Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jim Nadeau, owner of Nadeau Ice Sculptures, located in Forest Park, Illinois, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is custom Ice Sculptures for all occasions. Our customers are anyone/everyone who ever had an event from the typical to the ridiculous. Personal events such as weddings, baby showers, to divorce parties, and funeral luncheons. We also do corporate sculptures, winter festivals, movie sets (including but not limited to: The Fugitives starring Harrison Ford, my personal favorite: My Best Friend's Wedding starring Cameron Diaz & Julia Roberts. TV commercials. All the major sports teams use us for many of their events. Our main clientele is the foodservice industry … Hotels, Country Clubs, Banquet Halls, Restaurants, etc.
Tell us about yourself
My background is in the culinary field, having worked for Marriott hotels in Boston, LA, and Chicago. In 1980, I left the hotel and started the very first Ice Sculpture company in the US. Of course, everybody attempted to talk me out of this endeavor (Especially upper Management from Marriott). Starting a business from scratch is not easy, especially with zero savings. To keep solvent, I painted houses during the day and bartended at night at the Mayfair Regent Hotel, Chicago.
My motivation was simple. People LOVED my sculptures, plus it was the best example of planned obsolescence ever.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Too many to choose from, but some highlights …
This is our 28th year of Lincoln Park Zoolights performing live demo's
in our pre-COVID days; we attracted over 700,000 visitors to the zoo in a single season. Nadeau's Ice was/is the highest-rated reason for coming out on cold winter nights.
A very unusual event with the ALS foundation occurred some years ago. We were commissioned to carve life-size ice sculptures of some actual living and deceased patients afflicted with this horrible disease. We placed these ten statures at various locations on the streets of Chicago, where spectators could see them but more important was the message, you see they were all filmed from the set up to complete melt then used the film (time-lapse photography) to show the quick deterioration of disease using my sculptures. It was a heartbreaking event that I was proud to have been part of.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The endless hours, the commitment, and managing employees.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Love - If you don't absolutely love what you want to do. Don't waste your time. Go work for some else.
- Discipline - This is a must. You must be reliable, respect your customers & employees, attention to detail.
- Honesty - Own your mistakes (including those made by your staff) and rectify if/when possible. Owning and handling errors properly will ensure you retain your customer's loyalty.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
With 41 years in the business, there have been many changes, in particular, from manual methods to automated CNC technology. I am very old school … knowing when to bow out is just as important as beginning the adventure. Good Luck to those new & upcoming ones.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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