While the ice cream industry isn’t one that you’d associate with massive revenues, it can be an incredibly lucrative business. In the United States alone, ice cream sales exceed 1.53 billion gallons every year without fail. That’s $5.4 billion in annual sales without counting accessories like ice cream machines, silverware and packaging. If you want to make money on the side with ice cream, here are a few ideas.
Create Your Own Brand of Ice Cream
Obviously, the most direct way to profit from ice cream is by cranking out the actual product yourself. Once you have a formula that works, it’s easy to expand into making ice cream sandwiches and bars. A basic home ice cream maker can be had for less than $50 on Amazon. Experiment with recipes, lock down the appropriate commercial equipment and sell your wares locally to build brand recognition.
Run an Ice Cream Truck or Stand
If you’re not fond of jumping through health department and FDA hoops to produce your own ice cream, selling other brands is a trusty alternative. Seasonal ice cream trucks and stands are incredibly profitable if you pick the right locations to ply the trade. Do a little market research before plunking down hard-earned money on inventory and hardware to assure the success of your outfit.
Host For-Profit Ice Cream Parties
The vaunted ice cream social is a throwback to a bygone era that many subconsciously long for. You can make it modern and make some money at the same time by arranging ice cream socials where customers can make their own unique concoctions. Stock up on plenty of high-quality ice cream, waffle cones, toppings, spoons, bowls and mobile refrigeration gear to take the show on the road.
Operate an Ice Cream Parlor
If you can swing the funding, an old-fashioned ice cream shop can be incredibly lucrative. The key is to develop a niche appeal to local consumers and tourists to differentiate yourself from chains like Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robbins and Dairy Queen. Specializing in locally produced ice cream and frozen yogurt is always a great way to bring in droves of die-hard foodies that will become long-term customers.
Found a Subscription Business
Though it might take a lot of prep work and pre-launch marketing, a weekly or monthly subscription enterprise can take off quickly. You could use a service like Indiegogo or Kickstarter to pre-sell the business to future customers. You’ll have to figure out how to get your merchandise around the country without it melting. Fortunately, overnight shipping and specialty packaging designed for this purpose are relatively affordable nowadays.
Organize a How-To Course
If you have a decent amount of expertise when it comes to making ice cream, passing the knowledge on to others is a no-brainer. You could organize a class through your local community center or hold it in your own home. You might even use Skype to mentor students from around the world. Use social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to attract new students for each session.
Use a Blog to Make Affiliate Sales
Ice cream lovers are obsessive when it comes to their favorite sweet treat. A simple blog dedicated to all things ice cream is the perfect way to make affiliate sales of things like ice cream machines and specialty kitchenware. Publish at least one article per day and try to include a mix of topical and evergreen content to appeal to a wide array of readers.
Start a Niche Supply Business
While picking up a pint of your favorite ice cream at the supermarket is easy, finding more specific ice cream paraphernalia is a pain. Party hosts in particular are always looking for unique serving containers and decorations that will set their shindig apart. Home ice cream makers have specific tastes when it comes to their ingredients. Buy goods in bulk, market them online and rake in the money.
Design a New Ice Cream Tool
Even if you’re not the inventive type, you can redesign the wheel to bring a product to market. For instance, you could come up with your own hand-operated ice cream maker and outsource the production to local manufacturers. As long as your product looks different than other examples on the market, you’ll find an audience somewhere. Use sites like Etsy and eBay to sell the merchandise.
Self-Publish a Recipe Book
As simple as ice cream is in theory, there are a hundred ways to make it that produce radically different results. If you’re tinkering with recipes to make your own ice cream anyway, you might as well compile them into a helpful e-book. The Amazon Kindle platform makes it easier than ever to produce a great book in short order and sell it to potentially millions of readers.
Run an Ice Cream Tour Bus
No matter where you live, there are bound to be a number of quality local ice cream factories and shops worth visiting. You can rake in some decent cash by organizing tour packages for local residents and visiting tourists. Hire or buy a bus, advertise your trips on the web and watch the money roll in. Talk to business owners to get better package deals on admission.
Sell New & Used Gear on eBay
Sometimes, being a used merchandise middleman is the easiest way to make a buck. Buying ice cream tools locally and selling them to the highest bidder on eBay is a surefire path to sustainable profits. You can even buy gear online and simply flip it to others. Using Google Alerts to scour the web for deals makes the whole process far more hassle-free.
Clean and Service Equipment
While it may not be glamorous, cleaning and repairing ice cream equipment for shops and restaurants is very profitable. The schedule is pretty flexible since you’ll generally have to work on said equipment before or after business hours. If you’re not the technical sort, partner with an experienced repair person and handle clerical details like billing, taxes, marketing and so forth for the business.
Getting the Lay of the Land
You don’t have to be an ice cream expert to make any of the aforementioned ideas work. However, it’s a good idea to have some knowledge of ice cream before jumping in. Pennsylvania State University’s Ice Cream Short Course and the National Ice Cream Retailers Association are terrific resources for getting up to speed. Ultimately, the ice cream business is chock-full of opportunity for hungry entrepreneurs.