Picture yourself unlocking the door to a sweet future, the aroma of freshly churned ice cream wafting into the bustling street, beckoning dessert lovers to your very own ice cream shop. 

Starting this dream venture isn’t just a scoop of this and a sprinkle of that; it involves a sundae of startup costs, strategic planning, and a sprinkle of financial insight.

You’re aiming for a lick of success, a taste that lingers in the memory, and a venture that stands the test of time.

Diving into the juicy details, we’ll churn through everything from the nitty-gritty of commercial freezer prices to the whip-smart budgeting for employee wages and the cherry on top — smart marketing strategies.

We’re not just sugar-coating the escapade. We’ll serve the cold, hard facts, ensuring you grasp the full financial plan of an ice cream parlor.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with a ledger full of insights on gelato shop financial plansice cream maker costs, and navigating through those initial outlay numbers.

Because here, we understand that a well-budgeted beginning is worth every penny.

In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about starting an ice cream shop, from the initial ice cream shop startup costs to ongoing expenses.

Ice cream shops are perhaps the most popular among both children and adults. Considering that ice cream is among the most favored desserts worldwide, this makes sense.

It has been a luxury for the European monarchy since the 1500s. But fortunately, anyone can now order a serving of rocky road at any time.

The U.S. ice cream industry was valued at $114 billion in 2021 and that amount is increasing yearly.

Americans eat 23 pounds of ice cream annually, and this trend is not likely to stop any time soon. So starting your own ice cream shop is a wise business decision, especially if it’s something you already love.

Of course, launching a firm requires a lot of effort and expertise and it isn’t as easy as finding a nice ice cream shop name. Additionally, there are various ice cream shop startup costs you need to consider. Fortunately, you’ve found the correct spot since this step-by-step manual will take you from the initial launch and development stages to scooping out your first cone!

In the US, artisanal ice cream is more expensive than conventional ice cream, costing roughly $10 per pint.

You could produce artisanal homemade ice cream for the first year or two. You can sell 150 pints a week on an ice cream stand for about $80,000 annually. Using a 40% margin would result in a profit of more than $30,000.

Sales could reach 500 pints per week as your brand becomes more well-known. At this point, you would rent a business location and recruit personnel, bringing your profit margin down to about 25%. You would earn a nice profit of $65,000 on a $260,000 annual income. You can even start selling your ice creams in local grocery stores or on an ice cream truck.

Conversely, Cold Stone Creamery franchises report average yearly sales of $415,000. Nevertheless, 42% of the ice cream shops are at or above this threshold, with the remaining businesses naturally being below.

Although this is for an ice cream franchise, an ice cream manufacturing company will have significantly higher gross sales and lesser profit margins.

Independent retailers can set their prices and profit margins as high as they desire, but if their goods fall short of expectations, they won’t last very long.

However, if your service is successful, you are free to set your own ice cream prices.

In contrast, if you are not interested in making ice cream on your own, you can operate a franchise. However, your margins have already been predetermined, and you may ask the franchise what to expect.

Ice cream shop owners might still anticipate making a good yearly salary once operational expenses and franchise fees are deducted.

Factors affecting your own ice cream shop earnings

Whether you work in the shop or not

If you own and run the business, you can make more money than if you hired management.

Whether you’re available throughout the year

The ice cream industry is seasonal, which is the most crucial point to keep in mind.

While winter closures may result in lower potential earnings for most ice cream shops, they also result in lower operational expenses.

Your location

When choosing your location to sell ice cream you may need to answer questions like “How many ice cream parlors are around me?” or “Who else can be serving ice cream inside a mall?“.

Shops with high foot traffic that can be reached on foot could earn more money.

I’d advise locating a trustworthy real estate agent with experience in leasing or selling commercial properties. They are aware of numerous upcoming initiatives and can assist you in making the necessary preparations. 

If you’re unsure of what to look for, locate prosperous ice cream shops and consider what makes their location so exceptional. 

It takes a lot of effort to run your own ice cream shop. Make things as simple for yourself as possible by deciding on a location that draws clients.

What sets you apart

You could make more money if your ice cream business is the only one in the neighborhood or if you sell an unusual item like ice cream cakes.

A thorough breakdown of the ice cream shop startup costs

Supplies and Equipment Costs

Equipment for manufacturing the product, packing the items, or office supplies may need to be purchased before opening an ice cream business.

Costs for first-aid materials range from $3 to $500, those for cleaning supplies from $50 to $200, and those for uniforms from $0 to $500.

Getting a place to rent

If you want to open an ice cream store in a physical place, you should consider your rent expenses because they can end up being the most costly. The cost of rent for many ice cream shops is highly location-dependent.

This price will vary by region and by individual localities. For example, a lease in Manhattan’s financial district might have a rent payment of nearly $80,000 per month. In contrast, renting a shop in Florida or Tennessee might run you less than $1,000 per month.

Business plan


By planning every choice, expense, and expectation beforehand, you’d be saving time and money by enabling yourself to budget appropriately and evaluate options’ prices.

You won’t worry and order too much ice cream, for instance, if you know precisely how much of a certain ice cream flavor and topping you need.

Furthermore, you’ll have planned it out in relation to your sales estimates, so you’ll know just how much to order.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Email marketing toolRecommended$0$150
Accounting & Invoicing SoftwareRecommended$0$10
Project Management SoftwareRecommended$0$55
Social Media Management ToolsOptional$0$80

If you’re unsure of where to begin, there are companies that can assist you in putting together an excellently structured and professionally presented business plan for your ice cream business. However, that might also be expensive.

