SCORE! Landing Local High School Athletics

Posted by Lilly on July 28, 2014 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (9)

Allen High School's opening 2012 football game in the new Eagle Stadium, TX

High school... we've all been there.  For all its experiences and offerings, very little compares to the crazed emphasis from students and parents alike on high school sports.  An article from CNBC, titled High School Sports Have Turned Into Big Business, mentions that "the market in high school sports keeps expanding," and "the dedication to high school sports from all sides is endless."   Why?  We love competition, we love sports, and frankly anyone can hit up a local Friday night football game, for the cheap cost of a ticket and short drive. 

So how can you get a piece of the action?  It's easy, and now is the time to get started.  As the summer winds down, and we head into August, all things High School will be getting into gear.  If you can secure your Italian Ice business's spot at local sporting events now, you can end your selling season off with a big bang!  Let me show you how to get your foot in the door of your local school. 

First off, visit the site HighSchools.com to quickly generate a list of all the schools around you.  Find the search button in the upper right, enter your county name, and then click on the little round radio button named "Counties".  This will give you the largest number of schools you can contact.  Most likely your Health Department gave you a license to sell within your county, therefore, get all the names of high schools within the same county that you can sell in. Here is what that list will look like (I used Bucks County, PA next door to me, as an example).

Now we refine our list.  I opened up Excel to add high schools to my ongoing marketing list, but you can use a paper and pencil, too.  First I noted those cities I'm familiar with and are right around me.  Those schools went onto my list.  For towns I wasn't familiar with, I used Google Maps to find out how far away they were.  If they were less than 25 minutes driving, they went on my list.  Use whatever driving distance makes sense for you.  If you need more business, logically, you'll be willing to travel.  Lastly, I narrowed down my list based on number of students attending the schools.  Clearly, it's safe to assume those schools with fewer students will have lower attendance at their athletic events. 

Next, I clicked on the links of the schools and jotted down their addresses, phone numbers and webpages.  Some required a little more digging on Google when no website was listed.  All schools these days have websites - it's the primary mode of parent communication, and sure enough, I found them. 

What I'm looking for on each of the websites for these schools will be their athletic page, in particular the name of their Athletic Director.  That name also goes on my list.  While some schools use Parent/Teacher or Home & School groups to fundraise, I want to send my letter directly to the Athletic Directors, for good reason.  The parents who head those other groups come and go from year to year, and I'd rather not have to keep track of that constantly changing information when I send out any new promos.  Believe me, I've tried!  My letter will be a juicy one, detailing how Such-and-Such School can earn back 20% of sales (I really offer 30%, but that's just crazy me) toward new sporting equipment or other efforts, to be used however the Athletic Director sees fit.  Oooh, Power!  New Equipment.  And I stress, all this free money comes to you with absolutely no effort on your part!  Who wants more work, right?  So I make an offer that's too easy to pass up... I show, I sell, I write you a check! 

If the Athletic Director is not the one who handles such matters, I would bet my pants that he or she will pass the information to the right person or group, in order to start getting that free money for their athletic program.  I'll make sure to also add that other schools are already booking their dates with my company, and there are only a limited number of game dates/slots available due to cooling autumn weather.  Should I run into the wonderful problem of multiple schools being interested, well, then heck!  I'll just have to duplicate my booth as quickly as possible (1 month is enough time to order everything and get new banners), and hire some high school students to sell at their school's games (free attendance for them!), while I'm selling at another. 

When I send the school its profit sharing check later in the season, I'll be sure to include the tickler that big spring events such as baseball tournaments, track invitationals and other multi-school competitions are excellent for generating larger profit sharing checks - he or she should be sure to call me again.  Those of you Italian Ice vendors who live in warm weather places, us season-limited vendors, frankly don't want to hear how well you make out with this program during the "winter" months.

While I'm at it, if all goes according to plan, I'm toying with the idea of having inexpensive school logo'd fun items to sell at the sporting events alongside the ice.  It's one thing I see missing from these games, but one I know students love to buy, like mini-footballs, koozies, hackie sacks and especially noisemakers! 

Okay, that's the gameplan!  Who's with me?! 

Oh, What a Night!

