That’s how it happens: a bit of inspiration here, some number crunching there and — boom, an idea just pops up.
For entrepreneurs Craig and Lori Kinsley, their idea, Pop Culture Pops, has seemingly exploded overnight.
Inspired by gourmet ice pop places like Birmingham’s Steel City Pops, the couple has built a mobile cart and sells homemade frozen treats using only the freshest available ingredients. Their first event was last week’s Fondren’s First Thursday.
“The idea comes from the Latin American ice pop, the paleta,” Craig says. “It is a sneaky, albeit tasty way to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables.”
Craig says their beginnings, just weeks ago, included buying random ingredients to experiment. “We knew we wanted to use organic cane sugar, but the rest depends on what we find at the produce stand,” he explained.
While they’re still trying new recipes, a core of flavors currently includes avocado, banana buttermilk, coconut and strawberry balsamic. Watermelon and sweet potato are decidedly Mississippi varieties. Each one has a signature hint to it, Lori says, like lemon juice or Himalayan salt, to engage the taste buds.
Why a popsicle cart? “I started doing the math and thought, ‘What would it take to make a popsicle?’” Craig wondered. “A lot of people say you have a good eight months for this kind of business in Mississippi. But no, not if we make them good enough. I eat ice cream in January!”
Pop Culture’s cart is a simple one — wood, wheels and a couple of Igloo coolers – built by carpenter neighbor, Anna Hall (she gets free pops for life, Lori says). A pop up camper, purchased on Craigslist for $800, will be customized and used to work weddings, parties and other events. The Kinsleys are also hoping to purchase a blast freezer, which takes freezing time down to just twenty minutes, helpful to ramp up production.
While they hope for a permanent location, either brick and mortar or just a dedicated set-up spot, one thing’s certain: they’ll need a commercial kitchen space to work from since response has been overwhelming. “Our community is absolutely amazing,” Lori says. “We’re so blessed to be living in Fondren and are blown away with the support from Jackson. We’re very much in beta mode, but it’s been great.”
With Craig’s experience in the tech sector (he’s the co-founder of Storytour), he notes the concept of disruptive innovation — one that improves a product in an unexpected way. “I kind of want to do what the cookie cake did for desserts,” he explains. “Imagine a one use ice pack and a cooler full of pops for an office party or kid’s birthday instead of a cake.”
Lori says she and Craig have always been “alternative” as far as jobs go, looking for something exciting in the community, yet still financially beneficial. Craig says Pop Culture seems like a fit. “If this works, we could build a cart and be in Oxford next week. The ability to expand is there.”
UPDATE: On October 24, 2016, Pop Culture announced their closure, saying, “Business ebbs and flows, and at times, it becomes apparent that it is time to end one journey and look towards beginning another. We do have a very exciting new venture in the works. We know that you will all love it just as much if not more than you did our yummy pops.”