Steven Carse | Crain's Atlanta

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steven Carse


Founded in 2010, King of Pops sells gourmet popsicles from pushcarts that can be found at festivals and events across Atlanta. Since opening, King of Pops has expanded to other cities in the Southeast and bought a farm in Winston to grow ingredients for the all-natural pops. Steven Carse and his brother Nick co-founded the company after seeing similar popsicles during their travels in Latin America.

The Mistake:

When we started King of Pops, our original plan was to have a popsicle shop with a kitchen. That’s what we had seen when we traveled through Latin America.

But I didn’t do my research when putting together the business plan, so we ran into an unplanned expense. In order to have a kitchen where we could make pops, we needed a grease trap. That’s a requirement through the health department if you’re serving food in a restaurant or shop. I didn’t consider the rule because blending fruit for popsicles doesn’t produce grease, so I didn’t realize that we would need a trap to catch grease before it enters the plumbing system.

We estimated the grease trap and installation cost at $8,000, which was most of our money to start King of Pops. It was this panicky moment. I’d set a mental deadline to open April 1, 2010, and raising enough money to cover this kitchen grease trap would mean not opening on time.

Amidst that forced pressure, I decided to change the business model to using popsicle pushcarts instead of a shop with a kitchen. That allowed us to rent a shared kitchen by the hour that already had a grease trap. We made our pops in the kitchen and distributed them to customers with our pushcarts.

We opened King of Pops on time on April 1. Pushcarts weren’t our initial plan, but at the end of the day, it was a better business model. Having multiple pushcarts set us up well to serve our pops at events and festivals. It also allowed us to do catering.

Your initial idea may not always be the best one.

The Lesson:

Plan for the unexpected and be able to recognize that your initial idea may not always be the best one. In the real world, things aren’t going to go exactly as you imagined. The ability to adjust is a necessity, and it pushes you in a positive way. As things happen, they can be better than any intentioned plan.

Don’t imagine that you’re going to figure out every issue before you start. You can analyze and research all you want, but it won’t prepare you for everything that will happen.

There is also a certain point where people overanalyze. The longer you do that, the harder it is to distance yourself from what could be an inferior idea.

Follow King of Pops on Twitter at @kingofpops.

Photo by Cinthya Zuniga.

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