By Katelyn Gendron|
LONGMEADOW If the Big Bang truly created Earth, then it was a pop that gave birth to Pop Nation.
The pop was the culmination of one person's tiresome job, another's move across the country and one woman's maternity leave, mixed with a love for popsicles, some laughs, tears and beers, according to Longmeadow native and Pop Nation co-founder Sarah Stewart. Sarah, now a resident of Davis, Calif., teamed up with her brother, Tim Stewart, and husband and wife Anne and Mark McGinty to form the business in 2011. Now having outgrown their current facilities, they're hoping a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign, of which they've currently raised approximately $26,200, will help grow their brand.
"Our goal for the Kickstarter campaign is to raise $50,000 by March 13, 2013 at 2 p.m. The additional capital would allow us to move into our own kitchen space where we could increase production, consolidate storage, and transition to a more efficient distribution system," Sarah explained, noting that all of her company's popsicles are vegan and gluten-free.
"Now that we have had a chance to test the market for a year and a half, we are confident that this business has potential to grow well outside our local area and we're ready to take it to the next level. Stores have approached us in hopes of carrying our pops, but it would be difficult, and long term, too costly, to fill and ship multiple large orders from our current kitchen. Simply put: we've outgrown our current kitchen space," she added.
When asked why she and her co-founders believe consumers will choose their product over others in the marketplace, Sarah replied, "Compared to what you might find on a grocery store shelf, there is no comparison. You can taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients in Pop Nation pops. Our Strawberries n' Cream with Basil, even frozen, smells like ripe fresh strawberries with a hint of herbs.
"We use a minimal amount of sweetener in any of our pops, and never use any refined white sugar. We opt for sucanat, coconut palm sugar, and other less refined sweeteners. We use fruit at its peak ripeness. This means we not only get a better price per pound allowing us to stay within our margins and add more of the good stuff, it also means the natural sugars in the fruit are higher and we can cut back on whatever sweetener the recipe calls for," she continued.
After hundreds of hours of recipe and taste tests, Pop Nation currently has 85 flavors ranging from Sea Salted Dark Chocolate to Strawberry Lemonade to Spicy Plum Apricot to Bourbon Peach.
Just because the pops are vegan and gluten-free, that doesn't mean those who don't adhere to dietary restrictions won't enjoy them, Sarah noted. "None of the four of us co-founders are vegan or gluten-free, nor are the majority of our taste testers. This means that our Banana Puddin' or Orange Vanilla Cream have passed the taste test of some of the most discerning, dairy-loving palates," she added.
Sarah said the company's ultimate goal is to expand beyond the current Pop Nation carts and grow beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. "We hope to see our product on the shelves of grocery and specialty stores nationwide. We'd also like to have mobile Pop Nation carts at warm-weather events and summer destinations around the country," she added.
When reflecting on her choice to become a "POP-Cyclist," Sarah said it was a logical one, especially when deciding to take the journey with family and friends.
"Tim and I grew up watching our dad, Bob Stewart Jr., go to work everyday with both his dad, Bob Stewart Sr., and his younger brother, Jim Stewart at Chase Clarke Stewart & Fontana in Springfield, and it made an impression on both of us," she explained. "It's been apparent for as long as I can remember that my dad absolutely loves going work. While I'm sure he has passion for insurance, I know that part of why he loves what he does is because he has been surrounded by people he loves.
"I'm sure there are some siblings who couldn't work together, in fact, I know some! But Tim and I click. We understand each other. The level of trust required to make good decisions and plan for the future has been there from day one. We make each other laugh, and we can call each other out for being fill in the adjective when needed, with no harm done. We both have a genuine desire for the other to succeed, and so there is no question that we'll step up when the other needs help with anything. These qualities, among others, make for the best business partner I could ask for," Sarah continued.
To donate to Pop Nation's Kickstarter campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/352946756/the-pop-nation-is-building-a-commercial-kitchen.
To become a member of Pop Nation, visit the company's website at http://thepopnation.com.
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