Skip to Content

How to Start an Ice Cream Cart Business

An ice cream cart business is a mobile food business that sells ice cream and other frozen treats from a cart or a truck. The ice cream cart business is popular in many places, particularly during the summer months, when people are looking for a cool and refreshing treat.

Ice cream cart businesses can be operated in different locations such as parks, beaches, festivals, and other public areas. The business can be run on a part-time or full-time basis and can be operated by one or multiple people.

Steps on How to Start an Ice Cream Cart Business

  1. Conduct Market Research

To conduct market research for an ice cream cart business, first define the target market, then analyze the competitors, and then evaluate market trends and prospects.

It is vital to collect data from numerous sources, like as surveys, interviews, internet reviews, and industry publications, to gain insights into customer behavior and market demand. A good business plan should focus on elements such as pricing, location, recipe, services, and marketing tactics.

a. Who is the Target Market for Ice Cream Cart Business?

The target market for an ice cream cart business can vary depending on the location and type of business. However, some common target markets for ice cream cart businesses include:

  • Children and teenagers
  • Ice cream enthusiasts
  • College students
  • Sports fans
  • Tourists
  • Event planners.
b. Is the Ice Cream Cart Business a Profitable Business?

Yes, the ice cream cart business is a profitable business and it is on record that the business is thriving in the Southern United States from North Carolina, south to central Florida, as far north as Ohio, and west to Mississippi.

c. Are There Existing Niches in the Industry?

No, there are no existing niches for the ice cream cart business.

d. Who are the Major Competitors?
  • Ding-A-Ling
  • Kona Ice
  • The Ice Cream Truck
  • Frosty Treats
  • Sweet Treats Ice Cream
  • NOLA Ice
  • Coolhaus
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Creamistry
  • Scoops2u
  • Kettle Kravings
  • The Ice Cream Wagon
  • Tropical Sno
  • Cold Stone Creamery
  • The Original Good Humor
  • Tiki Treats
  • Big Gay Ice Cream
  • Mister Softee
  • Twirl and Dip
  • Ice Cream on Wheels.
e. Are There County or State Regulations or Zoning Laws for Ice Cream Cart Businesses in the United States?

Yes, there are county and state regulations and zoning laws that apply to ice cream cart businesses in the United States. The specific requirements and regulations can vary depending on the location of the business and the governing jurisdiction.

In general, ice cream cart businesses are subject to health and safety regulations that require them to obtain a permit or license from the local health department. These regulations may cover areas such as food handling, sanitation, and equipment safety.

Zoning laws may also apply to ice cream cart businesses, especially if they operate in public spaces such as parks or sidewalks.

Some cities may require vendors to obtain a permit or license to operate in these areas and may limit the number of vendors in a given location. Additionally, vendors may be required to comply with noise ordinances or other regulations that affect their operations.

f. Is There a Franchise for Ice Cream Cart Business?

Yes, there are franchise opportunities for the ice cream cart business and some of them are;

  • Kona Ice
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Cold Stone Creamery
  • Dairy Queen
  • Tastee-Freez
  • Häagen-Dazs
  • Baskin-Robbins
  • Marble Slab Creamery
  • Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
  • Dairy Twirl.
g. What Do You Need to Start an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • A Feasibility Report
  • Business and Marketing Plans
  • Business Licenses and Permits
  • Insurance
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number)/Federal Tax ID Number.
  • A Corporate Bank Account
  • Employees
  • A reliable and well-maintained ice cream carts
  • Equipment and supplies such as freezers, refrigeration units, and serving equipment. Supplies such as ice cream, cones, toppings, and cups.
  • Packaging materials
  • Startup capital
  1. Choose a Memorable Business Name

When looking to start a business, before you can begin to file the necessary documents with the constituted authorities or start your website, it is necessary that you come up with a name that you will be recognized with. It is essential that the name you come up with can easily be pronounced, is unique and easily memorable.

Some of the catchy business name ideas suitable for a ice cream cart business are;

Creative Ice Cream Cart Business Name ideas
  • Scoopin’ Happiness
  • Chill on Wheels
  • The Ice Cream Cruiser
  • Cool Treats Cart
  • Sweet Scoops
  • Frosty Delights
  • Ice Cream Social
  • Brain Freeze Cart
  • Creamy Cones
  • The Scoop Truck
  • Frozen Fantasy
  • Ice Cream Oasis
  • Sugar Rush Cart
  • Cone Heads
  • Dreamy Cream
  • Sweet Street Treats
  • The Sundae Stand
  • Yum Yum Cart
  • Ice Cream Express
  • Cool Beans Cart.
  1. Register Your Business

a. What Type of Business Structure is Best for Ice Cream Cart Business?

