When Tony Lamb founded Kona Ice in 1997, who knew that there would be no shortage of competition for frozen desserts. The Kentucky native also knew that he had to “sell” more than just great flavor to be able to support his franchise team. So Lamb took the unique approach of creating a special customer experience that would benefit the communities they served.
Every time a Kona Ice entertainment vehicle arrives at a school function, sporting event, or simply drives around the street corner, the franchisee becomes an instant local celebrity. The line quickly forms as kids wait their turn to drench their cup of fresh snow with the sweet tropical flavor of their choice.
Kona's success in the communities they serve is based on a mix fundraising and fun. With the ability to provide over 500 servings per hour, the Kona truck is a frequent site at sports leagues, school events, festivals and fairs, school sports, birthday parties, corporate events, picnics, church events, block parties, daycares and preschools.
“What sets us apart is that we are providing far more than an ice cream truck,” Lamb explained.
“With Kona our franchisees and their communities enjoy the presence of a entertainment vehicle that features a high end Bose front and rear facing sound system that pumps out the rocking calypso music that will have your mojo moving.’
Kona Ice is a one of a kind experience that serves a premium tropical shaved ice. “This is NOT your typical lack-luster snow cone,” Lamb explained. “Our flavors are bold and delicious.” Kona Ice is produced so that it can b enjoyed by all. It is dairy-free, gluten-free and even offers flavors that are sugar-free and dye-free.
Lamb and his Kona team have also worked diligently to produce a product that sets Kona Ice apart. The firm's patented FlavorWave features 10 flavors that the customer can apply themselves if they can choose from over 50 custom flavors that the Kona operator can create. “Everyone will tell you our flavors are real flavors, not just colors on crushed ice like the “other guy,” Lamb said.
In fact, some predict that Kona Ice, now with 63 franchises in 23 states and the District of Columbia, will be a cultural phenomenon in America. One thing’s for sure – its crisp, clean trucks and revolutionary design certainly are changing the way America thinks about the stereotypical ice cream truck. The franchisor anticipates 500 Kona Ice franchises nationwide in the next five years alone.
Each custom built Kona Ice mobile franchise introduces the Kona Ice characters in their island setting while playing a mix of timeless music set to a tropical beat. The truck, referred to as a Kona Entertainment Vehicle (KEV), features the patented “Flavor Wave” where customers can pour their own flavors onto the ice with literally thousands of combinations making it a fun, interactive experience for kids.
“With a $3,000 a year fixed royalty, we've built a business model that works for our franchisees,” Lamb outlined. “If they generate $200,000 on a truck they still owe only a fixed royalty. They're not penalized the more business they do.”
Lamb, who founded Kona Ice in 2007, said the company strives to make a difference in communities by partnering with schools, sports leagues, churches and other organizations for fundraisers and festivals. In fact, Kona Ice has already raised more than $250,000 for such causes in communities around the country. Kona Ice entertainment vehicles are also available for private parties or other special events.
“I personally see us as one of the things that’s right with America,” Lamb said. “We’re excited, incredibly driven, entrepreneurs creating this company that is becoming as much a fixture in America as baseball, apple pie, July 4th parades, little league games and summers in the park.”
Kona Ice is quickly gaining traction among community-minded entrepreneurs. Particularly in today’s real-estate market, franchisees have been attracted to the mobile concept, which requires no real-estate investment and a fixed $3,000 annual royalty – highly unusual in the franchise industry. The Kona Ice franchise opportunity also offers low overhead and built-in retail merchandise for extra profits, such as branded apparel.
Lamb’s idea for the franchise was inspired by his daughter’s first encounter with a traditional ice cream truck, which consisted of scratchy music, a beat up vehicle and freezer-burned treats. Lamb noted his daughter was actually frightened by the experience.
“We’ve created an entirely new positive and professional experience in mobile treats,” Lamb said. “Our franchisees are becoming part of the fabric that makes up the community.” With Kona's commitment to community service, the firm has raised over six million dollars used for the municipalities it serves.