Hardware development professional Jim Cummings, whose career in the tech industry included 15 years with IBM, saw his job in Raleigh, N.C., outsourced in May last year, cutting off income to support his homemaker wife, Amy, and their three children.
In quick order, Jim and Amy came up with a plan to save the family: Move more than 3,000 miles west to Roseville and buy into a Kona Ice truck franchise.
They had never been to Roseville and had never sampled the Hawaiian-style shaved ice flavors offered by the Florence, Ky.-based franchise firm.
“Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty crazy, but in my old job, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. Once I got outsourced, it made me focus on what I needed to do,” said Jim Cummings, 47.
Amy Cummings, 46, said her husband “never would have done that on his own, but he was put in that spot. That changed everything.”
Today, the couple can be seen in their colorful Kona Ice truck – Truck No. 704 in the nationwide Kona network – serving up shaved ice that can be had in numerous sweet offerings, with names such as Groovy Grape, Orange Ya Happy?, Ninja Cherry and Lemon Lime-A-Licious.
The Cummings truck – the franchise firm likes to call it a “Kona Entertainment Vehicle” – generally serves the Rocklin/Roseville area and is available for fundraisers, special events, festivals, birthday parties and day care visits.
Corporate Kona has more than 750 trucks now operating in 46 states. The company has been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing franchises.
So, why did they choose Roseville?
Cummings explained that a vendor mentioned the Placer County community’s name to him more than two years ago in North Carolina, “and the name just stuck in my mind.” He said it helped that Amy has family living in the Bay Area.
However, after her husband lost his job in 2015, Amy was doubtful that a Roseville home could be found for the family, which includes children who are now 11, 15 and 19.
She recalled: “Let’s see, (Jim) had just been laid off, we had three children, no paycheck and we’re going to start new business … Not exactly the ideal situation for getting a home.”
Nevertheless, the Cummingses found a Roseville home to rent, moving in last October. “It’s just been blessing after blessing,” Amy Cummings said.
The couple said the initial investment for their Kona Ice franchise and truck came to around $100,000, which the Kona website said includes a $15,000 franchise fee and nearly $90,000 for the truck. The Cummingses also went to the three-day “Kona Kollege,” which taught them everything they needed to know about promoting the brand, social media outreach, merchandising and running a Kona Ice truck, decorated in a tiki hut motif.
A Kona Ice truck resembles other colorful food trucks serving the Sacramento area, but it has special accessories.
You can order a cup of Kona shaved ice through the truck’s service window, but Kona vehicles also come with exterior-mounted, self-serve flavor dispensers, a hugely popular feature for kids who want to load up their shaved ice cup with multiple flavors. Kona calls it the “Flavorwave.”
We want to be part of the community. We want people to come and talk to us. We want to be part of the community’s churches and schools.
Amy Cummings, co-owner of the Roseville Kona Ice truck franchise
“The kids love it because they can be inventive with all the flavors. We’ve seen some interesting combinations,” Jim Cummings noted.
The Cummingses said Kona offers reduced-sugar flavors.
In all, five varieties of flavors are offered, including sugar-free selections. Kona’s Vita-Blend flavors are made with 40 percent less sugar (6 grams, according to the website) and are primarily sweetened with stevia, a sweetener extracted from the leaves of a plant species.
Kona also touts its offerings as being “Smart Snack Approved,” meeting certain federal nutrition guidelines, fit for distribution and consumption on school grounds.
The couple reached out to local schools, churches and youth sports leagues. In most cases, the Cummingses said they are looking to “give back.”
Giving back is a major part of the Kona Ice franchising operation, a key component incorporated into the business plan when entrepreneur Tony Lamb started Kona in 2007.
“Nationwide, Kona Ice has contributed $35 million to neighborhood schools, organizations and teams,” said Lamb, company president. “We are a great fundraiser, and that’s the way we have always wanted to do it. It has always been our mission to not only serve a fun and nutritious snack, but to also give back to our local schools, organizations and teams in the communities we serve.”
The Cummingses took delivery of their Kona Ice truck in February and hosted their first “giveback” event in mid-March. Since then, they say they have turned over more than $3,500 to various local organizations and families in need. Their standard giveback share is 20 percent of sale proceeds at a given event.
Local give-back beneficiaries to date include Bayside Church in Granite Bay, Diamond Creek Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Club in Roseville, Auburn Little League and the Rocklin High School Dance Team.
Jim Cummings said Kona’s giveback program sold them on the franchise: “We really didn’t know anything about them, but when we found them and learned more about what they do, we knew that was the one.”
“For me, the giveback to the community is incredible,” Amy Cummings said. “We want to be part of the community. We want people to come and talk to us. We want to be part of the community’s churches and schools.”
The Cummingses said the immediate Sacramento area is served by two other Kona Ice franchisees, one in the Folsom area and another in “central Sacramento.” Jim Cummings said there is cooperation among franchisees to cover different areas of the community, and there are certain requirements that enable respective franchisees to be invited to events outside their specific service areas.
Corporate Kona is on a roll of its own, with more than 750 trucks now operating in 46 states. The company has been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing franchises.
California has been a hot spot for franchise growth in the post-recession period. The Washington, D.C.-based International Franchise Association said that the Golden State is home to 10 percent of nearly 800,000 franchised establishments nationwide.
For more information on the Roseville/Rocklin franchise, call 916-259-9987 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. General information on Kona Ice can be found at kona-ice.com.