Starting a business is no piece of ice cream cake

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Photo contributed by Bianca Puglin

Baldwin sophomore Bianca Puglin (right) with her sister Milana Varon (left) at the family’s ice cream store in Shadyside.

Bianca Puglin, Club Member

I stared at the piles of garbage bags and the dust that was covering everything, and wondered just what we had gotten ourselves into.

Opening a family-run ice cream store is not just about scoops and good times. There is a lot more involved.

In the middle of last December — just months before opening the ice cream store — my whole family would go to the store every weekend to help build, clean, and assemble this new business. This process took up a majority of our weekends, and sometimes weekdays, for over five months.

My family is primarily made up of entrepreneurs. My grandparents started their own construction business, my father started his own online jewelry store, my aunt owned a salon, my uncle was a partner in an allergy clinic, and most recently, my mother and aunt bought into an ice cream franchise.

I’ve seen firsthand success and failure in these businesses, which has taught me both the pros and cons of starting your own business.

When my mom and aunt first looked into owning a Sub Zero Ice Cream franchise, it was 2016. They just opened in Shadyside in March 2019. That’s the first lesson of business: It takes time.

Expecting a business to pop up in less than a week, or even a few months, is unreasonable. Where will the funding come from? What locations would be best suited for that business? When opening a business, looking into every aspect of that business is fundamental to its success.

Lesson number two: Be smart with financials. One of the leading causes of failed businesses is not having enough money.

Whether looking into bringing on an investor, getting grants, or getting a loan, money is not an easy thing to come by. An online-only store, for example, is one of the cheapest ways to start your own business. Without having to worry about a storefront or employees, you can save a lot of money.

However, it is also important to manage where all of the money is going. Monthly payments such as rent, water and electric do take up a lot of money, but being smart about spending in other places is crucial. Putting all of the money into the inventory is a dangerous mistake, as is spending money too early rather than saving it to use when it is really needed.

Lesson number three: Figure out who will be completing all of the labor needed for your business. Typically there’s a lot more to the job than expected.

An example of this could be found in our ice cream store, where employees must collectively complete four pages listing daily cleaning and maintenance tasks.

There is so much more to any business than what the customer sees.

This leads to the final lesson: Being an entrepreneur is one of the toughest jobs to be successful at; however, it can also produce the greatest payoff. In the end, it can be worth all the adversity faced along the way.