Sweet on frozen treats? Good Pop aims to please

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS & PERSONAL FINANCE - By Lind­sey Bomnin

‘We’d like to be able to be in gro­cery stores and in­crease in dis­tri­bu­tion but still em­brace our lo­cal mar­ket. It’s an Austin-grown prod­uct, and we see it be­ing an Austin thing.’

Manuel and Laura Flores turned on the TV one Satur­day af­ter­noon two sum­mers ago to watch one of their fa­vorite shows.

This episode of “Mex­ico: One Plate at a Time,” fea­tur­ing chef Rick Bay­less, showed view­ers how to make frozen treats, Mex­i­canstyle.

The Flore­ses were in­stantly re­minded of their child­hood, they said. Both grew up in Texas border cities and made day trips to Mex­ico, where they’d stop at the “pale­te­ria” for frozen treats made from fresh fruit juices and ex­otic fla­vor­ings.

daniel goetz, co-owner of GoodPop

Un­able to find these same fresh pops in Austin, they de­cided to make their own from scratch for their fam­ily and friends.

Two years later, what started as a way to sat­isfy a crav­ing has turned into GoodPop, an Austin com­pany that sells Mex­i­can-style frozen treats in area stores and via tra­di­tional push­carts on the street.

“It’s some­thing we couldn’t find lo­cally,” Manuel Flores said. “We could never find any­thing with­out high-fruc­tose corn syrup.”

The goal, they say, is to fol­low the path of other Austin home­grown food busi­nesses that turned into com­mer­cial suc­cesses.

Con­tin­ued from B5

The cou­ple started out mak­ing “pale­tas” in their home kitchen. Af­ter a month, they re­al­ized they were go­ing to need more room to keep up with the de­mand. Two sum­mers ago, the cou­ple moved their com­pany into com­mer­cial space on North La­mar Boule­vard and ded­i­cated more time to the busi­ness.

Manuel had quit his job as a land­scape ir­ri­ga­tion pro­gram man­ager at the Texas Com­mis­sion on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity to take care of their two chil­dren, and now they were tak­ing on their dream of own­ing a small busi­ness. Laura Flores kept teach­ing third grade at Wal­nut Creek Ele­men­tary.

They gave the com­pany a name, PopSoCools, and used an all-nat­u­ral recipe to con­coct un­usual fla­vors, com­bin­ing un­likely in­gre­di­ents such as pineap­ple and basil or mango and chile.

Last sum­mer, a chance visit from a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­sity of Texas McCombs School of Busi­ness, Daniel Goetz, changed the course — and the face — of the com­pany.

Goetz came into the North La­mar store, their only lo­ca­tion at the time, as a cus­tomer and liked the prod­uct so much, he wanted to take part in the busi­ness’s growth.

“Mango chile is re­ally what got me hooked,” Goetz said. “It’s just un­be­liev­able. It blew my mind.”

“They needed a new brand that was more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the prod­uct they had,” Goetz said. “I wanted to make it an Austin brand. I wanted the peo­ple of Austin to fall in love with the prod­uct.”

Goetz, 23, now a co-owner of the com­pany with a 10 per­cent stake, came up with its cur­rent name and a col­or­ful logo. There’s a Face­book page and a Twit­ter ac­count; a web­site is un­der con­struc­tion.

The com­pany started by mak­ing its pres­ence known at First Thurs­days, the monthly street fair on South Congress Av­enue, and at the orig­i­nal Sun­set Val­ley Farm­ers’ Mar­ket.

“We re­ally did our re­search on busi­nesses like this that didn’t do well,” Manuel Flores said. “We stud­ied why

Is­abella, 6, and Tif­fany Guerra, 8, picked out their fa­vorite Good Pop fla­vors at Zilker Park’s Blues on the Green last month. GoodPop treats come in such ex­otic fla­vors as wa­ter­melon agave and mango chile. The GoodPop name and logo are the hand­i­work of Daniel Goetz, a grad­u­ate of UT’s busi­ness school. they went out of busi­ness and tried not to make those same mis­takes.”

From farm­ers mar­kets, they wanted to work their way up to other lo­cal busi­nesses, such as Whole Foods Mar­ket Inc.

They brought sam­ples to both Austin Whole Foods stores, where man­agers have the lat­i­tude to choose some of the prod­ucts the stores sell. GoodPop’s prod­ucts are now sold at the Whole Foods at the Gate­way shop­ping cen­ter in North­west Austin.

The pops are sold for $2.25 each in more than 20 Austin stores and restau­rants, in­clud­ing Wheatsville Food Co-op, Royal Blue Gro­cery, Austin Java and Wa­hoo’s Fish Tacos. There’s a stand in the park­ing lot of Vinny’s Ten-O-Three Cafe on Barton Springs Road.

This year, the com­pany’s first year op­er­at­ing full time, GoodPop has made about $24,000, which is what it made in to­tal sales from June through De­cem­ber of 2009.

“It would have re­mained a small mom and pop had we not brought in Daniel,” Manuel Flores said. “There’s just no way that we could have reached so quickly the point we are at.”

Manuel Flores and Goetz agreed that they want to build up lo­cal aware­ness of the com­pany, by con­tin­u­ing their push­cart sales at fes­ti­vals, con­certs and other Austin events be­fore map­ping out more am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion plans.

With a pro­duc­tion staff con­sist­ing of the Flore­ses and one other em­ployee, along with two part-time re­tail em­ploy­ees, GoodPop is search­ing for an­other pro­duc­tion space, Manuel Flores said.

“We’d like to be able to be in gro­cery stores and in­crease in dis­tri­bu­tion but still em­brace our lo­cal mar­ket,” Goetz said. “It’s an Austin-grown prod­uct, and we see it be­ing an Austin thing.”

The com­pany’s lo­cal roots, as well as its tasty prod­uct, has helped it at­tract new cus­tomers, in­clud­ing Austin res­i­dent Mandy Reynolds.

“I’d much rather sup­port GoodPop than Baskin-Rob­bins,” Reynolds said. “I mean, it’s all-nat­u­ral.”

Jar­rad Hen­der­son Amer­i­cAn-StAteS­mAn

Laura and Manuel Flores grew up in Texas border cities, eat­ing pale­tas – frozen fruit treats – in Mex­ico. Their com­pany, GoodPop, brings the treat to Aus­tinites hun­gry for cool, healthy snacks.

Jar­rad Hen­der­son pho­tos

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