King of Pops: Behind the Curtain (Under the Rainbow Umbrella?)
I started working with King of Pops in January of 2020. We were building out a marketing strategy as they prepared to celebrate their 10th birthday as a company. In that first month or two, they received the Whole Foods Supplier of the Year award, launched new products like Prince of Pops, had a thriving distribution company P10, and prepared for their busiest summer yet. It was all rainbow umbrellas and butterflies.
But then one day a customer called and mentioned this thing called the Coronavirus and said they needed to cancel their event.
You can guess the rest.
In the year and a half that followed, I watched this company do all of the verbs that 2020 required: rally, pivot, innovate, grieve… It was heartbreaking, encouraging, inspiring, thrilling, exhausting ... all of the 2020 adjectives. I’m forever grateful for the wacky experience of navigating a pandemic with a popsicle company.
In addition to my marketing role, I also got to test-run their Neighborhood Partner program, selling pops with my kids in my little town of Norcross.
Throughout the ups and the downs and the many different roles I found myself in, there were a number of consistent themes (ingredients?) that seemed to anchor both the company and my commitment here:
1. UMOHs. Creating Unexpected Moments of Happiness is the company purpose that drives the whimsical and wacky decisions behind the brand. From their quirky flavors to their community involvement, they are always looking for a way to bring happiness when it’s least expected.
Personal highlight: Donating over $30,000 in popsicles to frontline workers last year, and launching Ube-4-U-Bae, a foodie flavor for Valentine’s Day.
2. A family affair. King of Pops was started - and continues to be led - by brothers Steven and Nick Carse. And as they created the Neighborhood Partner program, they learned that a majority of the partners had children involved in the business. Everything about the brand is “family-friendly”.
Personal highlight: My kids selling out within minutes at our neighborhood pool during our first pop-up.
3. Brand recognition - the good kind. Whenever I’d mention working with King of Pops, I’d receive the same excited face and an admission of their favorite flavor. People know and love this brand, which made the Neighborhood Partner biz a breeze to spin up. Working with King of Pops provided instant validity and opportunity.
Personal highlight: Being approached by Sweetgreen as they launched their first Atlanta market, and handing out free pops and salad coupons on their behalf.
4. Visioning. King of Pops introduced me to the idea of visioning: writing a narrative of what an intended future might look like. We wrote visions for our Neighborhood Partner businesses, for King of Pops as a whole (they use their 2030 vision to help make big decisions), and I even wrote a personal vision for my 40th birthday that has similarly helped guide me through personal and professional decisions. I appreciate the way they think for the future beyond just numbers and spreadsheets.
Personal highlight: Sharing our vision narrative with someone we wanted to hire, and hearing that it’s what made them want to work with us!
5. Start-up school. King of Pops follows an Open Book Management framework, sharing data freely with their team. They also seem to have an “open book mindset”, as they so freely share their learnings as well. Working alongside King of Pops taught me so much about an entirely new industry and approach to business, and of course operating my own Neighborhood Partner business allowed me to put those learnings into action.
Personal highlight: Receiving weekly Neighborhood Partner emails from Steven with his insight and advice regarding how best to spend your energy.
Perhaps you are considering hiring King of Pops for an event, or maybe you’re thinking about becoming a Neighborhood Partner and running your own pops biz. Whatever brought you here, I hope that you - like me - can be inspired by the “wholesome ingredients” that makes King of Pops so unique.
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