Mother Nature might decide it’s actually spring in Ohio sometime, and once she does, J-Pops will be hitting the streets with an expanded fleet for the 2015 season. The gourmet ice pop maker recently announced its expansions from one to three carts.
Steven White’s icy treats have gained a following by using quality ingredients and introducing unique flavor profiles.
“They are all fruit-based, all-natural, no additives, no preservatives,” White says. He describes the 50 plus flavors of treats he’s experimented with as falling into two camps: more adventurous flavors and less adventurous flavors.
For the more refined palate there’s combos like citrus thyme, peach green tea, pineapple cilantro, vanilla pear and a variety of fruit-infused mojitio flavors. On the more traditional side, there’s options like cherry limeade, strawberry lemonade, GA peach and mango mango.
“I love playing around with what I call the more adventurous flavors,” White says. “It’s kind of endless with the combinations you can come up with. I’m always in the back of my mind, looking for what the next one is going to be.”
White tries to keep about a 50-50 mix of adventurous to traditional flavors on his outings. He’s gotten to know his audience over time and can cater his cart offerings one direction or another depending where he his. Farmers markets usually mean more kiddos, with events like Comfest, Pride and the Columbus Arts Festival being a more mixed bag.
“I knew my target consumer was always going to be the foodie,” White says. The pops are for a more adventurous eater, and not just someone who is looking for a sugar-laden bomb pop.
“But popsicles in Ohio?” hasn’t deterred White from his first entrepreneurial venture.
“It is a challenge owning a seasonal business, for sure, and I knew that going in to it,” he says. But to White, having a great idea and a great product – and the response he’s received – make it worth it. Customers agree as is evident by the expanded fleet.
“For the last two seasons, I’ve been operating with one cart, and always knew it was going to expand, it was just a matter of when,” White says.
J-Pops was running into a good problem to have – requests to be at multiple locations at the same time. Something they can now easily accommodate with multiple carts. More carts also means more opportunity for private events, another option for J-Pop lovers. The goal for 2015 is to do more birthday parties, corporate events, graduations, weddings and the like.
Each of the three J-Pop’s seasons have been a different experience.
He initially started making the pops while he was living in Atlanta after coming back from a two-year stint teaching English in Japan. Then, when the earthquake and tsunami hit the nation island in 2011, White wished there was something he could do.
He thought, “You know what, I have been making these pops, what if I just sell them and send all the money to the American Red Cross?” Which is exactly what he did. His boss encouraged him to pursue it further, but he didn’t seriously consider it until he knew he would be moving back to his hometown of Columbus.
With some research, White discovered, “Nobody is doing this here in Columbus.” He decided to go for it – but would need a little help along the way.
“I was really at a loss as to some guidance and did some research and the first thing I came across was the Small Business Development Center,” White says. After completing the SBDC’s courses, he turned to the Food Fort with help understanding licensing. And, it is still where the pops are produced today.
The first year was mostly learning. The second year, he got everything down to a science. But with the expansion, year three means learning all over again.
“There’s all these new challenges that come with growing,” White says. But, just like offers to be in multiple places at once, it’s a good problem to have.
For more information, visit myjpops.com.