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Richie and Carina Veverka realize their friends might have thought it was risky and maybe even a little bit crazy that they abandoned their careers to drive a shaved ice truck around town selling the frozen dessert; but once their fleet of trucks continued to expand, their friends acknowledged the couple was on to something and had made the right decision to become Kona Ice franchisees.
Kona Ice, named the No. 1 new franchise in the country by Entrepreneur magazine, is a very successful business model that is sweeping the country as franchisees service community events and engage in fundraising activities for schools and other organizations as part of the business plan.
Carina Veverka, 33, graduated with a mathematics degree from University of Texas in Austin and worked as a data analyst for many years; her husband Richie, 46, attended college to study social work and IT services, working in those fields.
In 2010, looking for something new to pursue, they started looking at franchising and explored such models as the Kolache Factory. Without knowing yet about Kona Ice, they also considered running their own shaved ice trailer, a venture they estimated would take a $60,000 investment. But when Carina’s aunt told them about a friend who owned a Kona Ice truck, they began looking into the franchise, known for its colorful trucks, patented ice-shaving equipment, and FlavorWave dispensing system.
“Just by seeing the picture online, we thought it was amazing,” Richie Veverka said. “We live in North Carolina and it’s always hot. We thought, ‘What could we bring here that you didn’t see a lot of?’ ”
Franchise Offered Advantages
There were several things that appealed to the Veverkas about operating a Kona Ice truck. The overhead and food costs were low, they didn’t have to rise early in the morning to begin operating their business, and they liked the fundraising aspect, which allowed them to help local schools and community organizations in the Raleigh area by giving back a portion of their profits.
“The whole business model around fundraising was never in the back of my mind, but it’s huge for us,” Richie said. “Those things make it appealing.”
The charitable aspect also opens doors to some events that other vendors might have trouble accessing due to space limits or other restrictions, he said.
“We have a great business model,” he said. “We show up where people are, we set up in 30 seconds and serve 300 to 500 people an hour.”
“We’re actually growing. We know people who open ice cream stores, they open one spring and they’re closed by the fall.”
The Veverkas concentrate primarily on servicing preschools, schools, and youth sporting events. They purchased their first truck early in 2010 and have already expanded to four regular-size trucks and were one of the first Kona franchisees to purchase a mini truck, which is more convenient for indoor events, such as cheerleading competitions, school dances, and basketball competitions.