Posted by Lilly on August 8, 2013 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

My last blog post recommended that vendors find and attend their local National Night Out event as a wonderful community involvement opportunity.  Who knew that, for me, it would be my biggest gig yet!  It was a huge success! 

The photo above is an actual shot taken last night from my booth.  For a solid two hours, this was the scene I saw every time I looked up to check my line.  And it was a very unexpected, happy surprise.  There's probably another entire blog post of the uncertainties of this business that I could write about.  But I'll share a few of those now.  This was supposed to be a small event, a name-builder of sorts, to get my business out there.  I had been asked to sell at a lower price, and I did so using smaller cup sizes.  Price could have been a factor, but this year, the event organizers added a car show and many more neighbors came out.  And how could I predict that on a night forecasted for rain, we would have one of the most beautiful evenings of the entire summer?  So, of course, Murphy's law kicked in, and I told my helper (daughter) she could stay at the shore rather than come home to sell Italain Ice with me.  I could handle it, I told her.  Well, folks...

Here are the highlights of my evening.

  • I started selling six flavors, and sold out of four of them by night's end.  What remained, lemon and blueberry, were down to the bottom.
  • I was the last vendor at the event's closing time of 10:00pm... still selling.  It was the first chance for the event volunteers and police officers to get ice, and who was I to turn them away?  I especially love that last guy who wants anything I have left and for whom I have to dig out a cup and spoon from my packed supplies (there's one at every event).
  • I had a line of customers from 7:00pm to 9:30pm!  Solid, non-stop action, with the new callous to prove it!
  • While putting away my gear that night, I picked up my business card holder to find only one card in it! 
  • The PA State Representative, Todd Stephens, whom I'd told I was starting a mobile ice business back in May, stopped by my booth and got to see it live.  Future private event, Representative?
  • I was personally introduced to a highly influential Chamber of Commerce businesswoman in our town who thought my water ice would be a great fit for an upcoming 5k she was promoting. Plus she wants me to attend the town's biggest, all-day event held every year, next June.  I've been wanting to get into that event for 2 years, but haven't felt ready. Now I am!
  • I made the most revenue on a per hour basis than I've ever seen.  And tips were pretty generous too. 

Like I said... Oh, what a night! 

Get Involved with National Night Out!

Posted by Lilly on July 20, 2013 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

If you're looking for a great place to sell Italian Ice in just a few short weeks, consider participating in National Night Out in your community.  As the name implies, this is a nationwide event tyically starting around 6:00pm and going on for a few hours. This one-night community event is a perfect opportunity for an Italian Ice business to showcase community involvement and a delicious, cold treat. 

What is National Night Out?

From the National Association of Town Watch (NATW):

The introduction of National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime”, in 1984 began an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. NATW’s National Night Out program culminates annually, on the first Tuesday of August (In Texas, the first Tuesday of October).

National Night Out now involves over 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all fifty states, U.S. Territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide.

The traditional “lights on” campaign and symbolic front porch vigils turned into a celebration across America with various events and activities including, but not limited to, block parties, cookouts, parades, visits from emergency personnel, rallies and marches, exhibits, youth events, safety demonstrations and seminars, in effort to heighten awareness and enhance community relations.

Why Participate?

  • Excellent community partnership
  • Awesome marketing opportunity for new businesses
  • Usually no fee to participate
  • Hot nights and Italian Ice are a no-brainer!

Is a Community Near You Participating?

To find out whether a community near you is holding an event, visit the National Association of Town Watch's Map page.  You can view or download a list of participating areas.  For those vendors who have multiple carts, I would suggest you consider sending out additional carts to other communities.  Share the love!

You better believe I'll be at the event in my neighborhood!  Getting in with your community is something a business can't afford not to do.  Getting in with the police officers who patrol those communities is even better for those of us operating cash businesses looking for a partner who's "got your back".  Get to know your local police force!  It's a smart move for any vendor... as a single woman running my business, the support and protection I have from my local police department is something I could never buy nor repay.  And for the cops hosting that night's event, the ice is on me!

