How this woman-owned business made lemonade

May 9th, 2016

By Kristen Mosbrucker

Published by San Antonio Business Journal

Several years ago, Helotes resident Trudy Leal and her husband Toby got some health-related news that spurred the couple to change the course of their lives and start a small business.

“My husband was going blind, he was diagnosed with a disorder and there’s no cure for it,” Leal said. “That’s what really pushed us to become business owners. We knew we needed to take control of our schedules and future.”

image001 2Trudy Leal is the a client of Lift Fund and franchise owner of Bahama Bucks.

In 2012, the duo started Dynamite Sno Inc. as a franchisee of Bahama Buck’s Original Shaved Ice Co., a national smoothie and flavored shaved ice shop that was looking to expand into the San Antonio market.

The typical initial investment to open a Bahama Bucks is between $223,000 and $720,000 — depending on the size of the location, which includes rent and equipment. On its website, the company boasts that average annual gross sales of each store are about $456,700.

Leal was a first-time business owner and said she was turned down by major banks for loans.

“I have a degree in theater, which banks were not excited about but I’ve been in sales for a very long time,” said Leal, who previously worked as a district manager for Cook Medical, a health care device company. Before that she was a sales representative for Whirlpool Corp. And for years, she worked in major retail stores as a manager.

The LiftFund Inc., a micro lender based in the Alamo City, offered Leal her first business loan to get started. Now, three years later, Leal and her husband own five Bahama Bucks locations — all west of I-10. One is under construction near Culebra Road and Loop 1604. She’s looking for land or existing retail space near the Rim and the University of Texas at San Antonio for her next acquisition.

“We thought we would own one and be comfortable,” she said. “But once other people started (purchasing franchises) we were afraid that if they got one right next to us we would lose the amount we earned,” she said. “We were the number one store in the nation three years in a row.”

Leal said she was inspired to go with the snow cone franchise because it reminded her of her childhood home in Puerto Rico. That, and a near constant South Texas heat. “The colors reminded me of where I grew up — it was like teal and pink they had all these shaved ices — what we call piragua,” she said.

In the coming year, Leal said she expects to employ about 200 workers locally.

Kristen Mosbrucker covers technology, finance and the military.