|Posted by Lilly on June 30, 2014 at 8:25 AM||comments (12)|
One year ago, I wrote a blog post about the Awesomest Hand Sink for selling Italian Ice, which I was having custom crafted to finally become compliant with my Health Department's hand sink rule. What I completely forgot to do was update you guys and show you the photos of the sink and how perfect it is for those vendors looking for NSF equipment who want a portable sink that doesn't need electricity. This is a one-of-a-kind!
HIGHLIGHTS OF MY SINK
It's the ONLY existing hand sink made to use with the Coleman Hot H2O On Demand that is ready to go! It's the quickest option for those needing only a hand sink, who don't want to build their own or don't want to be dependent on electricity. While it's not cheap, being all steel, it's the answer for those Health Departments who mandate NSF equipment. And the price is right in line with other stainless steel sinks sold on the market - all much larger, heavier and electricity-dependent.
Now, for the reveal! Here are the photos of my sink! For me, it was the long-lost piece in a puzzle I'd been working on for a year and half... and an answer to my prayers. Give me your thoughts in the comments!
|Posted by Lilly on July 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM||comments (1)|
As many Italian Ice vendors are finding out, Health Departments across the country often require at minimum a hand sink on or near your cart when you're selling. And if you've been one of the lucky ones to skirt this requirement, be aware that many states are adopting guidelines that will make it necessary for you to get one in the future.
I came across this great option for a hand sink recently and, as usual, wanted to share it with my readers. A concessionaire by the name of Jeff, who runs ConcessionSinks.com has designed and developed a fully portable sink that can be purchased complete, or you can buy the plans to easily build your own sink. These include 3-compartment sinks and combinations of both handsink and 3-compartments. The units appear easy to operate and maneuver, durable and lightweight, as seen here.
Photo Credit: ConcessionSinks.com
Jeff provides many detailed video guides on the selection of his sinks and other videos to walk people through the building steps should you choose to craft your own. He's also available via email and phone to assist. I'm very impressed with the units he's offering, as the cost is substantially less than those offered by the likes of manufactuers such as C Nelson.
From my own recent experience, one benefit of a standalone sink, if your Health Department will allow it (some require onboard sinks) is that you would have a modular selling unit. And trust me, two pieces are much more transportable and easier to maneuver than one larger, bulkier and heavier vending/sink unit. The modular aspect makes it easy, too, for you to take only the sink into your commissary to dispose of wastewater. And for women who wish to work at selling Italian Ice alone, two lighter weight units are much easier to manage alone, if you are comfortable with the idea of making two trips for setup and takedown.
Also, some Health Departments will let you operate a separate, independent hand sink, as long as it is somehow connected to your vending cart. One seasoned concession veteran said he's been able to simply hook his pushcart to the sink with S-hooks in order to be compliant. So ask your Health Department what specifically they will accept.
Finally, another great aspect of ConcessionSink.com's sink unit is that they are complete standalone units, whereby the water is heated with a propane tank. And if your Health Department requires pressurized water, Jeff's sinks operate with a 12-volt battery driven pump. No electricity or generator is required, allowing you to vend anywhere you'd like.
These sinks can also be wrapped in custom graphics by use of banners applied with velcro. Or you can get your sink wrapped in steel or any other material you would like. This, however, you would have to do on your own, as ConcessionSinks.com's units are pretty bare, but highly functional.
|Posted by Lilly on April 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
Well, when I invited people to join my site and watch me grow, I didn't realize how many boo-boos I would get along the way that everyone would get to witness. Here's one...
In my haste to be able to accept credit cards for my mobile Italian Ice business, I joined up with Square, one of the first companies to offer the ability to accept credit cards via smartphone. I blogged all about its features. You can read about that here.
Shortly thereafter, I stumbled across PayAnywhere, another credit card accepting company which offers a slightly lower transaction rate. I then joined that company too. In my defense, my original blog post did state that new technologies would be coming out as everyone would likely jump on this great idea. And sure enough, that has just happened, sort of.
