Erin Whiteley crinkled her nose as she described the gravelly texture of a snow cone vs. the fluffy powder of the Hawaiian ices she serves up at month-old ShiverSisters in El Dorado Hills.
Whiteley and her partner, Geneva Soulier, were full-time Serrano moms who shared a love for the shaved ice treats they enjoyed on vacations in Hawaii and Utah. Two years ago, they started making and selling the treats at events.
"We do ice cream on the bottom, the shaved ice and a cream mixture on the top," Whiteley said. "It's an homage to Hawaii because that's how they do it there. They do the really finely shaved ice. We built up such a following that we decided we should just be open for the whole summer."
The two women wanted a place that could be mobile and stationary, so they bid on a 1964 Airstream Bambi on Craigslist. It had sat unused in Elk Grove for about 30 years and badly needed TLC, which was administered by Nevada City's Sierra Trailer Restoration.
Once that was accomplished and permits acquired, Soulier and Whiteley had to find a parking spot. It took some searching, but they finally found a home at Curiosities furniture store, 1091 White Rock Road.
In the parking lot there, ShiverSisters' customers line up for ices priced from $3 to $5 in flavors such as coconut, piña colada, strawberry or tiger's blood. (Charlie Sheen, by the way, did not mix this popular blend of strawberry, watermelon and coconut.)
On a roll in Nevada City
Like the ShiverSisters, Pete and Victoria Snyder of Sierra Trailer Restoration in Nevada City grew a money-making enterprise out of something they love.
Snyder owned a trucking business in Los Angeles for many years, but he and his wife left it behind about 30 years ago for a quieter life in Nevada City. Snyder brought one truck with him and continued hauling loads for about 10 years.
He wanted a change, and it came unexpectedly.
"I acquired an old Airstream about 18 years ago, I guess, and decided to restore it," said Snyder, who just turned 70. "Then when we decided to sell it, my wife put it on eBay. That sold within an hour to some people in Tokyo."
Since then, Snyder has renovated vintage trailers for customers around the United States. The recession didn't slow demand, and since the mobile food fad took off Snyder has seen increased orders for Airstream kitchens.
Minor work starts at around $10,000, but Snyder's custom jobs can cost $100,000 or more. The latter take months, so Snyder and two employees typically finish only six jobs a year. He has to turn down a lot of business, but not the ShiverSisters.
Some people completely shift gears as they look for career opportunities. Take, for example, Sacramento's George Finau and El Dorado Hills' Valerie Reynoso Piotrowski.
Finau, 42, a construction worker, had been looking for work for two years in a slow housing market. Then he decided to take a chance on selling women's jewelry for The Ultimate Sparkle.
Like an Avon consultant, Finau makes his pitch at parties. He worried that women attending the parties wouldn't take him seriously, said Tim Grammer, a company spokesman, but Finau sold an astonishing $800 in jewelry at his first party and hasn't slowed down.
Piotrowski, 51, massaged words for a living as a communications strategist for the Employment Development Department and the Salvation Army, but her position at the latter was eliminated about two years ago in a round of cost-cutting.
This Saturday, she and her husband, 65-year-old John Piotrowski, will open an Elements Therapeutic Massage franchise at 850 E. Bidwell St., Suite 160, in Folsom.