When John Smotryski packed up and headed to Key West, Florida, with his wife Amanda Velazquez in 2018, he planned to swap his corporate career for a life of beachside business ownership. By Tamara Rahoumi
When John Smotryski packed up and headed to Key West, Florida, with his wife Amanda Velazquez in 2018, he planned to swap his corporate career for a life of beachside business ownership. Specifically, he wanted to open an ice cream shop. Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly the most creative concept for Florida’s southernmost string of tropical islands.
“There’s a lot of ice cream business here,” said Smotryski. “It’s very saturated, so we knew we had to be different. We had to be better. That’s why we thought of liquid nitrogen ice cream, because there wasn’t anybody else doing it down here, and liquid nitrogen is really one of the premium ways to make ice cream. The nitrogen molecules are so much smaller than the oxygen molecules, and it gives you a really creamy and smooth finish when you make it. It’s just a really great texture and a unique experience.”
Sure enough, in four short years, Smotryski and his family have successfully built a thriving, truly unique liquid nitrogen ice cream business that stands apart from others on the islands, with its unmistakable branding, constant flow of business – both during and outside of the typical tourist season – and proven process that’s ready for scaling.
While the Wicked Lick ice cream business offers a host of benefits – not the least of which is regular access to seriously delicious, freshly handcrafted ice cream selections, like cookie butter caramel and honey tarragon – one of the biggest for prospective franchisees is the unique business model.
“There are really three things that set us apart,” said Smotryski. “First, is the liquid nitrogen. There are other liquid nitrogen ice cream stores out there and a lot of them use the powder because it’s a lot easier to store, and it doesn’t have a shelf life. We’ve tested that, and it just wasn’t good enough. Second, we make our ice cream in small batches. I’ve looked all over and haven’t really found anyone who does that with liquid nitrogen ice cream, so it’s really one of a kind.”
As for Wicked Lick’s third major differentiator, Smotryski believes it’s the business’s merchandise. Wicked Lick has created a large collection of custom merchandise that not only provides an additional in-store revenue stream but also opens the door for online revenue generation through e-commerce sales. This component of the business also presents owners with a great opportunity to establish brand loyalty and expand awareness by leveraging branded merchandise as a built-in marketing tool.
As Smotryski prepares for the next chapter in Wicked Lick’s growing story, he’s particularly focused on expanding into Southeast Florida, such as in Miami or the neighboring cities. He believes this would make it easy for him and his team to be hands-on as they get early franchise locations up and running. However, this doesn’t necessarily rule out other locations. While Smotryski is keeping his sights on Florida at the moment, he also pointed out that location is secondary to finding the right partners with whom to grow Wicked Lick.