“I was running away from home,” Tina Marie Sabella, Owner of The Ice Queen Truck, said, referring to her reason for leaving New York for the Sunshine State. In spite of the date – it was April Fool’s Day 2017 when Sabella decided to get in her car and drive south – her decision to leave was no joke. Even though she has family in South Florida, her destination was New Smyrna Beach. When she arrived, a friend, who had just moved there from Virginia, drove her down Flagler Avenue and showed her around. Sabella instantly felt a connection and knew she had found her new home.
“New Smyrna Beach is so reminiscent of the small beach towns along the Jersey Shore,” she said. “I felt so comfortable here and decided I was never going to leave.”
After 17 years of working as an Office Manager for a financial services firm in New York City, Sabella knew she never wanted to work for someone else again. When she arrived in New Smyrna Beach, she was motivated and determined to chart her own course.
“When I first got here, I was recovering from knee surgery,” she said. “I had six weeks to reevaluate things and figure out my next move. I had a different business idea – still food related – but it wasn’t feasible at the time. When I presented with the opportunity to have a mobile ice cream truck on the beach, I knew it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
From September through the end of 2017, Sabella found a truck, rehabbed it, came up with a name for her business and completed all the required paperwork and licensing. By January, she was officially open for business. She began by offering packaged ice cream products and well-known frozen treats to beachgoers up and down New Smyrna Beach. Several months later, she made a key connection that changed her approach to business and the products she sold.
“I found a woman out of Citrus County with a company called Pop Fusions,” Sabella said. “She has amazing all natural popsicles made of real fruit and with no dyes or chemicals. I decided to start selling her products and we became close strategic partners. Her business grew because of mine and I was able to offer healthier alternatives. I was also in a position to use my platform to educate people by persuading them to skip the junk food.”
When the COVID-19 Pandemic struck in mid-March, Sabella was no longer allowed to operate on the beach. Rather than let it derail her business, she took her concept to nearby neighborhoods and gained a new following. Since it was considered food delivery and classified as an “essential business”, The Ice Queen Truck – complete with a modern musical jingle – was permitted to operate.
“It was great for business,” Sabella said. “So much that when we returned to the beach, people kept asking if we were going to keep doing the neighborhoods. That’s when I made the decision to purchase a separate truck to service the neighborhood routes. From that opportunity came requests to do events and catering. I’m currently in the process of renovating a third truck to handle that part of the business.”
The Ice Queen Truck is very supportive of the local business community. Sabella is committed to supporting other local businesses by announcing them on her social media channels, sharing information on her website, buying local products and services and by raising awareness and donations for two local charitable organizations.
“A large part of our vision is to raise awareness and raise donations for organizations like Marine Science Center, Oceans of Hope and Marine Discovery Center,” Sabella said. “It’s not just about selling ice cream; it’s about connecting members of our community together and having a cause to get behind. I’ve always been very dedicated and involved in every community I’ve lived in. Because I started my business on the beach, I decided to raise awareness about protecting the beach, our shoreline and the wildlife that inhabit the beach. Pop Fusions created two popsicles for that. With each purchase, one dollar is donated to the Marine Science Center. In the first 60 days of selling the popsicles, we raised over $800. Since May of this year, we’ve already donated over $1,800.”
For Sabella, who thoroughly enjoys making people smile with her sweet frozen treats, the future is anything but cold. She’s focused on growing her brand by developing her own line of “visually-inspired” ice cream creations and eventually opening a brick and mortar location. With a new partner, and a team of eight employees to handle daily operations, Sabella is in a position to do what she does best – networking, sales, outreach and being involved in the community.
Sabella explained how she’s been so successful with getting plugged into the community and developing so many mutually-beneficial connections. “Shedding my past was the gateway to my future,” she said. “By being me – my true and authentic self – the law of attraction brought me to the people I needed to be near. At every single turn I'm making connections with awesome people and we're elevating each other. I’ve made these types of connections nearly every single day. It blows my mind.”
She added, “One of those connections with Paul and Missy Tomazin, owners of Tomazin Farms, opened up an opportunity for me to sell my popsicles at their market. Through that connection, I’ve also met other entrepreneurs and artists and I’m currently assisting in organizing some farm to table and other events. We’ll have gatherings there in the future with guest speakers from the health community.”
What advice does Sabella have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “If you can dream it, you can be it,” she said. “I was given very good advice – imagine it as big as it can be, and let that be your goal. Rather than start small and inch towards it.”