Steve White is the owner of J Pops a gourmet ice pop company which uses the Food Fort as a commissary for his food cart and kitchen space for production. We have been working with him since late 2012.
What inspired you to start J Pops?
I was living in Atlanta and began to see a trend of gourmet ice pops. I thought it was a great idea and started to play around in the kitchen creating different flavors. But it wasn’t until the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that I decided to make them for real. I had lived in Japan for over 2 years as an English teacher and I fell in love with the country and it’s culture. I felt so hopeless and wanted to do something to help out. I decided to sell the pops to my co-workers and sent all the money raised to the American Red Cross for Japan Relief. Then after much encouragement from my boss I decided I would go into business officially once I moved back to Columbus to be closer to my family.
What inspires your flavor creations?
I get inspired from a variety of things. Sometimes it is as simple as walking around the farmers market or supermarket and seeing what is in season. I then think about what I could pair with that fruit or herb. I also get suggestions from friends.
What is your biggest flavor fail so far?
Well, there have been several. Sometimes it takes 5 or 6 attempts before I get it right. But, the biggest fail I can recall was Caramel Apple. The first attempt was awful! There was also cereal milk. That one didn’t even make it to my taste testers.
Where can people find your pops and your cart?
J-POPS are sold at The Hills Market Downtown and at Celebrate Local in Easton. You can find my cart at Pearl Market on Tuesday and Friday. Easton Farmers Market on Thursday and Worthington Farmers Market on selected Saturdays. Sometimes I pop up in Bexley by Capital University on selected Wednesdays. I will also be at various festivals this summer including Pride Fest and ComFest. The best way to find out where I am going to be is to follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook: myjpops
What did you do to prepare for starting your business?
A lot of research. It was a challenge since I initially I did not have a mentor. I enrolled in classes at the SBDC here in Columbus and was very lucky to get Ariana, my business advisor. She was such a big help in being so supportive and helping guide me along the way to what I needed to do. I honestly had no clue about all that it was going to take to get the business up and running. Between all the licenses and all the regulations it can be very overwhelming. Bob Kramer from the Food Fort helped me with questions about licenses and permits. Everyday is still a learning experience.
What was the biggest obstacle you needed to overcome to get started?
There were so many! It was a challenge finding the cart and molds that I wanted and that took a long time. Besides finding the core items the other obstacle was finding a mentor.
Any advice for new food business owners?
Do your homework. Take advantage of any free resources you can find. Sometimes the best ones are the people near you . Realize that it will take time to get things up and going. I try to look at everything as challenges and not obstacles. There were so many times I wanted to just give up because I thought it would never happen because as soon as I took one foot forward, I would get pushed back two more. It is a lot of work so you really have to want to do it and believe in your product.