. Therefore, depending on the location, volume, and types of snow cones you make, the health department will have oversight on your cooling and drainage systems.

Also note that some health departments will require a health permit, while others will not. Any business making edible foods will ideally mandate that employees have a food handler certificate or food sanitation certification, coupled with the facility being randomly inspected.

  1. Seller’s Permit

This permit is necessary for some states and they allow foodservice business owners to purchase ingredients and supplies at wholesale prices without having to pay sales tax. Note that the tax would be collected when the product is sold to customers so that the item is not taxed twice. However, do not forget to consult your local state government’s website to learn if a seller’s permit is needed in your state and how to apply for one.

  1. Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An Employer Identification Number, also known as an EIN or Social Security Number, is a federal tax ID number that registers your business with the IRS. This number allows you to open a business bank account, create a credit profile, and hire employees.

A good number of states in the United States give this number along with your business license. Your Employer Identification Number is free through the IRS and can be applied via their website, fax, or mail. It takes around 4 weeks to process, therefore ensure you apply on time before you open.

  1. Driver’s License

If you intend to sell your snow cones using a truck, then you should have a valid driver’s license. In most states in the United States, your standard driver’s license would do, but some states might leverage the weight and length of your vehicle to decide if you need to apply for a commercial driver’s license. A driver’s license can cost anywhere from $10 to $100 depending on the state and license type.

  1. Parking Permits

If you are using a truck for your snow cone business, then you should check with your local county clerk about the need for parking permits. Have it in mind that some locations and streets may be off-limits to food-related trucks or have time and date restrictions. In some cities, there are designated dates for food-related trucks to limit congestion. Note that your parking permit will say where and when you can park your truck during business hours. It will also say if you can leave your truck on the street overnight or if you must park it in a garage when not in use.