The best business structure for an ice cream cart business depends on several factors, such as the size of the business, the number of owners, the level of personal liability the owners are willing to take on, and the tax implications of the different business structures.

However, we usually recommend limited liability company. An LLC is a hybrid business structure that offers the flexibility of a partnership while providing limited liability protection for its owners. An LLC can have one or more owners, and the owners are not personally liable for the business’s debts or liabilities. This type of business structure is often used for small to medium-sized businesses.

b. Steps to Form an LLC
  • Choose a Name for Your LLC.
  • File Articles of Organization.
  • Choose a registered agent.
  • Decide on member vs. manager management.
  • Create an LLC operating agreement.
  • Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • File annual reports.
c. What Type of License is Needed to Open an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • General Business License
  • Zonal Permits
  • Signage Permit
  • Proof of ownership, proper identification, and cart license
  • Proof of district-issued food manager identification card
  • Food purchase record storage and record keeping
  • Depot, commissary, or service support facility meets vending unit operation needs
  • Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report.
d. What Type of Certification is Needed to start an Ice Cream Cart Business?

You don’t need any certifications to start an ice cream cart business.

e. What Documents are Needed to Open an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Business License
  • Food service permit
  • Health department inspection certificate
  • Insurance
  • Vendor permit
  • Sales tax permit
  • Business plan
f. Do You Need a Trademark, Copyright, or Patent?

A trademark protects a business’s brand name, logo, and other identifying features. If an ice cream cart business has a distinctive name, logo, or other branding elements, it may benefit from registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to protect its brand identity.

  1. Cost Analysis and Budgeting

a. How Much Does It Cost to Start an Ice Cream Cart Business?

The estimated cost to start an ice cream cart business can range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the location and other factors. It is important to carefully research the costs and create a realistic budget before starting the business to ensure that you have adequate funding to get started and sustain the business until it becomes profitable.

b. What are the Costs Involved in Starting an Ice Cream Cart Business
  • Business registration fee: $750
  • Cart or trailer: $2,000-$10,000
  • Equipment (freezers, ice cream machines): $1,000-$3,000
  • Initial inventory (cones, toppings, napkins, and other supplies): $500-$1,000
  • Permits and licenses: $500-$2,000
  • Insurance: $500-$1,000
  • Marketing and branding (logo design, website, social media): $500-$2,000.
c. What Factors Determine the Cost of Opening an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Location
  • The cost of the cart, cooler, utensils, and other equipment and the quality, brand, and size of the equipment.
  • The cost of initial inventory, and other supplies
  • The cost of obtaining permits and licenses required to operate the business
  • The cost of insurance and amount of coverage needed.
  • The cost of marketing and branding efforts, such as logo design, website development, and social media marketing
  • The cost of labor.
d. Do You Need to Build a Facility? If YES, How Much Will It Cost?

No, you do not need to build a facility for an ice cream cart business. An ice cream cart business is typically a mobile food service operation that can be operated from a cart or trailer. The cart or trailer is equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies to prepare and sell ice cream.

e. What are the Ongoing Expenses of an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Supplies and packaging materials.
  • Gas
  • Utility bills (internet subscriptions, phone bills, signage, and software renewal fees et al)
  • Salaries of employees
  • Cart maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Marketing costs
f. What is the Average Salary of your Staff?
  • Chief Operating Officer (Owner) – $38,000 Per Year
  • Manager – $30,000 Per Year
  • Drivers – $26,500 Per Year
  • Attendants – $26,100 Per Year
  • Cleaners -$24,000 Per Year
g. How Do You Get Funding to Start an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Personal savings
  • You can apply for a small business loan from a bank or other financial institution
  • You can use crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe to raise money for your ice cream cart business.
  • Research and apply for grants that are applicable to your ice cream cart business.
  • Consider partnering with an investor who can provide funding in exchange for a percentage of ownership in the business.
  • You can also seek funding from friends and family members who are willing to invest in your ice cream cart business.
  1. Write a Business Plan

a. Executive Summary

Scoops on Wheels®, Inc. is a mobile ice cream cart business that will operate from Austin, Texas but provide delicious frozen treats to customers in various locations around the city. We will be serving a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings to cater to different preferences, including dairy-free and vegan options.

