LI Kona Ice franchisees look for off-season options

Frozen-treat sellers Shaun and Kim Beymolla, of North

Frozen-treat sellers Shaun and Kim Beymolla, of North Babylon, are seeking winter options. (Dec. 11, 2013) (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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Despite the bone-chilling cold temperatures, Kim and Shaun Beymolla are looking for ways to heat up their Kona Ice business.

From March until October, their two colorful, tiki-decorated trucks pump out all things tropical, from the flower leis they give away to their signature shaved ices and Calypso music. As franchisees of Walton, Ky.-based Kona Ice, the Beymollas offer 50 flavors that can be mixed to create thousands of combinations, with prices for the frozen treats ranging from $2.50 to $6.

The couple's summer bustle -- working seven days a week and sometimes 18-hour days combing neighborhoods and local pools, parties, festivals, fairs, school, charity and sporting events -- provides 80 percent of their income, the off-season 20 percent.

Last winter, the Beymollas bought a Kona mini pushcart small enough for indoor events. They did a few parties and school events, but the 18-month-old business requires more if it is to grow beyond the $60,000 they cleared the first year.

Seasonal businesses need a strategy for surviving the slow period, experts say.

PLAN AHEAD

Planning ahead is key. "Negotiate with vendors to pay [them] higher amounts during peak seasons and less in slow months," says Dan Zimanski, a business coach with ActionCOACH in Baton Rouge, La. "Pay annual expenses like insurance premiums during the peak season," he adds, "and do monthly revenue and cash flow projections for six months in advance so you know exactly what to expect and can plan accordingly."

The Beymollas should apply for a line of credit in September when their bank accounts are flush with cash, says Jeanne Brutman, a certified family business specialist in New York City.

Getting the most out of the off-season is a priority for the North Babylon couple who fell in love with shaved ice on their honeymoon in Hawaii in 2011. "We did research and stumbled on Kona Ice," says Kim, 29, who previously worked as a social worker and now volunteers through the SCO Family of Services in Dix Hills.

"I went from being involved with people during their worst time, to selling smiles for a living," says Kim. Shaun, 33, works full time for a digital media company during the off-season.

The Beymollas don't advertise, relying on word-of-mouth. This summer they built their own iPhone app. Users can track their trucks, get coupons, add their street to the neighborhood route and book events.

STEP UP NETWORKING

They plan to step up their networking. It's a plus for business that the Beymollas are big on giving back. They've donated more than $12,000 to charity. "We try to do the right thing, and we get referrals and repeat business," says Kim.

But more is needed to take them to the next level.

"They should be talking to the franchise community about how others have approached the issue of seasonality," says Stephen Davies, chief executive of The Alternative Board, an organization of business owners and CEOs in Huntington. "If there isn't a forum, they should investigate putting one together, where the franchisees talk about issues and opportunities."

They should also consider teaming up with wedding and event planners, says Brutman.

Another tactic is to start a synergistic business. "Create a second business that has good traffic during their down time," says Zimanski. He has an AC and electrical company that puts up Christmas lights and decorations for an additional income stream in the off-season.

BE CREATIVE

And be creative, says Peg Newman, founder of Sanford Rose Associates in Salt Lake City. The Beymollas already offer sugar-free and dye-free flavors. They can extend the healthy theme by adding fresh juicing and fresh fruit to the menu, and be available at breakfast and lunch times in heavily trafficked areas, she says.

So far, the Beymollas operate with occasional help from family members. But, says Kim, "we want to be able to hire help."

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