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This years hottest treats are the frozen handmade ice pops named Citysticks!
This is a fresh summer start up that just launched its tasty-pop concoctions this July 4th on Rockaway beach. Citysticks is bringing back a desert favorite from childhood, the popsicle, and reintroducing it as a gourmet treat made with all natural ingredients. The wild flavor combinations are attributed to the owner / entrepreneur, Justin Harter’s background as a bar tending mixologist. Sample flavors include: kiwi, vanilla & sage… cucumber lemonade…. mango caipirinha and mojito.
Citysticks is the result of a business degree, mixed with ten years experience in food and beverage, and the drive to see a great idea become a tangible product and company. I caught up with Justin to find out the story behind the pop and how the business is working…
F+B: Where are you manufacturing your popsicles?
Justin: I have a portion of the communal kitchen space at the 97th street concessions in Far Rockaway. It’s an awesome working environment; everyone is really great and loves what they do.
F+B: What is your normal volume? how many do you sell a day? a month?
Justin: Sales depend heavily on the weather. And not just the sun, but the wind and humidity also play a role. Of course weekends are better as there are more people that don’t have to work and venture out to the beach. Sales can range anywhere from 40 – 150 per day, or around 1,000 per month.
F+B: Are you only selling directly or will you be doing wholesale?
Justin: I’m very interested in the wholesale aspect to CITYSTICKS. I envision three outlets: mobile, including beaches, parades, festivals, farmers’ markets; partnering with stationary locations such as restaurants’ outdoor patio spaces and sidewalks; and wholesale to unique retailers. I’ve only recently begun to realistically explore some of these sales opportunities but am very much so looking forward to testing a few of these ideas next summer.
F+B: what made you decide to leave your previous job and set out on this venture?
Justin: One day, while passing out ice pops at an event, I saw how happy people became upon receiving the frozen treat; it was that feeling that reminded me why I worked in the service industry. I thought, why not experience that same feeling every day? It was then that the idea of opening up an ice pop stand began. The project started to become reality upon visiting Rockaway Beach one hot summer day…
F+B: How did you raise capitol?
Justin: The good old-fashioned way. I have been working continuously since I was 15, even while attending business school full time at Fordham University. I’ve always managed to live within my means and save a little on the side. I didn’t have all the answers, and still don’t, so I felt uneasy asking others for money without a solid plan. I suppose I need to figure that out, haha.
F+B: Other than selling directly on the beach, how are you handling customer outreach and marketing?
Justin: In early spring, I hosted a few small parties, gave out samples to friends, and set up an instagram account to get my friends excited about the project. This past month, I launched CITYSTICKS facebook and twitter. Very recently, I e-blasted my first newsletter to the various contacts I’ve acquired over the years and am overwhelmed by the positive response and opportunities it’s presented.
F+B: What are your plans for the future?
Justin: I hope to have a few events lined up this fall, follow the sun to California in January and come back to NYC in March for a strong spring/summer 2013 season. A permanent retail store and kitchen location is being scouted in Manhattan so that I can take advantage of some of the many exciting food driven events in the city. Long term, I’d love to see CITYSTICKS in all major cities. That was after all, a major consideration when I created the brand.
F+B: What is the company philosiphy?
To provide a healthier, refreshing alternative to many frozen treats.
To foster creativity in others.
To educate and make a difference.
F+B: What has been your biggest challenge with starting this business?
Justin: It’s the time old tale of everything takes longer and costs more than expected. And that’s the truth. Specifically to CITYSTICKS, unlike other ice pop companies, as far as I know, I’m the only one using the mold that I do. Of course they were backordered… and the whole frozen thing: transportation and storage nightmares.
F+B: In what way are your popsicles healthier than standard products?
Justin: CITYSTICKS uses only all natural ingredients: whole fruit, fresh herbs and spices, and natural sugar. Just like other juice products, there is always an abundance of “naturally flavored”, “from concentrate” and sugar added products out there. For frozen goods, I always remind myself, if it’s a color that I would have rocked in the 80’s, I probably don’t even need to look at the ingredients to know that this isn’t good for me.
F+B: What products would you say CitySticks resembles in terms of market share?
Justin: Did you catch the August issue of Vogue? There is certainly a trend happening with ice pops. I hope that CITYSTICKS embodies the original concept of good humor, “a frozen drink on a stick”. CITYSTICKS are well-balanced frozen mocktails (and cocktails!) and hopefully you can taste the difference.
To see what Citysticks is all about and try their amazing flavor creations go to Rockaway Beach on the sand, anywhere from B80 to B110, and look for the bright orange bag.