With the global ice cream market projected to grow by over 40% by the end of the decade, now is a great time for entrepreneurial dessert enthusiasts to enter the ice cream business.
But running any kind of business requires careful planning. You’ll need to consider your location and the preferences of customers in your area, and understand what direct and indirect competitors are offering.
Are you writing a business plan for your ice cream shop because you’re seeking a loan? Or, is your primary concern building a clear roadmap for growth? Either way, remember that no two ice cream shops are exactly alike. Your business model will be different if you’re making your own ice cream or selling scoops from big manufacturers. So take the time to do some market research and create your own financial forecasts to give you a blueprint for sustained growth. That’s the benefit a business plan provides.
What should you include in an ice cream shop business plan?
Your ice cream shop business plan doesn’t need to be hundreds of pages — keep it as short and concise as you can. You’ll probably want to include each of these sections:
Marketing and sales strategy
One of the things that makes an ice cream shop business plan different from some food and beverage business plans is that your business might be more affected by seasonal downturns.
You also have to account for consumers’ growing preference for dairy-free alternatives. If you’re trying to reach a health-conscious market, make sure to keep an eye on market trends, and include your ideas for offering dairy alternatives on your menu.
Here’s an example of an ice cream shop business plan outline.
The 7 elements of an effective ice cream shop business plan
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary gives a broad overview of your plan. It should outline your goals for the shop, whether it’s to enter a new market, separate yourself from competitors with innovative ice cream flavors, or expand your customer base.
The executive summary should clearly articulate the ice cream shop’s mission. Maybe it’s to deliver locally sourced and organic ingredients. Or it could be to establish a new community gathering space for families. Whatever it is, you should carve out some space in the 1-2 page executive summary section so that readers understand the “why” of your business right away.
Lay out what the keys to success are for your ice cream shop. It could be finding a location with high visibility and foot traffic, a team that delivers exceptional customer service, a unique product line, or a combination of these factors.
2. Company description
The Company Description section should give readers deeper insight into the operations and structure of your ice cream shop. It expands on the brief overview provided in the executive summary, offering more information about your ice cream shop’s unique value proposition.
If you have an existing business, briefly share its history, highlighting any milestones you’ve achieved, like reaching certain sales goals or employee counts.
If you’re a new business, start by discussing the rationale behind your business name and location. Then, go into more detail about your concept. Describe if you’re focusing on traditional flavors, gourmet or artisan options, or a niche market like vegan or dairy-free alternatives. Detail offerings like coffee or baked goods and snacks that might support your main product line.
It’s also important to detail the ownership and legal structure of your business, like if you’re a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, partnership, or more formal corporate structure.
Finally, you can go into more detail about the goals for your business that you touched on in your executive summary. These could be sales targets, expansion plans — whatever you hope to achieve. Explain how you plan to measure success toward your goals, and your projected timeframe for meeting them.
3. Market analysis
Separating yourself from competitors requires a strong understanding of your business opportunity. The market analysis section is where you document the size of your market and your competitors.
This is where you hone in on the demographics and preferences of your target market, as well as trends in the ice cream industry that could impact your sales. Whether you plan to target health-conscious college students, families with young children, or another segment, explain in your plan why this focus is justified, and back it up with research.
You’ll also need to research your target market’s other dessert options, whether it’s direct competitors like other ice cream shops, or indirect competitors like grocery stores.
4. Marketing and sales strategy
The marketing and sales strategy takes the research from your market analysis, and turns it into an actionable plan to get more customers in the door.
Advertising online or in local publications can help spread awareness of your business. Participating in community events is another way to connect with potential customers. Digitally savvy business owners also leverage their website and social media accounts as low-cost ways to reach customers wherever they are.
You should also consider if discounts or special offers for repeat customers will encourage enough loyalty to justify the lower sales price. Just make sure that these initiatives are tailored to your target market. Effective marketing is about utilizing tactics that work, and scrapping ones that don’t provide any return. So be sure to establish key performance indicators to track the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
5. Operations plan
The operations section details how you’ll run your business efficiently from day to day. All of the logistics you’ll need to manage to avoid wasteful spending — production processes, supplier relationships, staffing, inventory and technology — are documented here.
Outline how you plan to source ingredients and materials you’ll be ordering regularly, and identify your key suppliers. You should also give details about the building size and layout of your business, and any renovations required if you’re starting out or expanding.
List your staffing needs, including key roles and responsibilities. If you’re writing your business plan for a bank loan or investment, be sure to include your plan for managing inventory and reducing waste, since they’ll be especially concerned about if you’ll use their funds wisely.
Also, outline your pricing strategy and compare your prices to competitors. Examine your wage costs and consider how they will affect your profitability.
As you compare your financial projections to your actual results over time, you’ll see where you need to make strategic adjustments to reach your goal, or if you need to revise your target.
The appendix is where you add any additional documents that support your business plan. This could include market research and survey data, lease agreements, employee contracts, or licensing and permit documents.
An appendix isn’t always necessary, but it can provide valuable context and proof to support your business plan’s content.
Download your free ice cream shop one page sample business plan
Elon is a marketing specialist at Palo Alto Software, working with consultants, accountants, business instructors and others who use LivePlan at scale. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Oregon.