After 30 years of managing a family finance business, Scotty Bailey was ready for a change. He sold the business and moved his family to their favorite vacation spot, the Florida Panhandle. Bailey became a Tikiz Shaved Ice & Ice Cream franchisee in 2016 and now owns three territories covering most of the Florida Panhandle.
Following are excerpts from a Food Truck Operator interview with Bailey on his decision to become a shaved ice and ice cream franchisee. He did not wish to reveal financial information.
Q: When you left your family business, did you intend to start another business?
A: The decision to leave an 83-year-old family run business to start over in a new state, new home and invest in a food truck franchise was not a choice I took lightly. It was quite the drastic career change to go from finance to a shaved ice and ice cream franchisee.
I spent 30 years in the consumer lending and finance business in my hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. After a career behind a desk, the 9-to-5 life was no longer what I wanted.
I realized that spending time with my wife and son in our favorite yearly vacation spot, the Florida Panhandle, was what made me the happiest. In seeking more flexibility and sunshine, I began looking for a fun and free-spirited business concept in that area.
Q: What type of business were you looking for? What ideas did you have in mind?
A: I found the Tikiz franchise when I began my research for an upbeat, mobile and community orientated business model. That’s when I saw the opportunity to bring the Tikiz family friendly culture to the developing Panhandle area. I knew that locals would soon see the truck as their go-to place for tasty treats.
I wasn’t the only one moving into the Santa Rosa Beach area. I found that there was a growing number of retirees finding their forever homes within the community. I would venture a guess that about 40 percent of the purchases from my location have been made by retirees.Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?A: I’ve had my fair share of hurdles to overcome. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. However, if you’re dead set on working for yourself, it will be worth it. The biggest challenge was starting up a new business in a different state. We were juggling building our house in Florida, closing on our house in Mississippi and picking up events in Florida all at the same time.Q: What are some of the biggest changes going from the finance world to a shaved ice and ice cream truck?A: The flexibility of the work day and people being happy to see you. Rather than collections, having to talk legal issues or courts, we bring an uplifting experience to anyone looking for a tasty treat. It’s nice to get out of the desk, enjoy the unconventional hours and bring nothing but joy to families.
Q: How extensive was the training? Did you spend time on an existing truck learning treats the business?
A: I spent four days at the corporate headquarters learning all aspects of the operations of the business and diving into the business model. We learned about the systems on the truck and worked a school event serving several hundred students.
Corporate provided the training and marketing materials that prepared me to properly connect with my community. They also set up all social media accounts and assisted in licensing and permits. I opened in July of 2016, and by Labor Day, I was feeling more comfortable and confident with event booking.
Q: How competitive an environment is the Florida Panhandle for your truck?
A: I am located in a competitive environment with other food trucks selling ice cream, yogurt and sorbets. We also have a Kona Ice competitor in town, and there are many standalone shaved ice setups in the high traffic areas like outlet malls and tourist locations. However, I continue to find perfect fitting events and festivals to participate in.
Before I knew it, I was doing a huge event at my wife’s school with students ranging from preschool all the way up to eighth grade. They were having a big movie night on the football field, and my truck got to be a part of it. Even with similar trucks available and Tikiz being a newer name, I found that once I got my wheels in at one event or party that the word of mouth referrals started to drive my business forward.
Q: What types of events have you taken the truck to?
A: I’ve done a variety of festivals, school events, individual birthday parties, corporate gatherings, and fall and summer sports are always a hit as well with weekend tournaments. From church functions to helping raise funds for a local boy battling cancer, I have found that shaved ice and ice ream has given me new energy and passion to help others reach their goals.
Q: Was launching a shaved ice and ice cream truck a good idea?
A: Reflecting on year one, I would say that buying a franchise or mobile truck is no walk in the park, but it has been the vehicle to take me to where I wanted to be. I wanted the unconventional hours, flexibility to spend more time with my family, and I wanted something that would allow me to stay in touch with the community I serve.