By Kathy Mak
When most kids are playing and vacationing during their summer break, Jonah Daniels is pursuing his dream of building and running his artisan food business. He is the precocious 13-year-old founder and kidpreneur behind Rebel Pops which are 100% all natural, healthy, homemade, whole fruit popsicles or ice pops made from the finest organic and wild ingredients that are mostly harvested by Jonah and his family. His Rebel team of five family members, based in the Lower Mainland, includes his mom, Roxayn, (ice pops designer) and dad, Jamey.
Now in his 3rd year of business, Jonah’s company produces and sells over 80 licklicious handcrafted popsicle flavours. They are primarily sold at the White Rock Farmers Market, Granville Island Farmers Market, and a few other markets from early spring to fall, and are also available for special or custom orders. Rebel Pops are $3.50 for individual ice pops and a “Favorite 5” pack is $15.
Get to know Rebel Pops in our recent conversation with Jonah and Roxayn:
KM: What inspired you to make 100% all natural ice pops as a business?
Jonah: When I was in Grade 5 doing research for a project on kid entrepreneurs, I found lots of examples of kids who had their own successful business. This is what inspired me to start my own business. The hardest part was coming up with a really good idea and I thought about it for a long time. One day I was eating one of our delicious homemade organic fruit popsicles and I suddenly realized that I could turn them into a great business.
How did you come up with the name Rebel Pops?
Jonah: Well my mom sometimes joked about us being food rebels since we eat mostly organic and grow and make a lot of our own food. She calls it “joyously rebelling against processed & fast foods loaded with chemicals and GMOs!” About 5 years ago my mom and dad decided to make our kitchen GMO free as well. I thought Rebel Pops would be a great name for my business, and out of all the business names I thought of, everyone liked this one the best.
Why is organic important to you and your family?
Jonah: My mom is a certified nutritionist so I grew up eating very healthy foods like green smoothies and lots of fruit and vegetables. I don’t eat much processed or fast food. I haven’t really thought about why it’s important to me to eat organic, it’s just the way it has always been.
How are Rebel Pops different from other local artisan popsicles?
Jonah: We use only the best quality ingredients in our pops. We use mostly organic. We even pick a lot (about half) of the fruit ourselves from local organic farms or out in the wild or we buy it from organic farms in B.C. so we know how it is grown and where it is grown. We grow some of the fruit and vegetables ourselves, and almost all of the herbs and edible flowers. And we also create a lot of own unique flavours that you won’t find anywhere else such as huckleberry wild rose & yogurt, bumbleberry & lemon cheesecake, and many others. We even have sugar-free fruit and veggie pops like pineapple wheatgrass.
Roxayn: The only things we pick that are truly wild are huckleberries, blackberries, blackberry leaf and wild roses.
How much fruit is in a popsicle?
Roxayn: Our ice pops are not juice pops. We actually use the whole fruit in the pops so they have all the nutrients and fibre. Each flavour is different but there is about 2/3 of a serving of fruit on average in one of the fruit popsicles. Our sugar free fruit and vegetable pops like “power-up”, “glow”, and “refresh” have more.
What inspires the flavours or flavour combinations?
Roxayn: Inspiration for ice pop flavours can come from many different places, a favorite jam we have made in the past, or a drink we try in a restaurant or see on a menu, or an interesting dessert recipe. With a lot of experience cooking, I have a good idea of what flavour combinations will be good. But there is still a lot of experimenting involved and sometimes we have to tweak a recipe several times before we get it just right and we all think it’s good enough to bring to market!
How are the popsicles made?
Roxayn: We make so many different popsicle flavours and each is made a little differently. For some of our flavours, we roast the fruit to bring out the full flavour potential before it is blended. Some pops are made with raw fruit. For the most part, we use the whole fruit in the pops but for some of our flavours, we also add in some freshly juiced ingredients. We use small amount of sweeteners such as organic raw cane sugar, or sometimes honey or maple syrup, coconut sugar or a pinch of pure monkfruit sweetener or stevia depending upon the flavour. Some flavours contain organic simple syrups infused with spices, fresh herbs, or edible flowers. Once all of our ingredients are blended, they are poured into molds and frozen in our popsicle machine that freezes them at super cold temperatures in about 25 minutes. The fast freezing process we are now using makes the best ice pops and makes a big difference to the final texture of the pops.
