The story of HoneyBeez Snowballz can trace its beginning to 2016, when owner Syhemia Gray-Cruz decided to set up a tent and table at her church picnic selling cool treats for charity. Soon, Gray-Cruz was branching out to Family Fun Night events in Downtown Carbondale, still working with just a tent and table, she knew there was a good business opportunity.
Jump ahead several years, during the COVID-19 shutdown, Syhemia was working from home as a special education teacher while also caring for her three school-aged children and elderly mother. Determined to build a sustainable small business and keep her family occupied, she remembered the success she had selling snow cones back in 2016. Gray-Cruz requested the help of her two daughters, Nyema and Nathalya, in designing a logo and coming up with a system for handling measurements. Syhemia’s memories of her parents and grandparents inspired the design. Her grandfather, who made honey preserves for his large family, and her parents who stored pickled vegetables, jams, and honey preserves in glass jars. Gray-Cruz was able to acquire a camper as a birthday gift and finally on Saturday, June 19, 2021, also Juneteenth, her husband Alejandro towed the camper to their first event, and the family was in business.
Since 2021, HoneyBeez Snowballz has grown, upgrading to a bigger space to sell snow cones, hot dogs, and nachos in the summer of 2023, while also now traveling to dozens of events across Southern Illinois.
Q & A With Syhemia Gray-Cruz
Why Southern Illinois?
When I originally came to Southern Illinois, it was primarily for Higher Education. Upon my arrival, I had a course assignment that required me to explain why I chose Southern Illinois University (SIU). Among the various factors, the top reason that stood out was the stunning landscape, animals, and natural beauty of the region. As a nature enthusiast, I am deeply drawn to the abundant and picturesque sights that Southern Illinois has to offer. This profound connection to nature is precisely why I chose to operate my business out of a camper, and I can genuinely say that I am a “happy camper” and go where I am towed.
What do you feel makes Southern Illinois a great place to live, work, and do business?
In my perspective, Southern Illinois stands out as an ideal location for providing an exceptional quality of life for raising a family. My husband, Alex, and I firmly believe that this region offers a unique blend of qualities that make it an attractive place to call home. One of the key factors that make Southern Illinois so appealing to us is its affordability, both in terms of living and working. These lower costs are significant, allowing me to realize my dream by starting my own business. The economic environment in Southern Illinois has been so favorable, since starting the business my family has actively joined me in operating it. This collaborative effort has not only provided us with financial stability but has also strengthened our family bonds as we work together towards common goals and teaching morals during the process.
While affordable, Southern Illinois offers a wealth of natural beauty, a strong sense of community, and access to various educational and recreational opportunities. Together, these factors create an environment that enriches our personal lives and also provides a nurturing backdrop for our family to thrive. In essence, Southern Illinois has become more than just a location on a map, it’s where we’ve built our dreams, family, and business endeavors.
What's your favorite part of being a business owner and building HoneyBeez Snowballz into what it is now?
My greatest joy as a business owner lies in the ability to be mobile, serving customers of all age groups. This allows me to establish meaningful connections with my clientele, whether it involves educating them about the New Orleans snowball experience or listening to them reminisce about their childhood memories of enjoying snow cones and their favorite flavors.
In addition to these interactions, my role entails researching and participating in various events such as fairs, festivals, corporate appreciation gatherings, and sporting events, among others. These experiences not only expand my business but also provide valuable opportunities to connect with fellow small business owners who generously share tips and insights for business growth.
HoneyBeez SnowBallz embarked on its journey with just a tent and table, then updated to a 1963 Shasta, and now proudly resides in a 1963 Yellowstone. The future holds exciting prospects for HoneyBeez Snowballz, and I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us!