School Concession Stands = Danger + Opportunity

Posted by Lilly on February 26, 2013 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Highschool Students Prepare to Run Their School Concession Stand

That fat and furry little Punxsutawney Phil told us just a month ago that Spring would be arriving soon.  And it must be true because our local Rita's Italian Ice opened back up for business just last week.  The arrival of Spring brings many things.  In addition to rain showers and their subsequent flowers, all around the country, as the weather turns warmer, schools are gearing up for another Spring semester of sports.  For us in the Northeast Philly 'burbs that's track & field, baseball, lacrosse and a few others.  But it's what accompanies these events that I'd like to bring your attention to today... the ubiquitous school concession stand.  These junk-food laden, fundraising tents, booths and stores are great for the hoardes of hungry and thirsty kids and parents attending the sports events.  What they aren't so great for is your health!

Let me explain.  Last Spring, my daughter was on her middle school track & field team, and we attended a large meet at the local highschool, hosting roughly eight other middle school teams.  There were a lot of people, and this was a full-day event.  At one point, I decided to pop over to the school concession stand for a soft pretzel (another one of those Philly comfort foods that we love).  I also wanted to meet the company hosting the food event and introduce myself with the intention of asking about partnering with them in the future for me to sell my Italian Ice at the concession stand (something I noticed was oddly missing).  I asked the attendants what company they were with, and with a quizzical look, they answered that they weren't a company, only a group of parent volunteers!  Maybe you (dear, reader) expected this.  However, i was shocked!  It was then I shifted myself over to the right of the stand to peek in on the grilling operation taking place in the back, where these parent volunteers were cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. 

It was there I witnessed bare-hand contact with raw hamburger meat, a highly hazardous food item, by Health Department standards.  This meat was being taken out of plain 'ole coolers, which were not being maintained at a proper cold temperature.  And there was no meat thermometer probe inserted to determine the precise internal temperatures of the hamburgers on the grill that would reveal they were cooked safely.  Clearly, the Health Department's involvement was beyond absent in this operation.  And I highly doubted the  volunteers had acquired their mandated Food Handler's certification.  I guessed it had been run this way for quite some time.  I also wondered in how many other places this was happening.  And what were the chances anyone had thought to acquire liability insurance for when the inevitable food illness broke out?

Okay, so I sound like a complete "narc" and highly uptight.  But I write all this to illustrate an opportunity.  You see, we vendors are professionals.  That means: 

  1. We do what we do for a living  
  2. We have the proper training and permits to do what we do 
  3. We are licensed by the local Health Department, and
  4. We carry the proper insurance to cover the unlikely event that our customers become ill from our food or food-handling practices. 

Why would a school take such risks if they were informed of the potential dangers of continuing to run their concessions illegally and if they were informed about better options available to them? 

What if local mobile food vendors got together to create roving food courts for these sporting events? 

It is quite possible that these small-time, volunteer-run concession stands have no desire to hand over their operation and profits to the pros for a few reasons.  Then again, maybe they would.  Consider the following no-effort benefits to them:

  • No coordination of human resources (gathering the volunteer troops and requisite meetings)
  • No coordination of food and supplies purchasing and delivery
  • No hauling equipment (tables, grills, propane etc.)
  • No maintenance of equipment
  • No set up
  • No clean up
  • Increased safety/decreased liability
  • Way more food offerings (pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, popcorn, cotton candy, and of course, Italian Ice!) resulting in...
  • Potentially increased sales

The food truck movement is kicking

Let the mobile vendors come to you! 

Just tell us when and where! 

Watch your fundraising efforts disappear and your profits soar!

But I'll be the first to admit I can be a cockeyed optimist and a bit of a dreamer.  Ideas like this don't gain traction as quickly as common sense would dictate, even though it truly is the best of all possible win-win partnerships.

But all is not lost, and as the saying goes... If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  So, on a final note, if this "mobile food court" doesn't seem possible, at the very least, as an Italian Ice vendor, we could go see if our local schools' concession stands are selling any kind of frozen dessert.  If they aren't, offer to sell them our tubs of Italian Ice with free delivery to each and every sporting event that they'll operate the stand.  If they're already willing to sell, serve, and assume liability, then that could include selling our highly profitable and desired Italian Ice!  Like my recent fundraising idea, we can at least make some money selling Italian Ice with no effort on our parts.  This I see as the second-best, win-win partnership.  

What have you seen at your local schools' concession stands?  Is there any opportunity for you to get in on the action?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


Do You Need a Food Handler's Permit?

