What do a group of high school and college kids do when a pandemic cancels their summer jobs and internships? They create a wildly successful 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 at the corner of Aurora Avenue and Webster Street in Naperville.
“All of our friends lost our internships and our jobs because of coronavirus, and I was like, ‘We all could just work together and make 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 got right to work researching machines, ingredients, and locations, while her mom helped with sourcing a trailer.
“We started looking at used trailers and then I called my cousin, Mike, who works close to you guys, and he said to call Advantage because they do food trucks and trailers and what not,” said Brittany's mother, Laura. “So we called and we were able to figure out that we could actually make this thing happen in a timely manner. Brit and her friends set up an LLC and started researching the products, and it went really quickly after that. Like three weeks.”
Advantage didn’t actually have the size of trailer they wanted in stock, so we purchased a trailer from another local dealer and fabricated the interior and exterior to meet the Harrimans’ needs.
“I did a lot of volunteering with t-shirt designing and what not for my daughter’s soccer club so I’ve done some design work before with people where I’ve said, ‘Oh, I would like this,’ and then they come back with something different,” Laura explained. “With Paul [Advantage’s custom team lead], we would send him an idea like, ‘Hey, we want wood on the side’ and he would come back with something that we were like ‘Yes, that’s exactly what we want! Even better than we want!'
“He got what our vision was from day one, because we knew we were going to be selling shaved ice, which is a very simple product when you think about it, but in downtown Naperville we wanted it to have that Instagramable look,” she continued. “We wanted people to be excited to take a picture of the trailer, to go to the trailer, to see that as a draw -- and he got it. He got it from day one. He made it so easy that I would just say, ‘I think we want black wire bottle racks’ and he’d come back with ‘these?’ and send me a picture and I’m like, ‘Yes!’ It was awesome to have somebody that really kind of got it from the beginning. Made it a lot easier.”
With the trailer on-hand within a couple of weeks, Sno Problems officially opened to the public on July 2, selling an assortment of standard flavors and a few specialty flavors such as Dreamcicle, Root Beer Float, and the Dirty 630. The team sourced gourmet 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 prime spot in downtown Naperville, just steps from the Naper Settlement and many shops and restaurants, and the team was off and running.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Laura said. “We’ve done more business in two and a half weeks than we really thought we’d do all season. We just didn’t know what to expect.”
Without knowing the type of success they would reach, or even how they would pull it off, why did Brittany choose a shaved ice trailer in the first place?
She explained that shaved ice trailers are popular throughout the South, and especially in Stillwater, Okla. where the Naperville Central alum attends Oklahoma State University. As someone who can’t have dairy, she and her friends used to drive to a shaved ice place in Western Springs during high school 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,’ so apparently it’s just a big southern thing,” Laura said.
“A couple drove down from Palatine and gave the kids the article that was in the Daily Herald, and said, ‘We saw this and wanted to support you,’ she continued. “Britt has had a gentleman who came who graduated from Oklahoma State in like 1965 and he came out decked out in his Oklahoma State gear and was like, ‘I had to support a local Oklahoma State kid!'”
She also had a rival Oklahoma grad come just to tell her “Boomer Sooner”, 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 it means hiring more local high school kids to keep up with demand.
Laura stressed that they are all good and smart kids – one was originally headed to law school and another had a planned internship at a bank in the city before Covid hit – and running the trailer has given them a chance to work hard, learn a lot, and stay busy doing something rewarding.
Whether you live in Naperville or one of the surrounding communities, make sure to visit Sno Problems to support this young group of entrepreneurs churning out what may just be the best snow cones in Chicagoland.