By Meredith Bethune
Photography by Melanie Grizzel
For Laura and Manuel Flores, perfecting the intricate balance between tangy citrus and sweetened milk for their Orange You Dreamy frozen pop has been one of the easier parts of owning a small business. As parents of two young children, the couple had always pondered business ideas that could create flexibility for their family.
Then in 2008, they began to realize their dream by selling frozen pops at South Congress Avenue’s First Thursdays and at the Barton Creek Farmers Market under the name PopSoCools. Of course, as is the case with many small businesses, there have been a few setbacks, some of them devastating—like a necessary name change for the business. But the couple deeply believes in their product, and their company and positive attitude have persevered. “We really want to be known as Austin’s original, all-natural frozen pop,” says Manuel.
Hailing from opposite ends of the Texas-Mexico border—Manuel from El Paso, Laura from Brownsville—both grew up eating icy paletas (Mexican-style frozen pops) in flavors like lime and coconut. Unable to find comparable pops made only from fresh fruit, sugar and water, they started making their own at home. “Everything that goes into them is natural,” says Laura. “No chemicals, no nothing.”
For the past three years, the Floreses have sold their pops at farmers markets, local retail stores and special events, under the new name Mom & Pops. And even though business is good and demand consistent, they’re choosing to keep the enterprise on the small side. “We’d lose the quality of the product scaling up for supermarkets,” Laura explains. “When we say ‘small batch,’ we mean small batch.”
There are about 20 Mom & Pops flavors that rotate seasonally. “Since we’re moving into fall now, we’ll be doing some flavors like Texas Pecan Pie,” Laura says. The pops are made using pies baked from scratch, with local pecans, that are crumbled into chunks and mixed into a creamy base. Chocolate Peppermint will be available for the holiday season and their Chocolate-Covered Strawberry pop is a big hit for Valentine’s Day.
The couple particularly values using local ingredients—especially those procured from other farmers market vendor pals. They’re currently collaborating on a kombucha pop with the folks from Buddha’s Brew, for instance. “That’s the great thing about working at the farmers market,” says Laura. “You make friends and team up to make good food.” Because of this perk, the couple is committed to staying at the markets no matter how their company evolves. “Starting at the farmers market, and staying there, has been crucial for us as part of this grassroots effort to improve people’s health,” says Manuel.
Since both Manuel and Laura have full-time day jobs outside of the pop business, they recently hired employees to help at the farmers markets and in the kitchen. “We call our team ‘pop stars,’” Laura says with a smile. “We’re ready to start handing off our duties to create jobs.”
Occasionally, customers can spot the Floreses’ children—Catalina, age 8, and Ivan, age 6—greeting at the markets, too. And Ivan has even started experimenting with pops in the kitchen. “He’s been making his own,” Manuel boasts. “He’s a junior popsocologist.”
As for the future, Manuel and Laura dream of laying a foundation for future generations. “We hope that we can pass on our knowledge to them, whether they continue in the business or not,” says Manuel. Ultimately, the Floreses would like to advise other small-business owners just starting out. “We’d like to help people in a similar position,” says Manuel. “We didn’t have huge savings,” Laura adds. “Just a little bit of money.”
Five years later, money still isn’t their focus. Laura emphasizes the importance of staying loyal to their customers by providing a quality product with a friendly touch, and by “doing it in an honest, not greedy, kind of way.” And they’re incredibly thankful to the Austin community for embracing their work. “Something that we created is bringing people joy,” Manuel says. “It’s pretty amazing that we can do that.”
For more information, visit themomandpops.com