To make our product in the way that we, taking ingredients from farm to stick is a very time consuming and labour intensive process, but we enjoy the process and think the results are worth it!
Do you have sugar free, vegan and dairy free versions?
Roxayn: We usually bring 10-12 different flavours at each market, with a variety of fruity pops (vegan/dairy free flavours), some that are more creamy/dessert-like (these include some local organic dairy from Avalon, such as cream or yogurt), and 1 or 2 of our sugar-free flavours for health foodies and people who are avoiding sugar.
What are your top selling popsicle flavours this summer?
Jonah: Our flavours change from week to week at the markets so it’s hard to say. But some fan favorites are definitely bumbleberry & lemon cheesecake, all of our chocolate flavours, toasted coconut, and some of the fruity pops like roasted peach and strawberry watermelon hibiscus.
What are your personal favourite flavours?
Jonah: Lemon buttermilk, huckleberry wild rose & yogurt and real mint chocolate are my 3 favorites.
Are your customers mainly kids or adults?
Jonah: Our customers are all ages. When I first started Rebel Pops I thought most of my customers would be kids. But it turns out that adults like our popsicles just as much!
Do you run the business on your own?
Jonah: The business has grown to a point where it can’t be done by one person. I was lucky that I chose a business idea that the whole family is excited to help out with. My mom does most of the experimenting with new flavours and makes the pops, my dad manages the equipment and does most of the setup and take-down at markets, my brothers and sisters sometimes help with sales at busy markets, and everyone helps to pick and process fruit. But I’m involved in almost all aspects of the business including some of the accounting, banking and marketing, doing some of the artwork for our table, stamping sticks, picking fruit, packaging, doing presentations at schools and for special groups, and I do most of the customer service at markets.
What is the most surprising part about starting and running your own business?
Jonah: To be honest, at the beginning, the reason I wanted a business was just to make a lot of money. But the most surprising thing to me was that making money did not even end up being my favorite part! I was also surprised at how much I have learned from having my own business.
What is the most fun part of being an entrepreneur?
Jonah: My favorite part is running the table at the markets and meeting so many great people. It’s also really cool to make people smile and to see everybody’s reactions when they try their very first bite of a Rebel Pop. I like that even something like a kid’s popsicle business can make a positive difference in the community.
What is the greatest challenge in your business?
Jonah: Trying to figure out how to take the business to the next level and produce more pops.
Do you have plans to grow and expand Rebel Pops?
Jonah: People always ask me if Rebel Pops are in stores but right now we can barely make them fast enough to sell at our markets! We’re trying to figure out ways that we could make a lot more pops without losing the special quality that comes from hand making them in small batches.
Where would you like Rebel Pops to be in five years?
Jonah: Within the next 5 years, I would like to have more employees, get some bicycle carts, and also be at more farmers markets and events. For that to happen we first need to have a bigger commercial kitchen to make the pops.
What is the best part of being a kidpreneur?
Jonah: The best part about being a kid entrepreneur is being able to learn so many things that you wouldn’t normally learn in school. When I first started Rebel Pops, I didn’t even know the difference between gross and net sales, but in just 3 years of having my own business I can’t believe how much I have learned. I have learned how to do things like accounting, finding the best quality ingredients, different ways of marketing a business, and what great customer service really works. I have learned a lot about money management and even donate 10% of what I earn to buy fruit trees and seeds for hungry people in other countries. And I have learned how to overcome obstacles and setbacks (there have been a lot) and to never give up when things get hard or don’t turn out the way I wanted.
What is your advice to other aspiring kidpreneurs?
Jonah: If you’re a kid, you’ll probably need some extra support or mentors to help you at least get started with a first business. I was in Grade 5 when I started my business and once I had my great idea, I wouldn’t have even known where to begin without the help of my parents. But by creating a business together with other people in my family I ended up learning a ton. If you’re a kid with a good business idea, you should give it a try. You will be amazed at what a kid can do and all the different things you will learn!