No Summer Job? Sno Problem! Local Students Find Success With Shaved Ice Trailer in Naperville
August 19, 2020
What do a group of high school and college kids do when apandemic cancels their summer jobs and internships? They create a wildlysuccessful business of their own, of course.
That's just what Brittany Harriman and her younger brother, Trevor,did when they started the Sno Problems shaved ice trailer that can be found atthe corner of Aurora Avenue and Webster Street in Naperville.
“All of our friends lost our internships and our jobsbecause of coronavirus, and I was like, ‘We all could just work together andmake a shaved ice business’, Brittany said. “So I told my mom and she was like,‘That seems like a good idea,’ and then we just did it.”
In reality, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but Brittany gotright to work researching machines, ingredients, and locations, while her momhelped with sourcing a trailer.
“We started looking at used trailers and then I called mycousin, Mike, who works close to you guys, and he said to call Advantagebecause they do food trucks and trailers and what not,” said Brittany’s mother, Laura. “Sowe called and we were able to figure out that we could actually make this thinghappen in a timely manner. Brit and her friends set up an LLC and startedresearching the products, and it went really quickly after that. Like threeweeks.”
Advantage didn’t actually have the size of trailer theywanted in stock, so we purchased a trailer from another local dealer and fabricated theinterior and exterior to meet the Harrimans’ needs.
“I did a lot of volunteering with t-shirt designing and whatnot for my daughter’s soccer club so I’ve done some design work before withpeople where I’ve said, ‘Oh, I would like this,’ and then they come back with somethingdifferent,” Laura explained. “With Paul [Advantage’s custom team lead], we wouldsend him an idea like, ‘Hey, we want wood on the side’ and he would come backwith something that we were like ‘Yes, that’s exactly what we want! Even betterthan we want!’
“He got what our vision was from day one, because we knew wewere going to be selling shaved ice, which is a very simple product when youthink about it, but in downtown Naperville we wanted it to have that Instagramablelook,” she continued. “We wanted people to be excited to take a picture of thetrailer, to go to the trailer, to see that as a draw — and he got it. He got itfrom day one. He made it so easy that I would just say, ‘I think we want blackwire bottle racks’ and he’d come back with ‘these?’ and send me a picture and I’mlike, ‘Yes!’ It was awesome to have somebody that really kind of got it from thebeginning. Made it a lot easier.”
With the trailer on-hand within a couple of weeks, Sno Problems officially opened to the public onJuly 2, selling an assortment of standard flavors and a few specialty flavorssuch as Dreamcicle, Root Beer Float, and the Dirty 630. The team sourcedgourmet syrups from Jo Snow in Chicago, as well as regular flavors from Tucson,Ariz. in order to find products with no high-fructose corn syrup.
Naperville-based Marquette Management gave the team a primespot in downtown Naperville, just steps from the Naper Settlement and manyshops and restaurants, and the team was off and running.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Laura said. “We’vedone more business in two and a half weeks than we really thought we’d do allseason. We just didn’t know what to expect.”
Without knowing the type of success they would reach, oreven how they would pull it off, why did Brittany choose a shaved ice trailerin the first place?
She explained that shaved ice trailers are popular throughoutthe South, and especially in Stillwater, Okla. where the Naperville Centralalum attends Oklahoma State University. As someone who can’t have dairy, she andher friends used to drive to a shaved ice place in Western Springs during highschool for a treat to replace ice cream. It was those experiences that led to her vision to bring a shaved ice trailer to Naperville. So far, the response has been tremendous.
“We’ve had so many people from Texas, Oklahoma, New Orleans,and those areas come out and say ‘Oh, I grew up in Texas and I missed this,’ soapparently it’s just a big southern thing,” Laura said.
“A couple drove down from Palatine and gave the kids thearticle that was in the Daily Herald, and said, ‘We saw this and wanted to supportyou,’ she continued. “Britt has had a gentleman who came who graduated from OklahomaState in like 1965 and he came out decked out in his Oklahoma State gear andwas like, ‘I had to support a local Oklahoma State kid!’”
She also had a rival Oklahoma grad come just to tell her “BoomerSooner”, Brittany said, but she made sure to point out that she got his business anyway.
With school starting in various forms – in-person or online –the team plans to keep the trailer open as long as the weather allows, even if itmeans hiring more local high school kids to keep up with demand.
Laura stressed that they are all good and smart kids – one wasoriginally headed to law school and another had a planned internship at a bankin the city before Covid hit – and running the trailer has given them a chanceto work hard, learn a lot, and stay busy doing something rewarding.
Whether you live in Naperville or one of the surroundingcommunities, make sure to visit Sno Problems to support this young group ofentrepreneurs churning out what may just be the best snow cones in Chicagoland.
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