How To Start An Ice Block Business In Ghana

Don’t know how to start an ice block production
business ?

You’re about to learn a lot of interesting
stuff!

In the ever busy and crowded streets, roads and
markets of West Africa, millions of people go about
their daily business – business people, traders,
office workers and school children.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we often
dehydrate under the hot weather and will need a
glass of something chilled to refresh ourselves
(usually water, juices or soft drinks).

At home, the electricity supply problem is forcing
households to use ice blocks to preserve their food
and drinks.

The strong demand for ice blocks for
cooling has created a booming business opportunity
in cities, towns and villages across Africa.

This article introduces you to this small business
idea and everything you need to know to succeed in
it!

Why do we have such a huge demand
for ice block in Africa ?

It is our usual practice here on CRYSTAGO INC to give
our readers a deep understanding of every business
idea we share.

By understanding the factors
responsible for the demand behind every business,
entrepreneurs can become more creative with their
products and adapt in time to changes in the
market.

Like every other idea we’ve shared in the Business
ideas section of this website, consumer demand is
the basic reason for the booming ice block
business.

Let’s now take a look at other reasons for the huge
demand for ice block in some of Africa’s cities,
towns and villages…

Geography & Weather

A large portion of Africa sits on the earth’s equator
and lies within the tropical climate region. This
means that our continent enjoys more direct
sunlight and heat compared to the temperate parts
of the world (such as Europe and North America).

It is estimated that many parts of Africa enjoy (or
suffer) an average of 300 days of bright sunlight
every year.

This means that for most days of the
year, the weather is hot and humid as the sun
shines ever so brightly for up to five hours on most
days.

In fact, temperatures during the day can rise up to
40°C especially in the northernmost parts of the
continent which have a savanna or desert climate.

The hot and humid weather conditions in many
parts of Africa leads many people to drink more
water to refresh and rehydrate their bodies.
In these modern times, most people prefer to drink
chilled/cold liquids when they can afford it.

In fact,
we tend to feel more refreshed by drinking chilled
water (or soft drinks) compared to ordinary
‘unchilled’ liquids.

Add to this the growing effects of climate change
and global warming and you can guess that more
parts of Africa will experience hotter and longer
sunshine.

This will undoubtedly lead to a higher
consumption of chilled liquids like water and other
drinks (juices, sodas etc).

Convenience

Convenience is another major reason why the ice
block business is booming across Africa.

It is true that many people own water coolers/
refrigerators and can afford to cool their own drinks.

However, it’s not convenient or possible to carry
your own cooler everywhere you go. You will likely
have to buy drinking water from a vendor who buys
ice blocks to cool the drinks she sells to customers
like you.

It’s simple logic: the more people like you who buy
chilled drinks when they’re out of their homes, the
more ice blocks that are sold.

Another convenient reason why people prefer to use
ice blocks is that they are faster and more efficient
at cooling stuff.

Compared to cooling your drinks in a fridge (too
slow) or stuffing them in a freezer (limited by size),
ice blocks can provide more flexible cooling in any
location; whenever and wherever you want it! Cool,
don’t you think?

The terrible electricity situation
In our recent solar energy article, we looked at the
terrible situation of electricity supply in many parts
of Africa.

Our continent arguably has the worst
electric power infrastructure in the world with the
lowest scores in power generation, consumption
and security of supply!

In many countries on the continent, less than 20
percent of the population is connected to the electric
power grid. The situation is worse in rural areas
where less than 5 percent enjoy any electricity
supply.

Even if we all had our own water coolers and
refrigerators at home, how would they work without
electricity? How many people can afford generators
(of a sufficient capacity) to power water coolers
refrigerators and freezers?
Rather than incur these extra costs, most people
prefer to buy ice blocks to meet their household
cooling needs (especially food preservation).
In the absence of electricity, buying ice blocks is a
much cheaper, efficient and flexible option for most
people in Africa’s towns and cities.

The terrible electricity situation remains one of the
biggest reasons for the booming ice block business.

While we may curse the government about the
power situation in our countries, some smart
entrepreneurs in the ice block business are making
good money from the problem!

Relaxation and social events

There is also a rising trend of outdoor events like
weddings, religious gatherings, clubs, relaxation
spots and other social gatherings.

In our wedding business article, we looked at some
of the interesting opportunities for entrepreneurs
and small businesses.

