Start an Ice Cream Cart Business – Step-by-Step Guide

Since the pandemic, a wave of professionals seeking to break free from the typical 9 to 5 monotony and pursue life as their own boss has emerged. With that, one industry has found success like no other: food carts. While the overall food cart industry boasts a massive $4.3B market, niche markets within the industry, like the ice cream cart business, are growing in popularity. A mobile ice cream business has one goal: to sell ice cream on the street, at events, or festivals, and it’s highly lucrative if done correctly. 

People everywhere love ice cream. It provides a sense of nostalgia that adults and children enjoy. No matter where you live, you can rest assured that you will find customers who are eager to purchase from your menu. That’s why so many entrepreneurs are eager to open their own ice cream cart business. While the opportunity for success is there, it takes careful planning and a comprehensive understanding of every aspect that goes into creating a long-lasting and successful enterprise. In this article, we will provide an in-depth analysis of how to start an ice cream cart business so you can begin living your dream of owning your own company and being your own boss! 

Ice cream cart business

Step 1 – Preparation and Planning

Any successful company starts with preparation and planning, and the same is true for your ice cream cart business. Before you make any moves toward purchasing an ice cream bike or cart, you want to do a deep dive into the market analysis. Researching not only the overall food truck market but specifically for ice cream carts or similar businesses in your area will help you gain a deeper understanding of what to expect as you go. You also want to spend time researching your competitors. You can do this online or by attending local festivals and events and seeing what type of mobile fare they offer. Take a stroll around the parks and city center and see what types of food carts are there and which are the most popular. One of the most important parts of preparation is outlining your financial projections. This step can take a while, but it’s crucial to getting started on the right foot. Pricing the cost of ice cream carts or bicycles, ingredients, equipment, upkeep, and more will give you peace of mind and provide a thorough financial map forward. Once you’ve completed your market analysis, you can move on to your business plan. Here, you will create a comprehensive overview of every aspect of your ice cream tricycle business. Along with the financial projections, market, and competitor analysis, you will want to include:

  • A business description;
  • Mission statement;
  • Menu or products you’ll offer;
  • An organizational structure;
  • Funding;
  • Sales strategy;
  • Budget;
  • Permitting and licensing requirements;
  • Legal structures.

A thorough ice cream bike business plan is your greatest asset and the key to success. 

Step 2 – Legal Aspects to Consider

Every region has specific legal obligations every mobile ice cream business must follow. To start, you must register your business to ensure it is its own distinct legal entity. In some cases, you aren’t required to register a business with the government, like if you use your own name as the company name, for example. However, if you choose not to register your ice cream cart business, you may not receive the legal and tax benefits and personal liability protection as a registered company. Unless you are applying for a trademark, all you need to do to register your business with the federal government is file for a federal tax ID. If you choose to make your mobile ice cream business a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company, you will also need to register in your state, either online, in person, or by mail. The total cost of registering your business is generally under $300, but this amount can vary by state. To register, you will need to provide your business name, location, owner name, and information on the registered agent. 

Licensing and permitting vary by state. A commissary or mobile food facility permit may be required, but it’s important to check with your local and state government to ensure you know which permits are required in your area. Some regions may require special permission to use food cart equipment. Ensuring you adhere to all health and safety regulations in your area is crucial to the success of your business. Generally, you can find specific regulatory requirements online, which you can print and keep with your ice cream bike business plan for easy access. 

Read also: How to Start a Gelato Cart Business

Step 3 – Equipment and Suppliers

Once you’ve registered your ice cream cart business and obtained the correct licenses and permits, it’s time to select the equipment you’ll use. When it comes to ice cream carts, choosing a high-quality model that contains all of the equipment you need to provide delicious treats to your customers is key. There are two main types of ice cream carts: four-wheeled and three-wheeled bikes. 

Four-wheeled ice cream carts are generally larger and offer more room for storage and accessories. Their larger size is great if you have the storage space, but they can be hard to maneuver in high-traffic areas. 

Ice cream bicycles are more compact and make transportation easy. An ice cream tricycle business allows for greater flexibility of travel and is perfect for those with limited space to safely store them. 

When choosing equipment for your mobile ice cream business, you want to keep your menu in mind. Consider how many ice cream options you’re selling, the general pallet of your target customer, and what they’re most likely to buy. Many business owners who sell ice cream on the street choose to invest in their own ice cream maker to create customer flavors their customers adore. When choosing an ice cream maker, you want one that’s durable and able to create a high volume of product in a short amount of time. Finally, you want to keep your storage options in mind, selecting a model that fits easily in your allotted space. 

