Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shortly after graduating college, Justin Huskisson became the first Kona Ice franchisee in Texas. Since then, the company has grown quickly and now has an estimated 600 trucks in 45 states. Though he admits that his youth made the beginning months more difficult, Huskinsson also sees some advantages to becoming a franchisee at a young age. In this interview, he shares how he got to where he is and why his plans don’t involve stopping to chill anytime soon.
Name: Justin Huskisson
Franchise owned: I own Kona Ice of Austin, Texas
How long have you owned a franchise?
I launched my Kona Ice business in August of 2008.
I was not exploring franchise opportunities when I discovered Kona Ice. In fact, I was attending college at the University of Kentucky, and I was considering a corporate career in the financial sector.
During my freshman and sophomore year of college, I owned and operated a shaved ice kiosk in an outdoor mall in Northern Kentucky. My former employee and friend, Jeff Steffen, introduced me to Tony Lamb who was in the process of launching a mobile shaved ice business. When Tony showed me the truck he had built, I was impressed. In the months that followed, I became the brand’s first franchisee in the state of Texas.
Now, at 28-years-old, I own and operate nine trucks, two minis and two trailers, and my business has expanded throughout the greater Austin area.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Prior to launching my Kona Ice business, I was earning a college degree, while running a part-time shaved ice business. I was balancing school and work, while trying to find time for family and friends.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
From the moment I stepped into a Kona Ice truck, I was ready to open my own Kona business. The eye-catching vehicle combined with the low investment cost, low overhead and fixed royalty fees, made the decision easy.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The start-up investment fee to own a Kona Ice business is $104,650, which includes the $15,000 franchise fee and $89,650 truck.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Tony Lamb, the founder of Kona Ice, served as my mentor. For the first six to 12 months of business, I reached out to Tony regularly for direction.
In addition to being a recent college graduate, I had no business ownership experience. More than that, I did not have friends or family members with an entrepreneurial background. From hiring and training employees to preparing my taxes and applying for health insurance, I learned everything that I needed to know on the job.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Hiring was extraordinarily challenging, time consuming, and mentally draining when I was first starting out. In small companies resources are scarce, meaning that I had limited time to train and oversee new employees. Additionally, being so young, I did not have the managerial experience that I needed to guide new managers and drivers. Fortunately, by joining a franchise system, I was given the support I needed to overcome these obstacles.
Related: I Was an Entrepreneur From Day One
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
There is no better time to open a business than the years following graduation. For many young adults, this is a period when they don’t have to worry about mortgages, spouses, children or car payments.
I recommend exploring franchise opportunities early on in your career. Many franchise companies offer financing programs for young entrepreneurs. Kona Ice, for instance, launched an internship program that allows young, aspiring franchisees the opportunity to earn sweat equity toward owning their own Kona Ice business.
What’s next for you and your business?
Kona Ice of Austin is looking to continue expanding throughout the greater Austin area. With a major presence in North Austin, we would like to become more involved with schools and organizations on the South end of town.
Furthermore, we want to continue raising money for the communities that we serve. Nationwide, Kona Ice has given back more than $20 million dollars to schools, youth sports leagues, among other community organizations. We want to continue having a positive impact on the families in our area and surrounding communities.