If you attend any major festival in Topeka or Lawrence, you will likely see the iconic blue truck with the bright tropical pictures all over it. You will also probably hear happy exclamations from kids and adults alike, “Yay! Kona Ice is here!”
Kona Ice introduced its “Flavorwave” shaved ice in Kentucky in 2007. Matt Douglas and Jay Weber brought the sweet sensation to Lawrence and Topeka last year. The decision to purchase the franchise actually began four years ago on a family trip to Fort Collins, Colorado. Matt and his two daughters were visiting his brother, when all of a sudden the girls spotted a bright blue truck coming down the street. All around them the excitement began to build as the Kona Ice truck came closer.
“I knew right then that I needed to research this company,” Matt said
That research revealed more than just a great business concept. It highlighted a growing company that exhibited a love of community and a desire to improve the lives of the people around them. It revealed a company that had given more than $45 million back to local communities.
“At that point, I knew this was way more than just a food truck,” Matt said.
Matt contacted the corporate office to find out about franchising opportunities in Lawrence. Unfortunately, the Lawrence territory wasn’t available. But Topeka was. However, Matt wasn’t quite ready to jump into the business there.
A few months went by and he still hadn’t seen any of the Kona Ice trucks on the road in Lawrence. He contacted corporate again, but still no luck. Matt spent the next two years calling the corporate office every four to six months to inquire if the Lawrence territory was available.
Then, out of the blue, he got a call. The Lawrence territory had just opened up, but he only had a week to decide if he wanted it. Knowing that he wasn’t in any position to drop everything and start the business, Matt reached out to his brother-in-law, Jay.
“I told him, ‘Jay, you are going to need to quit your job next week,”’ Matt said.
They put their first Kona Ice truck on the streets of Lawrence last April and then expanded into Topeka and Manhattan as well. Their territory now extends from Eudora to Junction City.
Not only do Matt and Jay work most of the festivals in Lawrence and Topeka, but they can also be found at school functions, corporate events, sports tournaments and more. In fact, they have a kiosk in Allen Fieldhouse and sell shaved ice at both KU and K-State football games.
Matt said that even though this is still just a side job, he puts in his time working the truck as well. He can be found in the truck on weekends, along with his daughters, ages 10 and 7. Jay also has two children ages 10 and 7, so they truly make a family experience.
“When I was looking at business opportunities, I wanted something that my family can be a part of,” Matt said. “This really is a lot of fun, and the kids love to hang out in the truck.”
He also feels that being an entrepreneur teaches his children a valuable life lesson about work ethic and giving back to the community.
In just the past year alone, Matt and Jay have been able to give back $25,000 to local community causes.
Now about to begin their second year of operation, Matt and Jay are ready to expand. They already have one truck and two Kona kiosks and are planning to add two new trucks this year. Already banking with Envista because of the convenience of local branches in both Lawrence and Topeka, Matt knows financial assistance is only a phone call away.
Matt said that he and Jay hope to eventually expand to 10 units, but they have as much business as they can handle for the moment. And that is a pretty good problem to have.