The Bee's Small Business Profile: Kona Ice

The Fresno BeeMay 30, 2014 

When Lisa Quiroz was looking for franchise opportunities, Kona Ice just wouldn't go away.

"It kept coming back to me," she said.

Quiroz wasn't looking for a specific type of business, but Kona Ice stood out to her. She didn't like the thought of seeing a Kona Ice truck in Fresno and knowing she missed an opportunity.

Kona Ice, an ice cream truck-style business that sells shaved ice, caters mainly to school and sporting events.

Going hand in hand with school functions, Kona Ice follows the Smart Snacks in School nutrition guidelines and provides a low-sugar snack to people of all ages, Quiroz said.

What is the history of the business?

Quiroz: Kona Ice is a small franchise based out of Kentucky. We found Kona Ice back in 2011. It just kind of struck us as a great business. We purchased our first truck in May 2011, and that was for Fresno. It quickly grew, and we ended up having to turn down so many events that we ended up getting a second truck in 2012. That was for Clovis. We have just continued growing. In 2013 we bought a little mini-cart that we use at Grizzly games and Fresno State football games. We're hoping to continue growing.

What is the nature of the business?

Quiroz: Giving back to the community. That's really what Kona Ice has promoted from the beginning. … We give a percentage of sales back for every event we do. I'd say 90% of our business is fundraising. School events and sporting events is the main part of the fundraising.

When you work events, how does that work? The business is a little different because it's mobile.

Quiroz: One of our biggest challenges is the mobile part of the business and the logistics of getting a truck in and making sure staff can get there if there are not people there who are drivers.

What drew you to buy a Kona franchise?

Quiroz: I looked at it for about a year. … I cannot actually tell you what it was, but it just stuck with me, and it kept coming back to me. It's fun. I love the idea of giving back.

But it frankly wasn't until I got the truck that I discovered the magic of it and how special it is. I've been blown away by how much it changes people's day. They smile ear to ear. My favorite time — I love when kids are screaming and they're chanting "Kona Ice" — but my favorite is when I get a really tough guy that you wouldn't want to see in a dark alley come up, you hand it to them, they take a bite and just smile ear to ear. And they may come back five times and are chatty as can be. It brings out the child in everybody, and that's what I love about it.

What is the product and menu like?

Quiroz: We are strictly shaved ice. We have a flavorwave on the outside of our truck so everybody gets to put their own flavors on. We've kept it really simple by sticking to one thing that we can serve quickly because a lot of these things we're at are really busy and we have to be able to serve people quickly.

What is your policy regarding customer service?

Quiroz: We always try to make it special for them. We always try to create an experience. It's just taking the few extra minutes to say, "Hi, how are you? Have you tried this flavor?"

We've got two customers: We've got the people who are coming up to our window, and then we have people who are booking us.

For the people that are coming up to the window, we always want someone to smile and greet the customer before the customer needs to say anything.

On the business side of it, it's always follow up with the customer, letting them know what their give-back is, getting a check in the mail, always showing up on time and always cleaning up after ourselves. We've got a hose out. We're brushing down the ground where there's syrup. We want people to not know that there was a shaved ice truck at the event.


Kona Ice

Owners: Lisa Quiroz and Eric Burley

Founded: May 2011

Location: Mobile trucks

Phone: (559) 779-2969

Employees: Four

Annual sales: $240,000

Online: www.kona-ice.com

How to get your business profiled

The Bee welcomes candidates for Small Business Q&A. To be considered, businesses must meet the following criteria:

* Be locally owned

* Been in business for at least a year

* Have fewer than 50 employees

* Provide an annual sales figure for publication and be willing to answer other questions about the business

Suggestions may be emailed to business@fresnobee.com. Put "Small business profile" in the subject line.

For more Valley business news, don't miss "Word on the Street" in Monday Business.

 Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified partner Eric Burley.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or bvaccari@fresnobee.com.

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