Alex and Ann Starker, franchise owners of Kona Ice in the DeSoto County area, operate their mobile party ice machine known as "KEV" in the greater Mid-South region.

Robert Long|DTT

Kona Ice is more than just a creative business venture for working couple Alex and Ann Starker of Olive Branch.

The party ice bus is a platform to give back to the community, explains Ann Starker, a stay-at-home mom whose husband Alex is a full-time corporate employee of Granger Corporation.

The license plate on the brightly-colored mobile party ice vehicle says it all — "Ohana," which, in Hawaiian means "family and community."

Alexa and Ann Starker christened the vehicle "KEV" for "Kona Entertainment Vehicle."

So far, the couple have given back $1,300 to the community to charitable causes after only three months of operation.

"Our hearts are for churches and schools," said Ann Starker, adding the Kona approach to natural, good-tasting treats is also a community-based model with a faith-based corporate structure.

"Having a CEO whose heart is for Christ helped make up our minds we wanted to become involved with this company," said Ann Starker. "Our big thing is customer service. We have a servant's heart."

Ann has already booked the Kona mobile party ice machine for several parties and events and it's proved to be a hit.

"Moms like us because there is 40 percent less sugar in our product," said Ann Starker, adding that the couple uses a Stevia blend to flavor ice treats. "The kids have put up their top 10 flavors."

Ann Starker has a background in psychology while husband Alex has a master's degree in business.

"Our strengths and weaknesses play off each other," said Ann, with a bright smile.

"We have 30 standard flavors and then we can mix them," Ann Starker said.

The Kona vehicle is booked for the Concert Series at Snowden Grove, with its next scheduled appearance on July 5 for Journey.

Ann Starker said parents' minds can be placed at ease when the Kona party ice machine rolls into view.

"I can recall when I was younger and all the kids in the neighborhood went out to the creepy ice cream truck, which was usually a van, the kind you saw in the 70s. My husband decided that we didn't have something like this here."

Both Alex and Ann like the community aspect of Kona Ice.

"One of the platforms that Kona Ice stands for is that it is community driven," Ann Starker said. "Corporately, over the last 16 years, Kona Ice has given back more than $40 million."

For a more refined palate, there are sophisticated flavors like Banana Colado and an assortment of other elixirs.

"It's a great ice treat," Starker said.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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