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All Hail the Popsicle

It's been two years since King of Pops launched, but for the Shiloh High alumni who started the company, it's been one of the best ideas they ever had.

Steven Carse went to college to peddle prose, not popsicles.

For about a year after graduating college in 2006, that's exactly what he did in Idaho Falls. However, a cub reporter's salary doesn't go far when you're having too much fun in nearby Jackson Hole, Wyo.

"I was trying to go skiing all the time, and I was like, for the first time, quickly accruing debt," said the 28-year-old.

One of his brothers was working at insurance giant AIG, so he learned of an opening there. That didn't turn out so well. Less than two years after joining AIG, he was booted -- signs of a shaky economy.

That trendy condo he'd purchased in Inman Park, he could no longer afford. His brother's sofa became his new home.

His mother, , says her son actually interviewed with another large insurance company that would have involved moving to Austin, Texas. That wasn't a good option for the graduate.

"He just decided that's not what he really wanted to do," she said. "He really liked Atlanta, and he really wanted to stay here."

Popsicles on Deck

Thinking through his next steps, Steven Carse thought back to a trip to Central America when he visited his older brother, Ashley. What stood out wasn't the nice weather, but the paletas, or frozen desserts.

There were different ones everywhere they went, and his brother encouraged him to do something with that. The start-up cost would be low. All he needed was a cart, some ingredients and a freezer.

And, in 2010, King of Pops was born. He rolled his first cart of healthy frozen treats to a gas station at the intersection of North and North Highland avenues in April.

"Going from not having a job to something that I could do without a ton of investment was definitely encouraging," Carse said. "I didn't really know it at the time, but I think $2.50 is kind of an affordable luxury as compared to going out to dinner, or something like that.

"People still have to get themselves out of their house to do something, so if they can go on a date for 5 bucks, go get a popsicle, that's a pretty good deal."

In the beginning, he was on his own with the new business, but it was OK. He didn't have many expenses.

"I would make like 40 bucks in a day," he said. "That's pretty easy. That's like selling 15, 20 popsicles, and I'd be all right."

The Popsicle Duo

The first few months were slow, and the "pops" were not the best, but it quickly took off. Steven Carse realized he needed help, and turned first to his brother, Nick, who had previously considered helping launch King of Pops during his own bout of unemployment.

Six months into a new job at the Gwinnett County solicitor's office, Nick Carse gave up what could have been a lucrative and prestigious career for frozen treats on a stick. His parents were not pleased.

"My husband and I were both, 'Oh my gosh, we don’t know if this is a good idea,' but he had already made up his mind," Lib Carse said. "We were a little surprised, but he went ahead, and we didn't say no. Like it would have mattered. He was 28 or 29 or 30 by the time."

Nick Carse, 32, who also graduated from Snellville's , said it came down to living out a dream -- not that he was unhappy with being an attorney.

"That kind of spirit has always been a part of me, like doing my own thing, having your own business, or something to be proud of it instead of working for a big corporation or the government," he said.

"We were both on a trajectory to be in corporate America," Carse added, "so when he became laid off, it was like the one chance we had to make that dream a reality."

Back when they were children, Lib Carse said both Nick and Steven had exhibited signs of entrepreneurship. Nick, at 10, had a candy-selling business from a red wagon for a time, and when Steven was 13, he spruced up old discs from disc golf grounds and sold them on eBay.

Power of Popsicles

So, when the King of Pops idea surfaced, it was not far-fetched for her boys. Still, it was concerning.

"We were very surprised, especially the first year," Lib Carse said. "We were still going, 'How can you make a living making popsicles?' but it became apparent quickly that it was doing well."

Two years later, the business is strong. King of Pops has locations in three major cities: the Atlanta area, Athens and Charleston, S.C. The team regularly shows up at festivals and farmers' markets, and they are also in several retail locations, including Inman Park Market and The business also provides catering.

And, what started with just a handful of flavors has morphed into a long, tasty list of concoctions. Several friends and family have joined the crew. Even their parents are getting in the mix, developing a sister business called LickALots.

The brothers say they don't necessarily have an end goal. They do not plan to take over the world, selling their frozen treats from sea to sea. They just want to do what they're doing now, and do it well -- growing logically so they stay connected to local farmers and their community.

For anyone that wants to be an entrepreneur, Steven Carse offers this advice -- get started.

"Have a lot of faith in what your doing, and know that you can do it already, but just starting to do it even if on a really, really, really small scale is the biggest thing.

"You'll find out that you'll learn so much and then either you'll see that there's a few people who like it, and you're on to something, or else there's nothing really there."

"You're never really going to know everything you need to know," he added. "At some point, you just have to start."

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To learn more about King of Pops, find the business on its website, Facebook and Twitter.

Crystal Huskey April 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM
What a fantastic article! Very inspirational. I've heard so many stories lately of people who have followed their dream and made it happen. It seems like after the economic collapse, people are reevaluating their lives and choosing what they love instead of chasing material things.
Jennifer Silas April 28, 2012 at 02:59 AM
King of Pops was at Gwinnett Center this week during a conference. I tried the Watermelon Mojito flavor. Excellent! What a refreshing idea.

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