PayPal, the mega-money payment company has just released the newest contender... https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/credit-card-reader" target="_blank">PayPal Here. Perhaps it's not the niftiest, most self-explanatory name, but it's certainly getting me to go there. PayPal is offering a low rate too, and it's making it super easy to accept credit cards. But by sitting back and seeing where the cards fell, PayPal was able to offer the best of features from one card with the best of features from another and then add to that their own great features. This includes the ability to take checks! In addition, a customer can pay with their PayPal account! But, even better, the funds are transmitted into your own PayPal account. It's unclear at the time of this writing whether funds must go to your PayPal account mandatorily or if that's your choice. However, I was in a bit of a bind with the other technologies, and now it's all been resolved.
You see, unless you are a Big Company, you will have to open a business checking account for little companies. And my bank's business checking account only allows me to make 500 deposits per month. At first reading, this number certainly seemed large enough, in fact maybe too big. But when I realized that Square and PayAnywhere may deposit funds into my business checking one transaction at a time, it became somewhat of a concern that I'd reach 500 deposits rather quickly in one month. Perhaps not at the start of my new business, but maybe later. And that would then cost me in bank fees. I'd actually been trying to find a workaround, and the best I'd concluded was to link my Square or PayAnywhere app with my personal checking, which has no set number of deposits restriction. I'd then have to funnel money into my business checking each month. Is your head spinning yet?! Setting up a business checking had been expressly for the purpose of avoiding that mess.
In comes PayPal Here like my knight in shining armor! With sales routing right into my PayPal account, which is already linked to all my other accounts (personal and business), I can then just send money to whichever accounts I wish each month, as needed. Problem solved. No bank fees. No mixing of personal and business funds. And with PayPal Here, the funds are available the same day. That's unheard of. Every other financial entity offers next day funds availability only. Some other super features are... each transaction is encrypted, it's backed by a company with a track record of excellent protection, and it is the only company (currently) offering live phone and online support, ideal when a transaction or the app goes awry.
I say this great new idea has happened "sort of" because it isn't really available yet. But you can go to PayPal's site and register to be contacted as soon as it is, which of course, I did.
And when you watch the video, you might notice the card reader is slanted or off center while attached to the phone. It's not broken. Another cool idea PayPal learned from its predecessors is that card readers swivel when connected to a smartphone's audio jack, making it a pain to get a clean swipe of a credit card. So PayPal Here's reader comes pre-installed with its own kickstand.
|Posted by Lilly on April 24, 2012 at 8:55 AM||comments (0)|
Photo Credit: SquareUp.com
Even though I have yet to make one sale in my Italian Ice business (I'm not open yet), I have just prepared myself for the maximum number of sales I can hope to get. We all know Italian Ice is traditionally a cash business. But I also know that, as a consumer, there have been times when I've wanted to buy something but didn't have the cash on hand. The end result, barring a nearby ATM, was that I simply didn't buy it. Those times were sad not only for me, but also for the vendor whose merchandise I didn't purchase. We both lost out.
Since Italian Ice is one of those products that everyone wants on a super hot day, why risk losing sales for the simple reason that I only accept cash. Gone are those days! Now, any mom-and-pop outfit can accept credit cards quickly and effortlessly. Let me introduce you to Square.
Square is a company that has catapulted on the scene by making credit card purchases accepted and easy for absolutely any vendor, but especially remote ones. All you need is a smartphone, a credit card reader, and your bank account. You personally have to take care of the smartphone and account parts, but Square will send you a free credit card reader when you sign up with their service, also for free. The catch? Square simply takes 2.75% (that's .0275) of every purchase where you swipe a customer's credit card. In simple math, for an example $10.00 purchase, that will cut into your profit by 27.5 cents. Not bad for the ability to make sales where you would have lost them before. So what you lose in transaction fee, you quickly make up, and more, in increased sales.
Not only can you gain sales, but customers who pay by credit card have an interesting psychology about credit card purchases that works to a vendor's benefit. They tend to spend more, feeling that they need to make the use of the credit card somehow "worth it". Since they often feel strange using a credit card for a very small purchase, many users will buy more of what you're selling! Ahh, gotta love consumer psychology!
The service costs you absolutely nothing more than the transaction fee, so it's free to join and free to maintain all records of those transactions you make using Square. Unlike other credit card transaction companies, you do not have to set up a merchant account. Additionally, there is no limit on the number of credit card transactions you can take. Simple. And you can even set up your "regulars", those customers who buy from you often. They open a "tab" and don't even need their physical credit card to pay, just their lovely face and name.
