How to run an ice cream van

Written by elizabeth hannigan
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How to run an ice cream van
We all scream for ice cream. (Ice Cream image by nickichen from

Driving an ice cream van could make you one of the most popular entrepreneurs in town, especially among the younger crowd. However, without some creative marketing in place, you won't be the richest in town. Ice cream truck vendors compete with supermarkets that can undersell them with value packs and they're at the mercy of parents who may be limiting sugary sweets for their kids. Depending upon where you live, an ice cream truck may be a seasonal pursuit. If running an ice cream van is a dream of yours, make it profitable by offering and be creative in your selling methods.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Ice cream truck
  • Business license
  • Doing Business As (DBA) permit
  • Taxpayer identification number
  • Health certificate
  • Merchandise

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  1. 1

    Obtain a business license, a Doing Business As (DBA) permit, a taxpayer identification number and a health certificate. In some states, you need a commercial driver's license to operate an ice cream van. Depending on where you live, it may be illegal to do business in front of schools. You can find out if the business you're running is legal by checking with your local county clerk and department of motor vehicles.

  2. 2

    Paint and decorate your ice cream van so that it stands out from other trucks. If your van isn't a franchise, you are free to decorate it however you like. Paint it a bright or pastel colour instead of white. If you are not an artist yourself, hire a professional to paint your name and some fun imagery on the back and driver's side of your van. Making your van unique will attract customers who support small, independent businesses. It will also make you more identifiable to children and parents who feel safer allowing their kids to buy treats from someone they recognise.

  3. 3

    Sell a unique product. Many ice cream trucks sell heavily processed novelties. Follow the example of some independent trucks in New York and Los Angeles by crafting your own artisan ice cream treats. Your desserts will be free from preservatives and much tastier than your competitors' hard frozen ice cream bars. If your ice cream is very tasty, you can attract grown-up customers as well as kids. Create some exotic flavours, such as orange cardamom or spicy peanut and sell those alongside chocolate and vanilla. You can keep your customers interested by rotating your flavours and trying out new recipes every month.

  4. 4

    Sell some relatively healthy sorbets along with your ice cream. Many parents object to ice cream trucks because their merchandise is bad for kids' health. Ice cream novelties are often full of fat, sugars and chemicals. Answer the complaints of these parents by offering some real fruit, organic sorbets with no sugar added. Sorbets can be almost as healthy as fresh fruit, depending on your recipe. Many parents would welcome an ice cream truck that sold fun, healthy treats to kids. In addition to this, these treats will attract adult customers who are concerned about their weight.

  5. 5

    Plan a route and stick to your schedule. Once you find out where it is legal for you to sell your treats, scope out places where kids congregate. Public parks are great places to sell your wares. Public swimming pools are a good spot to sell ice cream too. Try and cruise by these places several times in the course of a week to see when the most kids are present. For example, you will probably find lots of hungry customers at soccer and baseball fields on Saturdays when extra-curricular sports teams play their games. If you work in a city, cruise by business districts during lunch time when school is in session to see if you can pick up a few grown-up customers looking for something sweet on their breaks. Once you determine the best spots to sell your ice cream, visit these spots on a regular schedule so that your loyal customers can expect you. Then, expand your customer base and pick up some extra cash showing up at special events like parades or concerts.

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