Martha Gomez

Ice Cream Entrepreneur Has Sweet Success

Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County helps start-up and established businesses "grow healthy"

When her second child was a toddler, Martha Gomez decided to launch an ice-cream distribution business.

"I was looking for something to do," she says. "I figured, 'Well, I live in Florida. This would be the perfect kind of job to do.'"

Doing business was different in her native Dominican Republic, she says: fewer regulations, licenses, and red tape. She turned to Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County (FSBDC) for help.

The biggest hurdle was getting organized. Martha took FSBDC classes and worked with consultants to attain needed licenses and certifications, and to learn how to finance her business. Hillsborough County's services and resources are available at no cost.

Martha started her business in 2008. That year, she distributed ice cream to 20 small Hispanic groceries. She had one truck and did all the work herself. Now she has three trucks and three employees, and distributes ice cream and flavored ice to about 200 stores, including Winn-Dixie and Bravo supermarkets. She wants Gomez Ice Cream to be the largest distributor of the products in Central Florida.

Martha Gomez poses outside her delivery truck.

"FSBDC gave me the tools to grow my business in a very organized manner," she says. And her instinct was right: Almost everyone likes ice cream, especially in Florida and during summertime. After all, July is National Ice Cream Month.

Martha's story is one of FSBDC's successes, and reflects its goal of helping small businesses "grow healthy." Starting an effective business takes passion, intelligence, and money. Not everyone has the needed disposition and resources. FSBDC lets starry-eyed prospects know what it takes to succeed, before they waste time and money.

There are few 40-hour weeks. Establishing a business is hard work, and learning how to manage finances is critical. A business might gross $1 million, but if expenses are $1 million and one cent, it's losing money.

Many small business owners continue their relationship with FSBDC over time. When a business has initial success, the consultants and their partner organizations are available to assess progress, suggest remedies for growing pains, and discuss what can be done to keep the business moving forward.

Photo information: Martha Gomez wants her ice cream distribution business to be the largest in Central Florida.