We have identified several potential locations around the city for our ice cream cart, including popular parks, beaches, and tourist areas. We will also be available for private events such as parties and weddings.

Our team has extensive experience in the food service industry, including managing and operating several successful food trucks and restaurants. We are committed to providing our customers with the highest quality products and services.

b. Products and Service

Scoops on Wheels®, Inc. will sell a variety of frozen treats such as ice cream, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurt, and popsicles.

We will also offer a range of toppings such as sprinkles, nuts, candy, fruit, syrups, and cold beverages such as lemonade or iced tea to complement the frozen treats

c. Mission Statement

Our mission at Scoops on Wheels®, Inc. is to provide our customers with the highest quality, handcrafted frozen treats in a fun and friendly atmosphere. We are committed to using only the finest ingredients to create unique and delicious ice cream flavors that cater to all tastes and dietary restrictions.

Vision Statement

Our vision at Scoops on Wheels®, Inc. is to become the go-to ice cream cart business in the city, known for our exceptional products, customer service, and community involvement.

d. Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives of an ice cream cart business are to sell a variety of frozen treats such as ice cream, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurt, and popsicles.

e. Organizational Structure
  • Chief Operating Officer (Owner)
  • Manager
  • Driver
  • Attendants
  • Cleaners

Marketing Plan

a. SWOT Analysis
  • Low startup costs compared to opening a brick-and-mortar ice cream shop.
  • High mobility and flexibility, allow the business to move to locations with high customer traffic.
  • Ability to serve customers quickly and efficiently, leading to high customer satisfaction.
  • Easy to manage and operate with a small team.
  • Ability to quickly adjust the menu and prices based on customer preferences.
  • Limited menu options compared to a full-service ice cream shop, which may result in lower repeat customers.
  • Weather-dependent business, with sales potentially affected by rain or extreme temperatures.
  • Limited capacity for ice cream preparation and storage on the cart, which may limit the menu options and sales volume.
  • Heavy competition from other ice cream vendors, including other ice cream carts and food trucks.
  • Ability to expand the business by securing regular locations at popular events, festivals, and fairs.
  • Potential to collaborate with other food vendors or event organizers to increase exposure and sales.
  • Opportunity to introduce new menu items and specialty ice cream to attract new customers.
  • Possibility to partner with local businesses or organizations to provide catering services.
  • Changes in health and safety regulations may require expensive upgrades to the cart and equipment.
  • Fluctuations in ingredient costs may affect profit margins.
  • Competition from nearby restaurants and ice cream shops, including those offering similar menu items.
  • Economic downturns or shifts in consumer behavior may result in lower sales.
b. How Do Ice Cream Cart Businesses Make Money?

Ice cream cart businesses make money by selling a variety of frozen treats such as ice cream, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurt, and popsicles.

They also make money by selling a range of toppings such as sprinkles, nuts, candy, fruit, syrups, and cold beverages such as lemonade or iced tea to complement the frozen treats.

c. Payment Options
  • Credit or Debit Card
  • Cash
  • Electronic Payment Systems such as PayPal or Venmo
  • Checks
  • Bank Transfers.
d. Sales & Advertising Strategies
  • Create social media accounts for your ice cream cart business, including Instagram and Facebook, and use these platforms to share mouth-watering pictures of your products, promotions, and news.
  • Engage with your followers by responding to comments and messages promptly.
  • Set up your ice cream cart at community events such as fairs, festivals, and markets
  • Offer promotions and discounts to encourage repeat business and referrals
  • Partner with local businesses such as cafes, restaurants, and retail stores to offer your products as a complementary service
  • Use attractive signage and branding on your cart to draw attention and make your business stand out
  • Use catchy slogans or taglines to help people remember your brand
  • Offer your services at private events such as weddings, birthday parties, and corporate events.
  • Offer seasonal flavors and promotions to take advantage of seasonal opportunities such as holidays, special events, or the start of summer.

Financial Projection

a. How Much Should You Charge for your Product/Service?

