For some educators, the summer months can become a bit drawn out. But one Idaho Falls couple has found what they believe is the perfect summer job to break the monotony, while also giving back to the community.
Two years ago, area teachers Chris and Leslie Wilmes decided to spend their summers running a business. After months of research, the couple came across what they believe would be the perfect match — Kona Ice.
“If we weren’t doing anything during the summer then we would just end up spending money we don’t have,” Leslie Wilmes said. “And we were always looking to things where we could give back.”
The Wilmes own two Kona Ice operations, which they take throughout eastern Idaho. The mobile units allow the family to sell shaved ice treats to patrons at sporting events, people enjoying Sundays on the Snake River and refreshments at nonprofit benefits.
Along with their teenage son, Kwyncie,the Wilmes family has turned this operation into a successful endeavor that has become popular for area events.
“We just have a lot of fun with it,” Chris Wilmes said. “And we still get to work with the kids in the area, just with less responsibility.”
Chris Wilmes isn’t all about profit. When the family sets up shop for a nonprofit event, 25 percent of proceeds they receive during that day goes back to that organization.
The charitable arm of Kona Ice was a major selling point for the Wilmes when they decided to jump into this business.
“What really brought us to Kona Ice in the first place is that they work so hard to give back to the community,” Chris Wilmes said. “We’d never really been able to afford to give back to the community in the way we are now. As teachers, we wanted to give back to the kids in any way possible.”
In total, Kona Ice franchisees have given back around $45 million to organizations across the United States, according to Chris Wilmes. In 2017, the Wilmes were able to personally give back around $7,000 to local nonprofits, and hope to double that this year.
Since the Wilmes family started this business they have given back each year to organizations such as the Idaho Falls Civitans and the Eagle Rock Art Guild, and are looking to help more groups in the future.
“We try to get our fingers into as many events as possible,” Leslie Wilmes said.
Along with the charitable culture surrounding Kona Ice, both Chris and Leslie say the opportunity to be out and about in the community through this business has been a great benefit for their family.
“It’s just been fun, and it’s a great way to meet some amazing people,” Chris said. “It’s growing a lot faster than we anticipated.”
This year, the Wilmes plan to have a Kona Ice truck at major events throughout the region, including the Fourth of July celebration in Idaho Falls and the Mountain Home Country Music Festival in Elmore County. Last summer the Wilmes participated in more than 20 events.
As for the future, the Wilmes are looking forward to working with area schools once they retire, and eventually passing along the business to Kwyncie. The family also is working with the city to set up a scholarship fund for disadvantaged youth in the region.
“Each year it’s getting a little bit better because we’re becoming a little more known, and we’re able to help back through that,” Chris Wilmes said. “We just measure our success by the amount of money we’re able to give back.”
To learn more about Kona Ice, or to schedule an event, visit kona-ice.com or call 208-680-1816.
Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.