You don’t have to be a celebrity to get fans to chase you down the street. Ice cream truck drivers not only draw cheers from neighborhood kids, but also set their own hours, can take winters off, and don’t have to deal with the paparazzi. If you can cope with listening to a never-ending jingle, selling frozen treats on the go can be an attractive business endeavor.
- Gather the necessary equipment. Ice cream is cheap, but the equipment you’ll need to run an ice cream truck business generally isn’t. You’ll want a truck that’s been outfitted with a refrigeration unit, a power inverter, a sound system, and special safety equipment. You can either convert a standard van or truck or purchase a pre-customized ice cream truck. The latter can cost $75,000 or more new, so a used one might be a better bet. Websites such as Icecreamtrucks.org list used ice cream trucks starting at a few thousand dollars.
- Source your ingredients. Whether you plan to sell soft-serve, Italian ice, or packaged Popsicles, you’ll need a supplier, and you can do a lot better on prices than buying from the local grocery store. Call distributors in your area to see what’s available — and who offers the best rates. Want to make your own treats? Ask local dairy farms about buying bulk-rate milk, and see if you can source fruit from local orchards.
- Obtain the proper licenses. Get in touch with your state’s department of motor vehicles and ask whether you’ll need a special driver’s license to operate your ice cream truck. Contact your city officials or local health department to find out about other specific legal requirements in your area, such as business and food-service licenses.
- Plan your route. Once you’re set up with equipment, inventory, and the necessary licenses, it’s time to get rolling. During school hours, construction zones are a surprisingly successful place to sell: What sweaty worker wouldn’t love an icy Popsicle to help cool down? After school and during the summer, residential neighborhoods are, of course, the place to be. Show up at the same time each day so your fans know when to expect you. Local beaches can be great places to sell, too, but you may need a special vendor’s license to sell in their parking lots.
- Come up with a cold-weather plan. If you’re fine with seasonal work, no problem. But if you want to earn a living through the winter, think about your options. Some vendors take on other jobs, while others alter their product offerings. For example, New York’s Van Leeuwen Ice Cream sells gourmet espresso and lattes during the chilly months. You could also head south: Ice cream trucks rarely go out of style in Florida or Texas.