Originally from New York, Jennifer Kyser, owner of Sunny Days Ice Cream, always wanted to own her own business. It was something she was sure of, even at a young age. After living in Florida for 17 years, Kyser got the entrepreneurial itch and she noticed an absence of something she was very found of as a child: ice cream trucks. In 2006, she set out to change that.
"At the time, I worked in medical billing," she said. "I quit that job to go all in and focus on the new business. I was definitely scared, but I was also motivated to do something to get my kids involved and to bring memories to the kids of Southwest Florida. Not long after I made the decision to start the business, I found a truck, stocked it with pre-packed novelty ice cream and started doing routes. Back then, no one knew what an ice cream truck was. It was such a novel idea in this area. People would stare out their windows and watch me go bye. It definitely took a while for people to warm up to the idea. Fortunately, there was no competition early on. That gave us plenty of time to establish who we were and what we did. After about three or four years of continuous growth, we started doing churches, schools, festivals and other events. From there, we went into weddings. We joined wedding groups and really worked hard on that part of the business. From weddings, we went into catering. Now that's our specialty."
Along the way, Kyser also purchased a second truck and hired a few employees. On the catering side of the operation, Kyser will bring the ice cream truck to businesses for employee appreciation weeks or job well done celebrations, and also to nursing homes, where employees are treated to ice cream for keeping resident accidents to a minimum. For weddings and birthday parties, the truck is available for the bride and groom or birthday boy or girl to come inside the ice cream truck and serve the ice cream to their friends and to take pictures. Kyser provides her services from Bradenton down to Naples and everywhere in between.
We asked Kyser about the seasonality of the business and other challenges she encountered along the way. "Seasonality is definitely a thing," she said. "We're slower from November through March, but we still work year round. We're available 24/7 if need be. A major obstacle we faced was right before we purchased our second truck. We had mechanical problems with the first truck that put us down for five months. We were still partially operating, but we had to sub out to other trucks to help us during that time. I didn't think we were going to pull through, but we did. At that point, we realized that we were far too busy to only have one truck. The decision now for third a truck is solidified by the fact that we're growing and we don't want to have to turn down business. With the third truck, we'll be able to cover more areas and book more events while continuing to provide the same quality service to our customers."
Kyser has some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to pursue their own business. "It'll be a lot easier if it's something you're passionate about," she said. "For me, it was my passion to give back and to make people happy. Every day I get to see the joy that our ice cream brings to people. The unknown is scary, but if you're dedicated, determined and your heart and mind are set on it, you can do it. Also, never say die. Just keep on plugging along."