Starting an Ice Sculpture Business on the Side

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Most entrepreneurs try to enter a popular market and apply a new twist to tried-and-true formulas of success. This is typically a smart move since completely disrupting an established industry takes a lot more effort than one person is usually capable of. However, there’s another path that can be extremely lucrative. Dominating a niche in your area that features little or no competition is a great way to go. An ice sculpture side business is one such option that’s worth investigating if you don’t mind venturing into entrepreneurial areas unknown.

Settle on a Wheelhouse

When you’re just getting started, it’s best to pick a specific focus and master it before branching out. For instance, you could form a company that specializes in  creating ice sculptures from molds. On the other hand, you could take the more traditional route and craft objects like ice lanterns, swans and eagles from scratch with a chainsaw. Your choice of niche will depend greatly on regional factors such as median income and climate. Take local demographics into consideration when deciding on a starting point.

Learn the Art and Craft

The ability to create stunning ice sculptures will only come with serious practice. Many ice sculptors start out as culinary school students and fall into the business by accident. Fortunately, there’s no need for costly higher education. Contact the National Ice Carving Association for advice and educational resources. You can also find detailed ice carving tutorial videos on YouTube. Use opensource 3D design programs like Blender or Inkscape  Blender or Inkscape to prototype potential creations. Experiment with different tools like die grinders, sanders, chisels and chainsaws as you hone your skills.

Source Equipment & Supplies

While you’re tinkering with your formulas for sculpting or shaping, you’ll no doubt develop an ideal tool collection for your work. Buy the right high-quality chisels, handsaws, chainsaws and die grinders that will stand the test of time. You may also want to acquire a sophisticated CNC machine for more intricate projects. You’ll need to secure a reliable supplier of large ice blocks to work with. At a minimum, you’ll need a work truck to transport gear if not the actual ice sculptures themselves.

Hash Out Paperwork & Funding

Though it’s hardly the most exciting part of the entrepreneurial process, you’ll need to structure your business and file some paperwork. Form an LLC, get your business licenses in order and insure your equipment. If you’re working with chainsaws and chisels, you may want to bump up your medical coverage in case you hurt yourself. If you’re particularly resourceful, you can probably get your enterprise launched for less than $1,000. As always, the U.S. Small Business Administration can help out if you require a short-term loan.

Secure Sales & Performances

At the outset, you’ll need to really deliver the goods to kick-start your fledgling enterprise. If you’re a mold specialist, try giving out some free samples to build a reputation. If you’re more of a performance artist that crafts sculptures on the spot, the only way to make a name for yourself is to demonstrate your skills in person. Either way, it’s wise to offer your services at a significant discount when courting potential customers. You should be able to get a good idea of what to charge based on the first few months of feedback.

Market the Enterprise

Once you’ve gotten out of the initial trial phase, you can hunker down and really market your business. Try the usual social media channels such as Google+ and Facebook  to reach a broader online audience. You can also leverage content marketing by publishing YouTube video demonstrations and articles on ice sculptures. While digital advertising is great, you’ll no doubt find that word-of-mouth promotion in your local area is the most effective marketing tool. Print up plenty of business cards and brochures to distribute when the opportunity arises.

Reach for the Next Level

Shooting for ice sculptor celebrity status is the surest path to superior profits. The example set by ice-sculpting pioneer Scott Rella, founder of one of the earliest ice sculpting businesses in the U.S.,  should give you a good idea of how to proceed. To make your operation truly unique, you need to consistently diversify in every way possible. For instance, you could get your business approved by the Department of Agriculture to serve up food grade ice sculptures. You could also teach classes for up to $50 an hour or even host ice-sculpting competitions.

Earn More, Work Less

No doubt, there’s more than one way to make a buck from the ice sculpture game. Whichever directions you decide to go in, the brass ring is creating a business that more or less operates on autopilot. Producing books or instructional videos that can be sold online is one way to accomplish this goal. The idea is to create many forms of passive income and become a boss rather than perform all of the work yourself. Doing so will free up time to pursue yet further side businesses in the coming years.

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