$50k and counting
Cool, colorful Kona Ice gives back
New Hampshire Dance Institute summer camp attendees, at Marlborough School this month, dance to the Calypso music of the Kona Ice truck for franchise owner Sharon Sweeney. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)
On a recent warm summer day, Sharon Sweeney had one of the business' three Kona Ice trucks parked at by the Marlborough School playground with a long line of children that kept her serving shaved ice for her entire hourlong visit to the New Hampshire Dance Institute summer camp at the elementary school.
A visit from Kona Ice is marked by the steel drum melodies of Calypso music, the colorful characters on the truck, including Kona the Penguin, and the Flavorwave, which allows patrons to help themselves to Kona Ice's top 10 flavors.
"It's gone back into our scholarships. It's gone into some of the expenses we have in running the camp or the event we have in May," Leach said. "I think the neatest part of the story is that there is actually a business that is financially benefiting from being there and then turning back around and giving you a check back. … And it's just happiness, happiness and fun."
The Surry couple had long been in business for themselves when in 2008 the economic crash made their business as event equipment lease brokers frustratingly difficult, Sharon Sweeney said.
"Every time he came up with one of these hair-brained online things, I'd look at him and say, 'Are you crazy?'"
Even when he discovered a new franchise opportunity with a shaved ice truck business based out of Florence, Ky., Sharon was skeptical.
But after Jim did his homework on the franchise, the couple decided it could work and that they needed the change of pace.
"We were just looking for something totally different and fun and exciting," Sweeney said.
Each franchise chooses how much it wants to give back, but like the Sweeneys, Kona franchise's usually give back 25 percent of its profits at a fundraising event, she said.
At almost every stop, they give back revenue to the group that invited them, school fairs, baseball leagues, church events, corporate outings, even weddings.
Shaved ice originated in Hawaii, where it is known as shave ice, she said.
In other parts of the county, it is known as Hawaiian or tropical shaved ice, and in some parts of the South, it is known as snowballs.
"You can put on any flavor you want. You can mix and match. It just adds to the experience," Sweeney said of Flavorwave.
The Sweeneys were the first to bring Kona Ice to New Hampshire; now there are three other Kona Ice franchises in the state, she said.New Hampshire has the distinction of having the most Kona trucks per capita, Sweeney said.
"I think he fell off of his chair when we were at the end of our second season, and we had to order a second truck," she said.
"What we say is we work very hard for six months, and we don't work hard for six months," Sweeney said.
Their initial investment was just over $90,000 to start the franchise, she said. In five years, the franchise has expanded to three trucks, hired two employees, covers the Route 9 area from Concord into Brattleboro, Vt., and most importantly has given back $50,000 to the community they serve.
The Sweeneys can be contacted at Sharon@konaiceofnh.com.
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