The Secret to Food Artisan Success

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People's Pops


So, in recent big news: Inc. magazine put us on the list of Brooklyn's Best Entrepreneurs, alongside a privileged cohort composed of the likes of Brooklyn Brewery, Etsy, Steiner Studios ... what? If this continues, we're actually going to start taking ourselves seriously!

We're a little baffled by the attention. Last week, we got an email from a professor at Brigham Young University who was taking a group of business students to New York and wanted to know if we'd be willing to take a few minutes to talk about "the strategy behind People's Pops as an emerging brand."

Strategy? Is that what's happening while we're drinking wine on the sidewalk as we paint our sandwich boards? (One of which was stolen today ...)

Our story works because it's actually true and believable, not something a marketing executive had to dream up.

We like being flattered, so we said yes, and after a long day in the kitchen, I sped over to the shop, spattered with raspberry juice and the rotten pong of things left perennially undone. The 19 students—clean-cut, well-mannered, inquisitive—had spent their morning at American Express and their afternoon at Johnson & Johnson. They looked at David and me expectantly. I told them our story, all of it—of how making pops for a one-day market with my prom date and his roommate most unexpectedly turned into a vibrant, dynamic business (manufacturing, retail, wholesale, catering) that, daily for the past three summers, has had us toeing the delicate balance between euphoria and despair ever so unpleasantly schizophrenically.

There's no secret, or if there is, it's still unknown to us, too. Our story works because it's actually true and believable, not something a marketing executive had to dream up. Our product works because it's carefully made using quality stuff. Our business works because we treat our suppliers, our customers, our employees, and ourselves with respect, trust, and affection. (And because we work our asses off.) The hype? I have no idea where it comes from, but I'm grateful for it. I'd like to think it's due to the reasons above—is that unrealistic?

The business school students had polite, pointed questions: "Have you considered franchising?" "Can you identify your most persistent bottlenecks?" "Will you be taking on investors?" I answered them to the best of my ability, knowing that sounder, more measured business owners would have spent time actually talking to each other about things like this. We don't, because anytime we come close to having 30 seconds to take a macro look at the business, the freezer fails and the van overheats.

So the monster grows, and we just try to keep up: that's our strategy. But I feel good about how, despite everything, we continue being capable of keeping the most important things about our business intact: good local fruit, happy customers, and having fun with each other. Actually, wait. Maybe that's our strategy.

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Nathalie Jordi makes ice pops in Brooklyn along with her high-school prom date and his roommate. Out of season, she writes for the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, and the New York Times.

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