The snow cart business might sound great, but any smart person’s going to ask the same question whether it’s snow cones or any other business: how much does it cost to start? This is a big question since not many of us have a ton of cash on the side…if we did we wouldn’t be looking for an awesome cash business like snow cone stands!
In most states, and even in some counties and cities, you will need to make sure you have all the business licenses available to operate. In some states these cost as little as $50 total, while in many others it may run up to a couple hundred, but it shouldn’t run any more than that. The cost also varies if you have a lawyer draw up business papers for you, or if you choose to do it yourself and hand the application into the courthouse personally. These fees can usually be made up with one or two good days.
Prices can vary greatly depending on what type of a cart you buy to get started with. In fact, this expense is the single biggest factor in determining start up costs. Snow carts range anywhere from $400 to $4,000 for brand new shaved ice carts. There is also a ton of variety between these two extremes, but many people decide to start out with snow cone carts that are well under $1,000 starting out, and many make their money back in short time with just a few really good cash days.
While many people will do very well starting out with a small cart, don’t rely on price alone. There’s nothing wrong with starting cheap and working your way up (especially with how often the shaved ice business doesn’t even feel like work), but what if the early demand for your snow cones is three or four times what you can provide? Not only do all those profits walk away, but you will end up having to buy a larger and more expensive snow cone stand anyway. Take the time to make sure you’re making the right decision on this one.
The next most expensive piece of equipment is the shaved ice machine itself. The machine, along with your stand, is one of the cornerstones of your business starting out, and entry level machines are most commonly found in the $400-$600 range. The best place to find a good shaved ice machine is from an actual vendor or online website that specializes in them. Many of these sites will actually have several machines for easy comparison, making it easier for you to look at the deals available and decide on the best one for you.
While prices can vary for the supplies you need to run the snow cone business, most of these will at least be in the same price range. For materials like paper cups, plastic spoons, or Styrofoam cups, never be afraid to look around locally for a Sam’s Club, Costco, or other wholesale store that might give you the best deal. These types of overhead materials are cheap, and when bought wholesale they often cost only pennies per snow cone sold.
Out of the actual overhead supplies, the concentrate syrup for mixing ingredients will cost the most, and a gallon of this can run anywhere from $30-50 depending on flavor and vendor. The good news is that one gallon of concentrate can make 8 gallons of syrup, or anywhere from 640-800 snow cones, leaving tons of room to make a boatload of profit. Look around for sales, especially when buying in bulk as some places offer steep discounts for bulk orders.
The up-front costs do add up, but a snow cone business has some really amazing profit margins, and it doesn’t take that many little league games, flea markets, or big days to make up a good chunk of that initial investment. It only takes a few good days to bring in enough cash to make up for all your investment, and after that it’s pure profit.