What is our point here ? It’s simple.

When people
gather at these events, they are MORE than likely to
consume liquids. Water, soft drinks and alcohol
(especially beer) are typically ‘served chilled’ at
these events.

Nobody attends a party or hangs out at a bar to
drink warm beer!

This is the reason why these events and relaxation
spots are huge sources of demand for the ice block
business. On most evenings and weekends
(Saturdays and Sundays) across Africa, millions of
people who attend all sorts of events are direct and
indirect customers of the ice block business.

As our population continues to increase and more
people earn a little extra to spend on relaxation and
parties, the demand for ice blocks will undoubtedly
explode.

How to start an ice block production
business ?

This is the interesting part; We hope you’re still very
excited!
Now that you have a better understanding of the
demand and market for ice block, let’s now look at
the things you need to start one for yourself.

It’s
indeed a small business that requires basic raw
materials, many of which are readily available
around you.

Here are the five basic things that you need to start
this business:

#1 Water

Water is the most important raw material in the ice
block production business. As you already know,
ice blocks are made by freezing ordinary water in a
container to a very low temperature (usually below
zero degrees Centigrade, 0°C).

You will need to find a good source of fresh and
clean water for your production business.

It is probable that the people who buy your ice block
will use it to cool food/drinks and may not drink it
directly.

However, because the ice will come in
contact with products that will be eaten or drunk,
impure or bad water from ice can contaminate or
poison the food and drinks.

To avoid this, it is best to stick to the highest
standards of hygiene and cleanliness. The water you
use could be pipe-borne from the local government
water authority or sourced from clean wells or bore
holes. You could also buy your water supplies in
areas where water is scarce.

#2 Packaging

Ice blocks are often packaged and sold in
transparent polythene nylon bags. The bags help to
hold the ice both in its solid and melted state.

Because ice can be slippery and difficult to handle,
these bags help a lot during transportation and
handling of the blocks.

Another good thing about packaging is that it
provides you with a great opportunity to put a brand
name on your ice block product. This will help to
separate your blocks from the ‘faceless’ and
‘unbranded’ competition. It will also help to attract
more customers to your business through the
contact information on the labels.

#3 Ice block making machines

These are the machines that make ice blocks. Don’t
worry, they are not some complex equipment you
haven’t seen before.

Ice block making machines are more like deep
freezers with a higher cooling/freezing capacity.

Some of them have rectangular moulds/containers
that you pour the water into in order to produce ice
blocks. When the water turns into ice, it usually
takes the shape of these containers.
There are both foreign and locally-made brands of
these machines and depending on your budget, you
can choose from a wide variety of models.

Some of
the things you should keep in mind when buying ice
block production machines are:
Capacity: This refers to the number of blocks
that a machine can produce. Some can produce
20, 50 and over 100 blocks at a time.
Higher capacity machines will likely cost more
than small capacity ones.

The capacity you
choose to buy depends on the number of ice
blocks you plan to produce and sell daily.
Freezing time: The amount of time taken by the
machine to produce ice blocks is also important.

Some machines produce ice faster than others
and this will often depend on the rating of the
compressors.

Don’t forget, the longer a machine spends
producing ice, the more you’re likely to spend
on electricity and labour.

So, it’s often of great
benefit to use a machine that forms ice in a
short period.

Compressors: Compressors are the heart of the
cooling system and can affect the quality
(hardness) of ice produced and the time taken to
produce it.

Compressors are usually rated in
Horse Power (HP) and are commonly available
in 1.5HP, 2HP, 2.5HP and 3HP.
The number of compressors may also matter.

For example, a machine with two 1.5HP
compressors is likely to produce ice faster
than another machine (of equal size) with just
one 2HP compressor. You must also pay
attention to the quality of your compressors.

The fake ones can ruin your business.
After sales support: It’s not just enough to be
careful when choosing your machines; it is
equally important that you purchase from a
manufacturer or seller who can support you
when you need to carry out repairs or
maintenance.

Remember, you may not produce
any ice to sell if your machines do not work
well.

Make sure you buy from a dealer who has
technicians (or can recommend one) to repair
and maintain your machines.

#4 Generators

Due to the unstable electricity supply in many parts
of Africa, it is likely that you may need a power
generator to reduce your dependence on the power
grid; that is if you experience electricity shortages in
your area.