Step 4 – Source Quality Ingredients

The quality of your ingredients has a direct impact on the success of your business. If your products don’t taste great, your customers won’t return. When it comes to sourcing ingredients, take your time and do your research. If possible, use local companies to ensure the products are as fresh as possible. Don’t be afraid to explore unique and appealing ice cream flavors. Creating delicious and unusual flavors will make your mobile ice cream business stand out. 

Mobile ice cream business

Step 5 – Training and Hiring Staff

As your business grows, you may need to hire and train incoming staff. Proper training is crucial to ensuring your business continues running smoothly. During training, be sure your employees have a comprehensive knowledge of your products and place extra attention on customer service and interaction. Areas you want to focus on include:

  • Customer complaints;
  • Cash and credit card payments;
  • Proper food safety;
  • Restocking products;
  • Opening/ closing shift responsibilities.

Step 6 – Staff Recruitment

Choosing the right staff members will make your life easier and help ensure the success of your ice cream cart business. Take time to find staff members with a positive attitude and a wide range of skills. Hiring individuals who align with your brand’s image and customer service values will help you avoid issues in the future and keep your business running smoothly. 

Step 7 – Handling Seasonal Changes

Depending on where you live, a mobile ice cream business may not seem like a year-round venture, especially during the chilly winter months. However, you can still make a profit throughout the year by utilizing smart business practices. For example, in the fall and winter, consider adjusting your menu to include or replace your ice cream with hot items. You could also offer seasonal flavors like eggnog, pumpkin pie, and peppermint. Consider adding items to your menu like hot chocolate and coffee. Planning for every season is the best way to retain year-round profits.

Step 8 – Innovations and Trends

The ice cream industry is exciting, and new trends are always emerging. Customers are looking for unique flavors and fun presentation styles. For example, why not offer a spicy ice cream or one packed full of unexpected additives like jelly or churros? Using unique dishes like waffle cones made out of donuts or a fruit like pineapple. The more creative you are, the more impactful your mobile ice cream business will be!

Step 9 – Financial Considerations

Financial planning is one of the most important aspects of starting an ice cream cart business. There are many areas to consider, including the initial investment, operational costs, and revenue projections. Writing down your total expenditures will keep your budget on track so you can plan for the future.

Step 10 – Financial Risk Mitigation

All businesses come with financial risks, but there are ways to mitigate them. To start, identify potential issues you may encounter and develop a plan to solve them. Creating a contingency fund for unexpected expenses should be the first task on your list, starting with at least $1,000 with a goal of up to $5,000 or more. 

Step 11 – Growth Prospects

A mobile ice cream business has almost infinite growth opportunities, which is why it’s growing in popularity. Scaling operations to include multiple carts increases your profitability and reach. One way to increase exposure is collaborating or partnering with other businesses in your area that complement your product offerings. You can begin offering more products or experimenting with new markets like hot dogs, burritos, or any other food your target customer enjoys. By including growth prospects in your ice cream bike business plan, you’ll be ready when your ice cream cart business succeeds.

Sell ice cream on the street

Step 12 – Marketing

Marketing is essential for reaching new customers and developing a loyal fan base. Utilizing multiple outlets like social media, festivals, and radio will help make your ice cream cart tricycle business a household name. Staying up-to-date on the latest marketing trends gives you a competitive edge and makes your business stand out.

Step 13 – Long-Term Success

For long-term success and sustainability, you must have a growth mindset. Being willing to adapt and change is crucial in such a competitive market. Constant innovation and creativity will keep your menu exciting so customers look forward to visiting and seeing what you have to offer. 

Step 14 – Collaborations and Partnerships

As we mentioned earlier, collaborating with other mobile food businesses is an excellent way to reach more customers and increase word of mouth. Finding another food cart that offers a menu that compliments your own will ensure customers naturally purchase your products. Starting a new business is hard, so having the help and support from one that’s already established can make the process easier and more enjoyable. 


Knowing how to start an ice cream business can feel overwhelming, but following the above steps can help you on the path to success. An ice cream cart business is one of the most lucrative and exciting, offering endless opportunities for growth and allowing you to be your own boss. Creating a strong business plan, staying innovative, and keeping your target customer in mind will ensure your ice cream cart business gets started on the right track! 

Spread the love