Running a Seasonal Food Cart, with the Owners of Rasta Pops

With the summer heat setting in, there’s never been a better time to share how to start a seasonal business. In order to learn what it takes, we chatted with Linda Lewis, the co–founder of Rasta Pops, an insanely successful treat cart she runs with her husband in the summer. She gave us the low-down on how she got her cart rolling (so to speak), how she keeps business moving, and how she stays chill amid the swelter of summer.

Check out the interview below to learn more about this cold and creamy cart (Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Roaming Hunger: Hello Hello! Welcome to the roving world of Roaming Hunger– mind introducing yourself and your business for all the vendors out there?

Linda Lewis: Sure! I am a teacher during the year—I teach kindergarten and preschool. My husband drives Uber during as well as teaching Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. Rasta Pops was born out of our love for the summer and fusion of flavors. Luckily, it also happens to keep us busy in our work’s off season!

Roaming Hunger: Ok, that’s kind of genius if you ask us. How did that concept come to be? 

LL: So the idea to start our business came to us one day when we were walking through our local park here in Bloomington, Indiana. My husband is from Brazil, which is where we met. I have so many great memories of my kids hearing the bell ringing and the call of “Olha o picolé!” or “look at the popsicle” and running to buy a treat. We wondered how lovely it would be to have popsicle vendors in our park, so that’s how the idea started!

Roaming Hunger: Sounds idyllic! How does a seasonal food cart work so well for you? 

LL: Because my husband drives Uber in a college town, his business dries up nearly completely in the summer, when the students are no longer around. As a teacher, summer can be really difficult too; there’s some time I have to squeeze in extra work, though I can’t work on a traditional year-round job in addition to teaching. This is such a great option for us because it is a creative outlet and a way to make money all in one.

Roaming Hunger: We gotta say, it’s no small feat that you do all of this every year. But it’s also a huge feat that you do it all with your partner! I mean, wow! What’s it like running a small business with your husband? 

LL: It can definitely be stressful at times, I can’t lie. It works really well though, at the end of the day, I would say it works so well because you’re able to share the same values and fall back on those. It feels good to build something together and to share the same struggles. We also communicate all the time, which is a huge plus.

Roaming Hunger: Let’s talk all things ‘seasonal business’. I think a lot of people are afraid to take that leap. How did you make the decision? 

LL: Oh, that’s a great question. I would say that, if you’re a person who has a steady, pretty year-round income, that maybe isn’t as high as you’d like, this is a great choice. In my experience, the first couple years won’t make enough just in your season to live off of for the rest of the year. You kind of need something to fall back on. This year, we are making a nice big profit, but it definitely took a while.

RH: What’s something that might surprise us about the way you run your business? 

LL: I am very lucky and proud about this: we started our business with almost zero debt. We purchased a cart and a bunch of molds and were lucky to find an hourly community kitchen. The kitchen was crucial because we didn’t have to meet a certain threshold to pay our rent. It also gave us time to make more of a business plan. Of course, there were issues with electricity going out, and figuring out our supply chain, but now we’ve got it all figured out in a lot of ways. It was also lovely that it worked out this way because we were able to scale back our production a bit during Covid.

RH: Speaking of preparedness, how do you prepare for the summer season?

LL: We are lucky that we know where to go—we do lots of big events on a monthly basis, with other supplements too. Catering is amazing because you only have one exchange of money, so it really just feels like you get to give everyone free popsicles.

But prep isn’t always easy. There’s a month of overlap in between when our season starts and when teaching ends. I usually use my spring break to follow all the paperwork and get all my permits in line. That’s when our insurance renews too, all that kinda stuff. The rest of the preparation is just making the pops, which my husband does a lot of.

RH: Where do you find your inspiration? 

LL: Something that’s silly about the popsicle business is that customers really love their flavors. A lot of them give us suggestions. In all seriousness, we do look at a lot of different international desserts and get inspo from those. My husband is very outgoing and great at manning the cart; we both really enjoy talking to customers. Though we try to push lots of new flavors from different cultures, our best sellers are still Strawberry Lemonade and Mango. We are lucky to have so many very loyal regulars. It’s so gratifying. They’re waiting for our merch to come out soon!

RH: With all this in mind, what is your favorite part about running a business? 

LL: Easy! We’ve been able to do so much networking with our community. I guess it’s something like political action, but to me it feels like supporting communities organically. There was a time when there were a handful of Neo-Nazis at our farmers market selling produce. They made a lot of people feel unsafe, so we got together and formed a new market. This new farmers market has a focus on food security and we got lots of grants. Now organizations can buy food to distribute to people who need it. We’ve also been focusing on going to new neighborhoods and supporting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities with meetups! It means a lot in Indiana.

RH: Holy cow. That’s special. Any other sage advice for vendors? 

LL: I suppose it would be that I recently joined a group on Facebook for artisan ice pop makers. They have great ideas about business models, pricing, and general community organizing. I contribute where I can. I would say that once you find your niche, find others who are doing the same thing and learn from one another! There’s room for everyone to flourish.

RH: It has been incredible for us to learn from you! Talk about a joyful business. We are so proud to support your work! 

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Author: This interview was conducted by Greta Gooding