At the Xerocon event of last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Steven Carse, who co-founded King of Pops with his brother. And what started as a business of popsickle natural ingredients with a single basket in 2010 has become a business employing more than 250 people spread across eight cities in five states.
Steven m told how his dismissal allowed him to discover his business opportunity, how important the importance of getting involved in the community is essential to understanding the customers and how an employee who brings his ukulele to work with him is a good choice for the company.
Here is a transcript of our conversation. To hear the entire interview, watch the video below or click on the built-in SoundCloud player.
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Small Business Trends: Tell everyone what you're doing. Is King of Pops.
Steven Carse : King of Pops is a popsicle company, but we think it's a much better product. Instead of artificial flavors and different bright colors, these are real fruits, interesting combinations. We try to bring it to people in a fun way, so we are in town in many events where you will actually be, and we also do a lot of catering, as if you are organizing a party for your office, or things like that.
Small Business Trends: Did you start this business with your brother?
Steven Carse : Yes, in 2010, I had just been fired from my job in the business world and I had fallen in love from this idea with my other brother who is an anthropologist, and I visited with him in Latin America and Mexico and Panama throughout the university. That 's what I would do for my vacations, I would go where he was. He turned me on the paleta, which is the Spanish word for popsicle. I fell in love with this product at the university when I did not really think about it anymore. Then, when I was looking for something new to do, it made sense, like why not try to do that? Then my brother, Nick, who is my business partner, he was a lawyer at the time, and he loved, but he did not like that. We decided to go together.
Small Business Trends: What makes the Popsicle flavor different than the one you usually get in the United States?
Steven Carse : It would act very simple ingredients, but seasonal and, hopefully, local. It's not going to be so sweet, so there might be an added sweetener, but it's not going to be great, super sweet. No artificial dyes or anything like that. Then interesting combinations of flavors, so that you can certainly get raspberry lemon or strawberry lemonade, but we also do more interesting things, like ginger lemonade with blackberries or a mint of grapefruit or basil mandarin.
Small Business Trends: I've had one today. It was good, by the way. Tell us a bit about the business model, because it's really fascinating to know how you settle down and how you move where people are.
Steven Carse : We started as a pop company with a single stroller about three feet by two at the corner of a street in Atlanta. This just happened because we did not have enough money to launch a brick and mortar. It was a very good blessing because instead of being tied to this one place, we could go wherever people were. We quickly discovered how to find events around the city and grew up in three different ways. We do a lot of B2C, so we sell directly to people a lot, we do a lot of B2B where we sell to companies, and they'll give it to people maybe in activation or something like that, and then we'll also sell in Whole Foods and the angle of the grocery store.
What started out as a fairly simple affair, I mean it's always simple, everything is as complicated or as simple as you want to do it, but it was very entertaining. We added chains. We now have a farm in the west of the city where we produce a lot of our own ingredients. We have a distribution company where we distribute our own product with other similar food brands from the South. Then we have also recently started the King of Pops bars where we serve "poptails", so the ice lollipops go very well with the cocktails. Instead of having your ice cream in there and it's going to dilute the drink, you put a popsicle in it and that can enhance the drink. It was fun. Every year, it's something new.
Small Business Trends: How do you manage with your customers, people who end up buying a pop on the street, so to speak? How do you stay connected and start building a relationship around this?
Steven Carse : We start by hiring people who, in our opinion, would be interested in talking to the cart. There is so much competition in social media and newsletters and all these places, and we are doing all that. You have to do them, so that's one way to do it. We try to be very active in the community by organizing events, so we have a yoga event in each of the cities where we are between 200 and 700 people a week. We have a racing club. We will have different events throughout the year. We keep our community engaged through these events, in addition to all the other stuff. Social media is super important. This is how you can keep people always aware of what you are doing and keep the conversation going. We really like person-to-person contact.
