Some 20-odd years ago one of our national politicians quoted an African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the case of Carolyn Phillips, owner and chief alchemist of Alchemy Pops, our greater Fort Worth community has helped to launch a sustainable, ”refreshingly enjoyable” business.
On March 31, Carolyn and Alchemy Pops graduated from IDEA Works FW. This is Phillips’ story, which began almost exactly two years ago, and the story of the community that supported her along the way.
Alchemy Pops provides artisan frozen pops that are hand-made from fresh ingredients, and as the seasons change so do the ingredients and available flavors. As Phillips tells everyone, “it is important to us that our customers enjoy a sweet treat made with the freshest ingredients sourced as close to home as possible — many of them from Texas!”
In fall 2015, during the fifth anniversary of Fort Worth’s Business Plan Competition, Alchemy Pops was a finalist, placing second. That placement brought Phillips, in addition to the financial investment from Capital One Bank, numerous services: Scott Sherwin of Sandler Sales provided three months of sales training; Valerie Riefenstahl of The Alternative Board of Fort Worth provided 18 months of placement on a peer board of comparable business owners; Jeremy Burton of Select Interactive provided website consulting; Stevie Dawn of Stevie Dawn Inspires provided two leadership development trainings; and Joe Michaels of Solomon Bruce Consulting provided subsequent business-plan coaching.
Specific to the Guinn Campus, Phillips took advantage of coaching from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) mentors; Tarrant SBDC (Small Business Development Center) financial planning assistance from Cathy Trinh; counseling from BAC (Fort Worth Business Assistance Center) mentor Rose Matthews; marketing guidance from Bruce Raben of Advice; and a variety of services from Phillips’ IDEA Works membership that included access to IDEA Works’ workshops, tools and private coaching sessions facilitated by Hayden Blackburn. IDEA Works’ involvement stemmed from the personal investment of time and funding in Phillips’ IDEA Works’ membership by her fellow IDEA Works graduates Carrie and Stephen Fitzwater, owners of Modern Lantern.
I believe I just counted 12 sources of assistance from the Fort Worth community that enabled Alchemy Pops to grow 400 percent in 12 months. The sales growth in Phillips’ business resulted in Alchemy Pops taking on its first part-time staff, while increasing the use of local contractors. Related to local economic development, the growth in Alchemy Pops – like the growth in a business of any size – has a multiplier impact on the local economy.
So what is next for Alchemy Pops? Well, some very exciting developments.
Phillips is partnering with the Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Clean Slate Program (http://www.journeyhome.org/clean-slate-program), a social enterprise initiative where the social mission of the organization is as important as making a profit. Working closely with Kirsten Ham, director of social enterprise and a Texas Christian University grad like Phillips, Alchemy Pops will use the production kitchen of and have office space in the Clean Slate Program. As part of that partnership, Phillips will train some of the homeless women clients at Presbyterian Night Shelter to produce her pops and related products.
The next stage of growth for Alchemy Pops is the opening of her own retail Pop Shop. The first Pop Shop will open at 411 South Main St. this fall. Other Pop Shops have been and are being identified.
What other new ideas are helping Alchemy Pops grow? One deals with custom pop sticks with the brand or organization name to tailor pop orders to specific clients. Phillips’ first customization for an organization was for the TCU MBA Program at an April 7 event at the Neeley School of Business that was attended by local business executives and prospective students. Served as lunch’s dessert and refreshments throughout the afternoon, the pops were clearly a hit. To learn more about how to “private label” your next dessert for your organization’s corporate event or fundraiser, contact Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Riefenstahl is the director of experiential Learning in the TCU Neeley School of Business’ MBA program. He is a former director in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Services practice and a Global Alliance Director for KPMG Consulting. He and his spouse, Valerie, founded The Alternative Board in Fort Worth. He serves on the board of directors of the Fort Worth BAC Education Foundation. e.riefenstahl @tcu.edu