A key component of the Concert of Colors Festival is the showcase of local business. I was excited to see that one of the city’s newer businesses, Alegria Pops, would be participating in the event at the BUILD Bazaar. BUILD is a small business program offered through the Detroit welcome center D:hive. I knew I wanted to try a popsicle but I also held out hope for an interview with the business owner, Ofelia Saenz. I got lucky on both fronts. The ice pop I tried was Mango-Coconut and it was fantastic!
How did you get into the Popsicle business?
I knew I wanted to start a food business and I thought popsicle would be a nice way to connect with people in terms of a product that has common ground. My ice pops are based on Paletas which are Mexican. Mexican ice pops are generally fruit based and they come in flavors that are a little less common than what we know as ice pops. I thought Paletas would be a way to introduce something new to people in a form they’re already familiar with.
What is your background?
My background is PR and marketing. I’ve cooked my whole life. I figured if I was going to start a business from scratch it had to be something with food. I’ve been working on these recipes for two years. I knew it would be fun but also a challenge because working with ice pops is like learning to cook all over again because food does not behave the same when you’re freezing it.
I know you’re a graduate from BUILD program. What can you tell me about the organization?
It’s been great. The class itself was tremendously helpful as far as learning how to build my business plan but it goes so far beyond that. They provide networking opportunities. They do activities and workshops. They had a series where once a month there was a panel speaking on a different theme or a different topic. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs that aren’t your typical business person. We’re starting businesses because we are fulfilling something that we were missing at our regular jobs but we didn’t necessarily start out thinking ‘I’m an entrepreneur, I’m going to start a business’ – at least I didn’t. BUILD nurtures a collaborative spirit among its grads. I highly recommend it if anyone is thinking about starting a business to use this as your launching pad.
Have you worked with other small business organizations?
Detroit Cooks is a collective of five women owned businesses. They’re all Detroit based business. Four out of five of us are BUILD grads. That’s another example of how BUILD facilitates the collaborative atmosphere among the entrepreneurial community in Detroit. We cook out of a shared commercial kitchen in Midtown at Hannan House. There is a little cafe area that is attached to the kitchen that will eventually be used to showcase whoever is part of the collective at any given time. The collective is more of an incubator for new food business. And then when a business gets big enough and moves to the next step, it makes room for someone else to come in. I’m really happy to be part of the group.
What’s your long term business plan?
This is my first season actively selling. I started the business late last year but I really only did one even at the end of the season. The business operates as a pop-up right now but when I get to the point that I can settle into a brick and mortar my hope is that I can settle somewhere in Southwest (Detroit).
What’s the most popular seller?
It changes but it’s been Mango Coconut with Mexican chili and salt. I had those at an event last Saturday and they sold out in 15 minutes.
|This is what I want my freezer to look like!|