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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Northwest News

Kona Ice CEO is all about fun, making smiles with snow cones


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OLDSMAR — When you give yourself the title of “Chief Executive Officer of Fun,” you’ve set the bar pretty high.

Jane Rakestraw, CEO of Kona Ice, is all about fun. She wanted to form a business and decided that there is nothing that makes children happier than snow cones on a hot day.

With two colorful trucks, a trailer, and a pull wagon, Rakestraw is a fixture at fundraisers, schools and sporting events all over the Tampa Bay area. Her crew recently made an appearance at an Oldsmar fair, where her truck quickly became one of the most popular places on the grounds.

Three years ago, when Rakestraw was looking to purchase a business or franchise in the food service industry, selling snow cones wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list. Today, she wouldn’t have done a thing differently.

“This is fun and it gives a lot of joy, not only to kids, but adults,” Rakestraw said. “We are busy all spring and fall with school events and sports events, and it’s nice to keep everyone happy. We are always looking to expand.”

Kona Ice isn’t limited to kids’ activities. She also works with businesses, since adults seem to like the option of enjoying a snow cone during a work day. But the bulk of her customers are kids. She spends plenty of time with schools and said it is a big surprise for students to be able to get away from the typical school lunch. Her snow cones, she said, contain at least 20 percent less sugar than most.

Rakestraw has been aggressive with her business from the start. She immediately became involved with the Upper Pinellas Chamber of Commerce, and started looking at big opportunities. Her snow cones were a big success at last year’s University of South Florida-Florida State University football game, so she can handle the big crowds. She’s also prominent at high school football games.

Her trucks are hard to miss, featuring colorful paintings. Customers can even make their own snow cones, thanks to the self-serve flavoring on the sides of the trucks.

What makes the Kona Ice snow cones different? Rakestraw said she has several recipes that are different from anyone else’s. And with the opportunity to make your own cone, the possibilities are endless.

Then, there is the “Mystery Flavor.” Rakestraw said there is no exact way to describe it since she changes it on a whim.

“It is whatever I feel like putting on them,” she said. “It’s pretty popular.”

Rakestraw does more than just distribute snow cones. She also works with charities and donates a percentage of sales to certain events. Last year, Rakestraw said, Kona Ice distributed more than $55,000 to charities.

By the way, wanna know the difference between a snow ball and a snow cone? Here’s the deal: A snow ball is harder and crunchier. A snow cone is fluffier, thanks to the shaved ice. Just ask Jane Rakestraw. She’s the expert.

To contact Jane Rakestraw at Kona Ice, call (727) 724-6180 or check www.konaicetampabay.com

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