To learn more and sign up, visit SquareUp.com. Watch their excellent video of a farmer's market vendor using the credit card reader to make sales. It's very cool. Watch their other videos too for more great ideas that Square offers free, like joining their directory and creating a menu of products. And when you're thoroughly convinced that this technology is for you, and you have nothing to lose, sign up and enjoy a boost in your Italian Ice business.
Other companies offering similar services are:
Currently, Bank of America is also offering the service to its customers. You will need to visit a branch to sign up. New companies and banks are sure to jump on board this amazing technology, so keep an eye out for competition that may save you money or offer more useful services.
|Posted by Lilly on April 22, 2012 at 8:10 AM||comments (2)|
Happy Earth Day, 2012!
To celebrate and remember what this day is all about, I write you this post about what I plan to do in my new Italian Ice business to help out our Earth. Perhaps you will join me in this endeavor and look at the supplies you intend to use or are currently using in your Italian Ice business that could help reduce harmful effects on our planet.
The products we Italian Ice vendors will use the most are (no, not Italian Ice) disposables, the cups and spoons used to serve the ice. Therefore, I've chosen to use supplies that will be earth-friendlier than the traditional products used to vend on the street. While most vendors use plastic, paper or styrofoam cups in which to serve Italian Ice, I have found a cool new cup that I'll be proud to hand my customers. It is a compostable cup derived from corn starch. It looks and feels exactly like plastic cups, but can be composted and will degrade within 12-24 months. And you might be surprised to find that these cups cost the same or less than traditional cups of all materials. So using compostable cups makes even more sense when it doesn't raise our business costs, one of the factors that would understandably prevent vendors from changing products.
The spoons I've found for my business are also compostable. But they are made from a fibrous byproduct of sugarcane production, called bagasse. As I've written on my other website, the spoons won't taste like much, but they'll be sweet on our planet. These spoons are also biodegradable and compostable, breaking down in the same timeframe as the cornstarch cups, about 12-24 months. And, again, they cost about the same as a typical plastic spoon. They're available in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors to make your business stand out even more.
There are many choices available now in biodegradable servingware, besides the cornstarch and sugar products. Others are being made from potato starch, soy protein and other renewable raw materials. Some resemble clear plastic, while others look like paper cups. And you'll find a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors and transparencies to suit your taste and complement your business. For a wealth of information, check out World Centric, a site dedicated to promoting sustainable alternatives. When you're ready to make the switch or start buying these cool new products, use the search terms "compostable" or "biodegradable" "cups" and "spoons". You'll be presented with a vast number of suppliers selling these products at reasonable prices.
While bottom line is a very real consideration when selecting supplies for your Italian Ice business, there is an added value to changing to more Earth-friendly choices. And that is, geographically, your customers may be looking for it or feel more inclined to buy from you. With society's consciousness and consientousness to Go Green, your business can use these products to show your commitment to being more environmentally friendly than the next food vendor, promoting your Italian Ice business as having higher quality products in all aspects of your operation. So, no matter how you serve it, using compostable bioplastics is a win-win for all.
|Posted by Lilly on April 1, 2012 at 3:40 PM||comments (0)|
Yesterday I got to make my very first purchase toward my Italian Ice business! And it was an exciting moment for me, so I thought I'd share it with you.
Everyone knows you're not really a street vendor until you raise up the trademark pushcart umbrella. So I visited my local Home Depot and purchased two 9-foot umbrellas for my cart in beautiful, bright lime green (one spare for just in case). They are going to look fantastic on my custom cart and be quite functional shading me, my ice, and my customers, as well as attracting them. They'll also make the perfect display support for bagged chips as add-on sales.
If you're starting your business from the beginning, or for the new season, I recommend you hop out (sorry for the pre-Easter pun) and get a few of these market umbrellas yourself. They are inexpensive compared to the umbrellas sold by Italian Ice business outfitters. They carry a 1-year warranty and come in fantastic colors to set my cart apart. And the wood stem has a nicer visual appeal than other ones made of aluminum.
But these umbrellas come and go so fast, if you blink, you'll miss them. Unless you live in the South, they are a seasonal item that disappears faster than colored eggs at an Easter egg hunt!