The Best Worst Way to Fundraise

The Best Worst Way to Fundraise

Posted by Lilly on February 11, 2013 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (4)


So, let me first state... I'm lazy.  You should know this about me.  I make no excuses.  However, it drives my thinking to always hunt down the easiest, most profitable way of doing anything with the least amount of effort.  For instance, I'm only offering One Size/One Price in my Italian Ice business.  I don't care to have to stock or transport more than one size of cup or deal with different prices or making change.  Another example, my Italian Ice wholesaler and my commissary are on the same block.  Two birds, one stone.  It is with this mentality that I was thinking how I can institute a fundraising program to have in place for this Spring with local elementary schools.

I researched fundraising and ice cream, the well known frozen dessert offering when it comes to young kids.  And sure enough, I found programs from Ben & Jerry's and Baskin Robbins, along with some small-time businesses.  They all propose a "we-come-to-you-and-scoop" program, whereby the school selects a few flavors of ice cream, and an employee or owner of an ice cream business comes with the ice cream, dishers (scoops), cups, napkins, sometimes toppings and coolers to keep the ice cream cold.  For this service, they charge a per person fee usually around $3.00.  Some businesses impose minimums to keep the event profitable, for instance $350 (which equates to roughly 116 kids in this example.  Now, the school gets a percentage of the sales.  This can range anywhere from 10% to 25%.  I didn't find any that offered a higher percentage back.  So, out came my trusty calculator (it really is trusty!  I've had it since college!)

Number of kids/servings: 116

Price per kid: $3.00

Sales revenue generated:  $348

School cut @ 10%: $34.80              Vendor cut @ 90%: $313.20

School cut @ 25%: $87.00              Vendor cut @ 75%: $261.00

(*Note: I'm not including sales tax, because each state handles the issue of a school's sales tax exemption differently, whether buying or selling.)

I have heard some vendors balk at splitting any sales revenue at 25% with another entity, as most want to make as much money for their effort as possible.  So they will only work with schools or  organizations willing to accept lower split percentages.  But schools, on the other end, are tight-budgeted and increasingly must bring in their own funds to support their activities.  So they will only work with vendors willing to split a higher percentage.  This is what's known as a lose-lose situation.

In comes the lazy vendor... that's me!  I don't want to drag around heavy tubs of ice or boxes of cups, spoons and napkins.  Heck, I don't even want to scoop!  I most certainly don't want to set up an event or have to clean it up afterwards, losing hours in my day (or my entire day) to host one of these fundraisers.  And I don't want to split anything with another business anymore than the next vendor, if I can help it.  But there might just be a way for everyone to be happy. 

It's not really fundraising at all.  What if I simply become a delivery person?  I sell my tubs of Italian Ice at my retail price of $32 to elementary schools.  I have them advertise, handle all the orders and collections, set up, clean up and scoop, also providing their own cups, napkins and spoons.  I get the school to set up a weekly, biweekly or monthly purchasing program.  They can select from among any of my 40 flavors (not just the usual two flavors offered in traditional fundraising events).  They will have to buy no less than 2 tubs in order to serve up to 90 kids, so that will be my minimum to make it worth me delivering, considering fuel expenses and wear and tear on my vehicle.  However, for the sake of an apples-to-apples comparison, let's say they buy three tubs of ice to get as close to the 116-kid scenario above. 

Number of kids/servings: 135

Cost of Italian Ice Tubs/3 tubs (a.k.a. Vendor Revenue): $96.00

Price per kid: $2.00 (Italian Ice is cheaper than ice cream)

School Sales revenue generated:  $270.00

School Sales revenue minus cost of Ice: $174.00

Now, before you say "That's the worst idea I ever heard!  You only make $96, where the other way you make $313!", consider this... I spent at most 15 minutes to make that $96.00, simply the time for delivery.  First of all, I ask, where can you make $96 revenue in 15 minutes... legally?  A traditional event would cost me hours of work, no matter how much I keep for myself in the fundraiser.  Whether $261 or $313, the usual amount of time needed for a typical event is 1-3 hours, the lower number possible only if you have another scooper with you (who you have to pay), because it's physically impossible to scoop that many cups fast enough, if working alone.  Now what do I do?  I head over to another school that I set up on the program too.  I figure with good use of Google mapping, I can make four deliveries in an hour.  At my minimum of two tubs each, I can bring in $256 per hour in revenue, just dropping off buckets of Italian Ice.  And there are WAY many more elementary schools around me than that. 

