If you happen to run into a King of Pops
cart in Atlanta or the Carolinas, don't feel guilty about stopping and grabbing a frozen treat.
The King of Pops' handcrafted popsicles are made with seasonal (when possible), fresh, natural ingredients and the manufacturing process is environmentally responsible.
A little more than one year old, King of Pops, run by former insurance man Steven Carse (with a little help from friends and family), is a successful business venture. What started as one cart on a street corner in Atlanta quickly grew into a dozen carts in various Southern states as customers clamored for fresh combinations like blueberry watermelon, cucumber jalapeño and strawberry lavender.
I had the opportunity to ask Steven Carse a few questions about his thriving business that offers seasonal and year-round ice pop flavors
that, as you can see from the few listed above, go way beyond cherry, grape or orange.
MNN: The King of Pops story is one of taking the lemons that the current economy is handing out and turning them into lemon basil ice pops. Tell us about how King of Pops began.
Steven Carse: It started in 2010. I had lost my job and wasn't excited to jump back into insurance. This was an idea my brothers and I had talked about, and it just seemed like the timing was right for me to give it a shot.
You’ve been in operation for just over a year now and have had enormous growth. How many pop carts do you have now and where are they located?
We have regular carts at four locations in Atlanta, and then a handful more that go around to farmers markets and various events. We also started selling in Athens, Asheville (N.C.) and Charleston (S.C.). In total we have a dozen.
One thing I’ve noticed with most food cart vendors is that the successful ones are savvy about social media. How important are Facebook and Twitter in communicating with your customers?
Social media is vital for us. We have the opposite of an extravagant advertising budget, so we rely on word of mouth and social media to connect with our customers.
Looking down your list of almost 150 flavors, my mouth waters over combinations like chocolate sea salt, pear vanilla or strawberry rhubarb, but I can’t see my children choosing those flavors. Is there a definite difference between what kids’ favorite flavors are and what adults’ favorite flavors are?
I think that changes as they get more comfortable with us. In the end, it's on the parents. Sometimes they lead them to a safe choice, but I love it when the parents let their kid get whatever they want. More often than not, they like it, and the kids kind of wear it as a badge of honor. If you go to Springdale Elementary, which is just down the street, they are crazy for some chocolate sea salt.
I noticed on the website that you give customers the option to suggest a flavor. What’s the best flavor combination you offer that was customer-inspired?
I think most customer suggestions make their way into our subconscious, and they are recreated in some way that they might not immediately recognize. I will say chocolate sea salt was the recommendation of my oldest brother’s girlfriend.
What’s your favorite flavor combination?
Tangerine basil. This is a tough question, but if we are able to get some really good basil and some tasty tangerines, I don't think this one can be beat. If you want a close second, it would have to be banana puddin'.
King of Pop’s stated mission is “to provide an ecologically responsible, fresh, all-natural frozen treat in a fun neighborhood environment.” The ingredients that go into the pops are obviously a big part of that, but how else is your operation ecologically responsible
We compost all of our fruit waste and recycle the bulk of our other waste. We pay a lot of attention to what gets thrown out, and strive to put out less than one bag of trash per week.