Welcome to the Small-Business Soap series, in which we follow a start-up in real time. Getting a small business off the ground can have as many twists and turns as a daytime drama. But unlike television plots, these stories can inspire and educate entrepreneurs -- be sure to tune in every Wednesday to find out how.
The Boston Globe
recently reported that slow growth in U.S. milk production, combined with rising international demand, are likely to keep milk prices rising. Companies like
Ben & Jerry's and Good Humor, then, welcome the warm weather that drives up the number of ice-cream consumers.
While it's a given that hot summer weather is bad for the construction business but fantastic for selling air conditioners, we would never assume that it can be bad for ice-cream sales or outdoor businesses like Kim Ima's
Treats Truck, a mobile food vendor that
started selling baked goods all over Manhattan and Brooklyn in June.
Yet surprisingly, "Summer is slow," says Ima, who spoke to numerous other food vendors in the city -- including ice-cream truck drivers. "People go away on vacation and when it's really hot people don't even buy ice-cream. They
prefer to stay inside in the air conditioning."
Ima says her summer sales numbers aren't bad, but they don't reflect her business' true potential. The fact that she can move her business around outdoors will pay off in the long run, just not in sweltering New York City heat when skimpy outfits make its residents overly physique-conscious. "One guy walked by, looked at the cookies and said, 'Oh I'd love to have one, but it's summer' and sadly patted his stomach," Ima recounts.
A Cool Cure
Ima discovered that weekend nights are much better than the heat of the day, when, she observed, "the city seems quiet." She is considering changing her hours to cater to cooler evenings.
She predicts, as other vendors tell her, that the ensuing fall and the holiday season will generate her peak sales. "It's a season for getting together with friends -- and also people not wearing bikinis," Ima points out.
Ima is also getting more calls from event planners and corporate customers, which will help to offset slower summer sales and possibly bring in more profit than the truck can generate on the streets. Ima has a standing order with a big New York company to stock their daily meetings with treats; she is given a headcount every day and delivers accordingly. Ima says this side of the business holds promise, as she is having no trouble getting her name and brand out there.
"When it comes to establishing the name and getting people excited about it, it's been going incredibly well," says Ima, who was recently featured on a local news channel.
And she is by no means thinking of giving her truck, Sugar, more garage time. "The truck is the thing that wins peoples' hearts," she says. "But by the same token, it's important to make money."
Her business consultant at
Score assures Ima that her business is doing very well, and that it holds promise for any season.