Blake Buchanan guided the lawn mower down from the truck bed and mopped the sweat from his brow. At 8 a.m. it was already an oppressive 95 degrees in Lubbock, Texas. As he pushed the mower in neat, parallel lines across the lawn, his T-shirt grew heavy with wetness, and the grass clippings stuck to his ankles in itchy patches.
Compared to the physical rigors of owning his landscaping company, Blake saw opening the first Bahama Buck's Original Shaved Ice store in the summer of 1990 as a cushy way to earn some cash while studying finance at Texas Tech University. "I wanted anything to get out of the heat," says the 31-year-old. "Working inside an air-conditioned building and making snow sure sounded better than hard labor."
Enlisting help from wife Kippi, 31, and friend and classmate Eric Lee, 32, Blake ran the store for just three months that first year. "We thought this was going to be one of those part-time summer jobs that you work while you go to school," says Lee. After profits doubled in the following two years, the trio relocated the company to Tempe, Arizona, Lee became part owner and CFO, and Kippi began serving on the Board of Directors.
Franchising since 1993, the partners believe their fun-loving atmosphere and low start-up costs ($85,000 to $155,000, including a $15,000 franchise fee) appeal to young entrepreneurs. "It's most important to take our system and use it to train Gen Xers in the business, to have a positive influence," says Blake. "Our relaxed environment encourages that."