Extra expenditures to take into account

  • Permits
  • Certifications
  • Insurance
  • Rent
  • Labor
  • Remodeling
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Serving or take-out ware
  • Plasticware
  • Napkins
  • Money machines
  • Signage
  • Franchise costs
  • Marketing
  • Website design

Software Costs

For optimal operation, your ice cream store needs software! Why would you pay for software? Since technology can save you time and automate some company processes, you can concentrate on the things that are most crucial.

You may expand your firm and save high personnel expenditures with the aid of software and technology.

Inventories Costs

You will probably need some inventory if you plan to sell actual goods.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Upfront Costs For InventoryOptional$300$6,000
Inventory StorageOptional$0$6,000
Package DesignOptional$50$4,000
Distribution costsOptional$0$950

Costs of Marketing and Advertising

You must use marketing to attract customers before your business can open.

Marketing fees that assist you in spreading the word about your franchise are a part of your beginning costs.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Business CardsOptional$0$50
Tradeshow costsOptional$0$5,000
Networking Membership FeesOptional$0$250
Business SignageOptional$75$2,486
Direct Campaigns, Printing, and MailingOptional$0$300
Influencer MarketingOptional$0$750
Google AdsOptional$0$300

Hiring personnel

You’ll need to hire workers to assist you in scooping ice cream and serving customers unless you intend to staff your ice cream business alone. 

The average hourly compensation at most ice cream shops is $12, though it may be greater or lower based on your region’s minimum wage. 

How many employees you will need depends on the size of your ice cream shop. Take into account how much you can afford to pay your employees and how much assistance you’ll require to run your business. Then, before you publish any job advertising, compare it to the money you’d save by conducting part of the research on your own.

FAQ On Ice Cream Shop Startup Costs

How Much Capital Do I Need to Start an Ice Cream Shop?

Starting out, you’ll need a solid chunk of change. Think about a range between $20,000 and $50,000.

This includes your initial outlay, like securing a lease, buying equipment — those shiny ice cream makers — and getting all the necessary food service permits.

What Are the Biggest Expenses When Opening an Ice Cream Shop?

Equipment purchasing hits the wallet hardest. Your commercial freezers and ice cream machines aren’t cheap. Shop space rental costs follow close behind.

And don’t forget the initial inventory costs, which include everything from the cones to the napkins.

Can I Reduce My Ice Cream Shop Startup Expenses?

Absolutely. Get thrifty with used equipment or consider a smaller shop space. Limit your initial product line too.

Fiscal watchfulness is like making ice cream; measure twice, freeze once. A tight startup budget is the first recipe for sweet success.

How Profitable Is Running an Ice Cream Shop?

It’s like summer year-round; totally can be. With the right location, a delectable menu, and smart marketing, you can expect margins between 20% to 30%.

Factor in seasonality; you might need to get creative during colder months.

Are There Hidden Costs I Should Be Aware Of?

Ah, the sneaky bits. Employee training isn’t free, nor is your time. Marketing budget considerations can creep up on you.

And shop renovations? They always have a way of revealing unexpected surprises. Better keep a contingency fund.

How Does Location Affect My Startup Costs?

Location is a major flavor in your cost cone. High-traffic areas mean high rent but potentially more customers.

Go off the beaten path, and you’ll spend less on the rent but more on getting the word out. It’s a strategic toss-up.

Should I Consider Buying a Franchise?

It’s one flavor in a sea of options. A franchise comes with brand recognition, but those franchise fees and royalties? They can stack up.

If autonomy is your jam and you want to avoid ongoing fees, going solo might be sweeter for you.

What Type of Insurance Do I Need?

Don’t swirl your spoon without it. You’ll need general liabilityproperty insurance, and if you’ve got staff, workers’ compensation.

Perhaps even spoilage insurance, because melted ice cream equals melted dreams. And better safe than sorry, right?

How Much Should I Spend on Initial Ice Cream Supplies?

It varies, but here’s the scoop: aim to start with enough inventory for a month. For an average-size shop, plan to churn out $2,000 to $5,000.

That covers your ice cream bases, flavors, and sweet toppings. Bulk buying could cream off some cost.

Is There a Seasonal Component to Consider for Startup Costs?

Oh, for sure. In the hazy days of summer, your business might triple. Casually slide that into your financial predictions.

You’ll need more hands on deck, more ice cream supplies, and your utility bills could even see a spike. It’s a sunny challenge, but plan for winter too.


Wrapping this up, it’s clear that the ice cream shop startup costs are as varied as the flavors we dream of scooping.

  • Don’t let the initial price tag cause brain freeze; think long-term, sustainable success over quick licks of profit.
  • Pin down what’s non-negotiable, like complying with food service permits and stocking your shop with reliable ice cream makers.
  • Strike a balance; perhaps a leased soft serve machine or a modest initial outlay for your shop space.

Our dive into capital requirements and financial plans aimed to flavor your entrepreneurial drive with a dose of fiscal reality. Starting an ice cream shop is a treat, but like any well-made dessert, it needs careful preparation and a recipe followed to the letter.

Here’s to your success—may it be as sweet and satisfying as the perfect ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Cheers to serving smiles, one scoop at a time!

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.