A single scoop of ice cream at a small ice cream shop or stand will typically cost between $3 and $5. A cup of ice cream from a larger chain, such as Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery, can cost between $4 and $6 for a single scoop. If you add toppings or extra scoops, the price will almost certainly rise.

b. How Much Profit Do Ice Cream Cart Business Owners Make a Year?

A small to medium-sized ice cream cart business may often earn a profit margin of 20-30%, translating to $50,000 to $150,000 or more in net profit each year, depending on sales volume and expenses. But, it’s crucial to remember that seasonality, market demand, and corporate growth strategies can all have an impact on profitability.

c. What Factors Determine the Amount of Profit to Be Made?
  • The capacity of the ice cream cart business
  • The location of the ice cream cart business is covering
  • The management style of the ice cream cart business
  • The business approach of the ice cream cart business
  • The advertising and marketing strategies adopted by the ice cream cart business.
  • The number of years the ice cream cart is in business
d. What is the Profit Margin of an ice cream cart Business?

A modest to medium-sized ice cream cart business can typically expect a profit margin of 20-30% on average. This means that the company can anticipate making 20-30 cents in profit for every dollar of revenue generated.

e. What is the Sales Forecast?

Below is the sales forecast for an ice cream cart business. It is based on the location of the business and other factors as it relates to such startups in the United States;

  • First Fiscal Year: $160,000
  • Second Fiscal Year: $220,000
  • Third Fiscal Year: $280,000
  1. Set Up your Shop/Office

a. How Do You Choose a Perfect Location for Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • The demography of the location
  • The demand for ice cream in the location
  • The purchasing power of businesses and residents of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of ice cream cart businesses, and snacks and dessert retail outlets in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community/state
  • Traffic, parking, and security et al
b. What State and City are Best to Open an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Austin, Texas
  • Miami, Florida
  • Denver, Colorado
  • San Diego, California
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Portland, Oregon
  • New York City, New York
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Atlanta, Georgia
c. What Equipment is Needed to Operate an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • A mobile ice cream cart
  • Freezer
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Toppings containers
  • Napkins and utensils
  • Cooler
  • Point-of-sale system
  • Portable generator.
  1. Hire Employees

Whether or not to hire employees for a new ice cream cart business depends on various factors such as the scale of the business, the owner’s skills and availability, and the level of demand.

If the business is small-scale and the owner has the necessary skills and time to manage all aspects of the business, it may not be necessary to hire employees. However, as the business grows and demand increases, it may become difficult for the owner to manage everything alone.

  1. Launch the Business Proper

When starting an ice cream cart business, throwing a launch party can be a brilliant way to promote attention and excitement. A launch party can assist you to attract new consumers, make a good first impression, and raise brand recognition.

a. What Makes an Ice Cream Cart Business Successful?
  • The quality of your ice cream and other frozen treats is essential to the success of your business. Use only high-quality ingredients and make sure that your products are fresh and delicious.
  • Great customer service is crucial for any business. Make sure that you and your employees are friendly, helpful, and responsive to customers’ needs and inquiries.
  • Offering unique and creative flavors that stand out from your competitors can attract new customers and keep them coming back for more.
  • Location is critical for the success of an ice cream cart business.
  • Choose high-traffic areas such as parks, beaches, and shopping centers, and make sure that you have the necessary permits and licenses to operate in those locations.
  • Effective branding and marketing can help you build brand recognition and attract new customers.
  • Use eye-catching signage, social media, and other advertising strategies to promote your business.
  • Pricing your products appropriately is essential
  • Continuously introducing new products, flavors, and promotions can help keep customers engaged and interested in your business.
b. What Happens During a Typical Day at an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • The business is open for the day’s work
  • The facility and equipment are cleaned and ready for business
  • Ice cream and other products are prepared
  • Customer requests are taken and they are attended to
  • Marketing/website upkeep
  • Administrative duties
  • The business is closed for the day.
c. What Skills and Experience Do You Need to Build an Ice Cream Cart Business?
  • Good ice cream-making skills
  • Customer services skills
  • Interpersonal skill
  • Good Accounting and bookkeeping skills
  • Business management skills
  • Work experience in an ice cream cart shop or fast-food industry
  • Experience in managing people
  • Experience in business administration
  • Experience in handling relevant software.