Even when electricity is supplied, the voltage is
often unstable and can damage critical parts of your
machine (especially the compressors). To produce
the amount of power to effectively drive your
machine’s compressors, diesel-powered generators
are often preferred over petrol (gasoline) powered
ones.

What capacity should your generator be ?

Well, it
depends on the power needs of your ice block
making machine. It is best to follow the
recommendations of the dealer/manufacturer you
buy your machine from.

Ensure that you buy a
durable generator that doesn’t break down often or
require very frequent maintenance or repairs.

Five Tips for success in the ice block
production business…

Like every business on earth, there are things you
can do to bring luck to your side in the ice block
business.

By keeping these tips in mind, you will enjoy a
significant advantage over other people in the ice
block business who do not understand or follow
these tips.
Here they are:

#1 Target high population density areas

The ice block business is a volume business; the
more blocks you sell, the more money you make!

Ice block businesses that sell large volumes are
usually located in areas that have a high population
density and experience a lot of physical, economic
and business activities.
Busy roads and streets, areas with high pedestrian
traffic (like markets, schools and industrial/
residential estates) are good targets for this
business.

Many of the people who will become your customers
(like petty traders, shop owners and restaurant
operators) are usually located in these areas.

Your
ice block business needs to be close to the action!

#2 Ice block is a seasonal business!

Although We mentioned that ice blocks can make for a
lucrative business , it is important that you know it’s
also a seasonal business.

During the rainy season, which usually starts
around March and peaks in July, there are fewer
hours of heat and sunlight. When the weather is
cooler, people don’t like to take cold/chilled drinks
as often as they would in a hot weather.

As a result of this lower desire to consume cold
stuff, the demand and prices of ice blocks usually
fall during the rainy/cooler months of the year.

Armed with this information, I strongly advise that
you reduce the quantity of ice blocks produced
during the rainy/wet season and increase
production during the dry/hot seasons.

For those of you reading this who want to start this
business, it’s better not to start during the wet/
rainy season so you don’t get discouraged by the
small quantity of sales you are likely to make.

#3 – Target habitual consumers

Habitual consumers are those people and
businesses that require a constant supply of ice
block to meet their personal, household or business
needs.

Some of these habitual consumers include
event/party planners, restaurant/hotel operators,
petty traders and vendors in busy streets and
markets.

These consumers will be interested in any ice block
maker or supplier who can meet their daily needs
for ice block at a price and convenience that makes
sense.

With a number of this type of consumers as
your customers, you are assured of a steady volume
of sales in and out of season.

#4 – Watch out for the competition!

From a business analysis perspective, ice block
production is a low-entry barrier business.

This means that anybody who can afford the
machines can fill up containers with water and
Voila! she’s in the ice block business! No special
skills or knowledge is required!
As a result, your competition can enter this
business easily.

Should this discourage you? Of
course not! To survive, you will need to be smarter
than your competition.

Ice blocks are a commodity product; they all
basically look the same. Price and convenience
(location) are usually the only things that will make
more customers patronize your ice block business
over other competitors.

To remain competitive with your pricing, you will
need to keep your production costs low.

Always keep a close watch on how much you are
spending on electricity bills, water and labour.

Reduce wastage and unnecessary costs as best as
you can.

If you’re just starting out this business, you may not
need to employ too many hands. It’s a very simple
and straightforward business that you can handle
yourself.

If you can keep your costs as low as
possible, it becomes possible for you to offer better
(lower) prices than your competition and still make
a profit!

#5 Take care of your machines

Your ice block making machine and power
generator are the heart of your business. You
should always make sure that you stick to the
recommended maintenance schedule.

If your machines stop working, the business stalls
and you may disappoint your customers who
depend on you for their ice block needs.

The last
thing you want for yourself in this business is a
reputation for disappointing/failing your customers.

To avoid any of these undesirable outcomes, keep a
technician on hand to take care of any mechanical
or electrical faults as they arise.

What do you think about the ice block
business?

In this article, we revealed the reasons why the ice
block business is booming in many parts of Africa
and the key things you will need to start this
business.

We also shared a couple of tips that will help you to
succeed in the business.

It’s a simple business
model that requires no complex skills or technical
knowledge.

You can run it as a side business or
focus on it full time.

It is one of those businesses
that never run out of customers (unless there is very
stiff competition).

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