Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Freezer Diorama Fantasies Do Come True

Two years after Nat wrote about her freezer diorama fantasy, Leila took it upon herself to transform the people's pops Chelsea Market freezer into a bucolic beach scene entirely made out of ice pop ingredients.  Note the pop-stick lifeguard chair.  The beach towels made out of napkins.  The beach umbrella made out of business cards.  The beach chair made out of shave ice spoons.

Truly the mark of artistic genius!

Thanks Leila, and everyone else who made this year so incredible.  Dear customers, you still have until Oct 31 to find our pops at Chelsea Market; after that, visit our wholesale customers for your fix.

See you next year!!

Nat, Dave & Joel

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another Year Goes By

How does this happen?  Another entire season whizzed by in the blink of an eye.  It was a busy one...  

We built a kitchen in the Pfizer building, turning a space that looked like this: 

into one that looked like this:

We never thought we'd exceed our life goal of appearing in a favorable spot on New York Magazine's approval matrix.....but then we landed the cover (tiny pic but it counts!!)

We also published a cookbook!  (Find it here)

We built a new shop in Park Slope: 


It has a Ms. Pac-Man machine!

And we survived a bunch of Department of Health inspections--A's everywhere!

Lots of people chipped in to help.  Danielle and Katie made us artwork (and lent us lots of moral support):  

Nat's dad custom-built a stick-stamping device: 

Our buddy John ginned up a crazy useful online inventory tracker:

And Joel's dad made us giganto-pops that came in handy surprisingly often: 

We made tons of pops in new and awesome flavors: peach-habanero, watermelon-ginger, cantaloupe-jasmine, apple-lavender, Toby's Estate coffee pops, raspberry rosewater, rhubarb-chai...

We even started selling wine pops!  (e.g. strawberry lemongrass with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc)

We launched three flavors of delicious wholesale pops: 

Concord grape

Here's what the packaging looks like:

We got covered by CNN, Shape magazine, USA Today, Parade, the New York Times Book Review, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, the New York Daily News, Vogue magazine, Entrepreneur.com, and many other fine publications 

Sharlena and Charlie came back for a third year, Darren and Brian for a second, and a bunch of other AWESOME PEOPLE joined our team.

Here's the 2012 Hall of Fame:

Michael C
Michael S
Mike O

Plus, we had lots of fun in the kitchen.  

 We feel really blessed to be wrapping up another fantastic season....but thanks our wholesale customers, you can now get people's pops year-round!

Here's to that!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

21st Century Capitalists, and Proud

It’s a very short step from pickles to ice pops, at least in Brooklyn, so we read with great interest Adam Davidson’s recent economics column in the NYT, “Don't Mock the Artisanal Pickle-Makers,” about the post-industrial, post-recession move in certain sectors towards a craft-centered economy.

Yes, as the author says, “it’s tempting to look at craft business as simply a rejection of modern industrial capitalism.” Dave, Joel and I went into business together because we wanted an alternative to corporate jobs, the liberty of being our own bosses, of shaping our own lives, and of making decisions led as much by principles as they are by economics. But when Davidson says, “It would break their heart to be called model 21st-century capitalists,” he’s wrong. To us, there is no higher compliment. To be able to lift our business out of the artisanal ghetto into the realm of consequence, resonance and profitability is a dream that, with much hard work, is slowly coming true.

Don’t get me wrong—I venerate artisans, embrace locavorism, and spend as much on the handmade and humble, whether it’s jewelry or goat’s milk cajeta, as any Brooklyn hipster. But I challenge the dichotomy created by a small-is-beautiful, big-is-bad worldview. Companies such as Chipotle, Organic Valley and Whole Foods are showing us that you can mass-produce responsibly, that you can empower all levels of people within a large corporation, and that there’s a huge and growing audience for consciously sourced goods.

In fact, it’s snotty, fallacious and unworkably purist to believe otherwise. If we at People’s Pops can continue to source our fruit from nearby farms, supporting our local ecology and economy, but we are making 100 times more pops than we are making now and they are still as delicious, is that still a good thing?

We think it is.

If we can provide 50 more jobs than we did when we started, but our cherries get pitted by machines rather than by humans, is that still a good thing?

We think it is. (You probably would too, if you’d ever spent entire days pitting cherries by hand while your brain slowly rotted.)

And why do we have to trade profit for satisfaction? If our product is terrific and enough people buy it, we and our employees can be happy and prosperous. Isn’t that good too?

Bring it on, Davidson. Say it loud! We are 21st century capitalists, and proud!!

pitting cherries artisanally

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

People's Pops Vision Quest

As small-business owners, we spend a lot of time scrutinizing and discussing other businesses. What makes walking into Buvette, Do or Dine, or Porsena so heart-warming? What specific elements render the Hotel Saint Cecilia so magical? What puts Costco at the top, and Wal-Mart at the bottom, of employee-happiness rankings, even though they’re in the same business?

One of the organizations I’ve most admired over the course of my biz-ucation is Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which opened thirty or so years ago as a Jewish deli and has now grown into a “community” of 13 businesses (coffee roaster, cheesemaking dairy & publishing house, to name a few), still based in Ann Arbor. These peeps take corporate culture creation to another level, so I read founder Ari Weinzweig’s “A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business” with deep and abiding interest, marking up my copy until it was more ink than paper. Then I sent copies to Dave & Joel.

Last month, having spent enough daiquiri-sipping beach time to have gathered a modicum of perspective on our 2011 season, we got together for a “visioning” exercise that the book describes. Before meeting, we each spent an hour individually painting the most positive shape we could imagine our business morphing into in five or ten years, if everything we did from now til then went absolutely perfectly. Then we shared our visions.

A small business can either run you, or you can run it. There are so many daily fires to fight that years can elapse before you lift your head and take stock of where you’ve ended up. The point of the visioning exercise is to set down goals and chart a course to them, allowing you to move ahead proactively rather than reactively.

To no one’s surprise, our visions matched very closely. Even the three of us had never formally “visioned” together before, we’ve spent enough time discussing and debating our philosophies and dreams for them to have meshed into ones we hold collectively, and our business is very much a child of that. Despite that, it feels really good to set our sights on a landmark ahead, instead of adrift in an infinite sea.

It’s hard work, analyzing who you want to be (and, just as importantly, who you don’t). But that’s what gives organizations like the Saint Cecilia and Zingerman’s their identity, and determines why the people who work there care and love it.

The harder work is still ahead, though: holding ourselves to that vision and executing it.