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Kay and Marvin Keene, both professors, were interested in finding a franchise opportunity, so they attended the Myrtle Beach Area SBDC’s restaurant business development conference. Marvin had been researching several franchise options and at the conference, he discussed ownership styles and business models with a franchise expert. He also made an appointment to discuss his business plan with Myrtle Beach Area SBDC for private consulting.

In March, he met with Janet Graham, area manager for the Myrtle Beach Area SBDC located at Coastal Carolina University. They further researched franchise opportunities and by April, the Keenes had decided to purchase a Kona Ice franchise, which is a shaved ice refreshment company. Shaved ice is not just the Hawaiian name for a snow cone. Shaved ice has a different texture than snow cones and they come in generally larger sizes. This tropical cousin of the mainland snow cone also comes in a variety of flavors such as guava, mango, coconut and passion fruit. Specialty items include green tea, a low calorie option with vitamin C called Vita-blend and a sports blend that replaces important nutrients during hot South Carolina days.

“The Keenes are model clients and a real joy to assist,” Graham said. “They came in knowing that franchising was a viable option for them. The SBDC helped to determine the best franchising opportunity for their lifestyle and personality. The Keenes work ethic is evident in their dedication to the success of Kona Ice.”

With a $20,000 personal investment, the Keenes began their chapter as entrepreneurs. Graham discussed numerous aspects of owning a business with them including licensing, franchisor support, competition, employees and financial statements. They worked on three, five and ten-year business plans. They discussed customer relations, marketing, product line expansion into ice cream and expansion when new franchise areas became available. Within the first year, they were also working toward additional funding for expanding their new venture.

With their initial Kona Ice truck drifting out tropical music, they began to work events at schools, parks, sporting events, festivals and churches. They contracted with the city of Conway’s parks and recreation department. Despite inclement weather, they did well. Kona Ice is a special kind of business that gives back to their community and in 2014 the Keenes donated more than $10,000!

As their success became apparent, they purchased a mini-truck, received an additional bank loan of $89,000 to purchase a second truck and hired a third employee. They now have two trucks and a mini-trailer and they are looking to expand further.

Marvin Keene, who plans to be an ongoing client of the Myrtle Beach Area SBDC, said of his experience working with Graham, “The SC Small Business Development Centers are a valuable resource for new entrepreneurs.”


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