Small Business Trends: You mentioned that in many cases you determine where you are going to settle for the day, and then you have to let people know, "Hey, we are here. "
Steven Carse : Yes, of course. When we started in 2010, we were just posting a picture of our menu on Twitter, that's where we are, and social media was pretty innovative where people were excited. They are like, "I can finally use Twitter for something." They would go find us. Now it's so busy, so if you just display a photo of your menu, no one will see it unless there's an associated story, so we're always looking for cool stories and stories. things that people will be interested in finding. That's the key.
Small Business Trends: You also mentioned that your employees need to have some type of mindset and awareness to make it work.
Steven Carse : Yes, our expectations are a little different. You think of Chick-fil-a, they are like the gold standard of this great service, or like a fast food restaurant, but their role is to adapt to a mold. What I'm really proud of with our company is that there are expectations if you go to a certain place where you can not wear a tank top or whatever, but you can definitely be yourself. and it is advisable to bring what you want. interested in this world. It's a pretty free stream. It sounds like cliché, but there is a guy who brings his ukulele to the basket and plays it. It's just that kind of atmosphere, where it's just laid back. People can have fun. I think that when they are having fun and that they are themselves, that really translates.
Small Business Trends: You mentioned that you had over 250 people working in different places where you are. How do you manage? How do you follow that?
Steven Carse : This is complicated. We use good planning software. On top of that, there are many ways to do it now, but we use a product called Office Vibe that gives them the opportunity to anonymously answer a bunch of questions. It's a good learning. People say what bothers them, as the stool is not comfortable. Ok, you might not have heard if we did not listen to him.
It's hard. This is definitely the most difficult part. Managing people is just a quotient of how much you care. The more you care about people, the more difficult it is, because it's easy to say, "Go do that." If you want to do something that they care about at least, I do not worry about it. illusion that everyone in the door wants it to be their career, and da da da da da, and that's good. That 's how it should be, but you really have to spend a lot of time and energy taking care of people.
Small Business Trends: You mentioned that you have been using Xero for about four years now. How does using something like Xero help you grow the business as it is today?
Steven Carse : A little of what I have talked about all the while, is that we opened up new businesses. We started with one city, now it's King of Pops Atlanta, then we opened a new account, King of Pops Charlotte, and it's a new affair. He has a new series of books. Each entity, we have about 10 or 11 different entities, are all on a different Xero, I do not know, account, whatever, and they talk to each other really well. It works really well for us. This has been an easy way for us to adapt and always be in touch. You can pull your phone and watch things. We use quotes in billing for all of our restaurant business, and some features and visibility of whether people have seen a quote or seen something, it's certainly helpful.
Small Business Trends: Cool. What are the plans for the future? Will you go to other cities?
Steven Carse : Yes, our vision is to stay in the South. We want to be a kind of local influencer in the South and we want to be close to the people we serve. That's where we come from. We do not have big plans to go abroad or anything. There is still plenty of room to grow in the South. There is still plenty of room to grow in Atlanta. It's a big city. We even fight to hit everyone there.
The plans keep growing. We do not go looking for VC money or anything, but we continue to grow by 10% to 20% a year. We have just signed up with the stadium, so we are at SunTrust Park, and we are at Greenville Drive, and we are at Nashville Sounds, so we really like the idea of being … c & # 39; is just another way to interact directly with the consumer. We normally have a rainbow umbrella on our carts, but we wear rainbow umbrella hats for guys who get on and off the stands, so it's fun. There is a lot of room for growth there, and I mentioned it earlier, we are opening very small bars, but where we can take care of your children by offering them a soft drink and then, if you want a cocktail or a beer, you could.
Trends in Small Business: Nice .
Steven Carse : This is not like the place where you would drown your sorrows. It's rather the place, it's a fun, optimistic and bright place.
Trends Relating to Small Businesses: I Love Cheers .
Steven Carse : We will be there. We are going to open some of them over the next few years, and it's a great exciting thing, a step for us.
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This is part of the series of one-on-one interviews with opinion leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the built-in player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.