Increasing the number of tubs to three per school, I generate $384.  Still no scooping... no set up... no clean up... and no hiring workers.  And the schools around me have an average of 500 to 1000 kids each.  Those three tubs, as we saw in our example above, only covers 135 students.  I expect many more kids to buy "water ice" on the days the school holds the event, which means the numbers I just provided are bare minimums. I feel like madman Vizzini in Princess Bride yelling, "Wait till I get going!"  I've only worked one hour, making easy deliveries!  I could go on to another four schools in the second hour, doubling my revenue to $768!  And so far, this is only one day!  What could that generate in a week?  A month?  And finally, for all this I've spent two hours in the morning on a weekday.  Schools will want those deliveries made before their cafeteria crew arrives to begin lunch.  So, that still leaves me with my entire day ahead to do as I please (whether that be nap - remember I'm lazy - or go sell Italian ice some other place).

Did you notice how much more the schools make by use of this program than the old way?  That is an incentive for them to join the program.  Also, for them, it's exceptionally easy to get parents to volunteer to scoop the ice on "Italian Ice Day!".  So they can scoop to 500+ kids without the logistical headache that it would cause me!  And the cherry on top (pardon the ice cream pun) is that this program can be run without any Health Department interference or license of any kind and no need for commissary, because there is no scooping or even opening product.  All of this, my friends, is what's known as a win-win situation.  


Italian Ice Fundraising Ideas

Posted by Lilly on May 19, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (1)

One of the best ways to get your Italian Ice's company into your community's good graces, with goodwill and exposure, it to partner up with organizations and hold fundraisers.  Sometimes these fundraisers will net you additional sales by increasing traffic to your business.  Other times it's a wash, but dividends are simply of a different nature and only visible in the future.  At any rate, here are three fundraising ideas currently being offered by Rita's.  Like a good recipe, revisions and tweaks are up to the cook.  Use these as a marketing tool to ramp up your future customer purchases. 

Celebrity Scoop/Ice & Custard Social

A fun and exciting way for local community groups to raise money!  As a feature of the event, members of your organization, or even a real celebrity, can be "Celebrity Scoopers" and serve ice to guests.  In return, your group earns money to support your organization, via sales and tips.

Quart and Party Bucket Fundraiser

Fundraising sales don't get any cooler!  Partner with [insert your business name here] to raise funds for your group or organization!  By selling quarts of our signature Italian Ice to friends and family, your group earns a percentage of the proceeds.  (This one is identical to Girl Scout cookie sales - buy empty quart containers at restaurant supply stores and fill with your Italian Ice once orders are placed.)

Fundraiser Card

Wow….Take $1 and turn it into $5!  Your organization purchases discount cards for $1 and has the opportunity to re-sell the card for $5 to members of your community. The cardholders receive 10% off their entire purchase each time they visit for an entire year!  (This can be tweaked into one-time giveaways that are worth the value of the Italian Ice quantity you choose.)

Another idea might be to partner up with schools trying to purchase new equipment or needed supplies.  You can take your cart on a pre-arranged and well-advertised day to sell your Italian Ice at their school at your usual price.  You then split the sales with the school, of course having negotiated the split amount beforehand.  Run this fundraiser throughout the year to really be effective for both the fundraiser and you. Even better would be to have the school do the legwork on finding a great location within the community for you to run this same promotion on a much wider scale.  You just show up with cart and ice.

In addition, you can market your pushcart into a fundraiser by offering it as a prize.  It can be raffled for a party whereby you scoop ice at an event for the winner or only provide cart and ice while allowing the fundraiser coordinators to scoop.  Keep in mind that fundraisers should be as close to a win-win proposition as possible.  It should not simply be a donation, whether of your time, services, or product. Get creative and work a fundraiser into an opportunity to be seen in the community or to increase customer foot traffic or to get new customers addicted to your great Italian Ice and fantastic service, while also making sales.

I'd love to hear other great ideas of fundraisers you plan to run or have had success with in the past.  Post your comments below!