Name: Alexia Burke
Business: Izza Pops
Milestone: Eight months in biz!
Location: San Francisco, CA
Founded: September 1, 2017
Alexia Burke never imagined a decision to watch what she ate would change the entire course of her life. But that’s what happened when, after deciding to try the Paleo diet, Alexia started paying careful attention to the ingredients in her food. Struck by how many processed ingredients and “fillers” were in practically everything we consume, Alexia decided she’d had it with all these additives. Homing in on dessert, she started making her own ice cream and popsicles with coconut milk and cashews. One she’d nailed the recipe, she shared her confection with her friend Lisa – who instantly signed on as a business partner. One month later, Alexia became a bona fide small business owner – and she was ready and rarin’ to go.
Izza Pops is a featured vendor at Intuit’s Small Business Week celebration this week in Mountain View, CA, April 30 to May 4.
Alexia, how did you get started as a business owner?
I was working in business development and operational consulting when I had my “aha” moment. First, because I was paying close attention to what I was putting in my body, I realized processed ingredients, stabilizers, sugar alcohols and "protein isolates" were in practically everything we eat. I felt like I shouldn't have to compromise on quality just because I was buying pre-made food.
Second, since I was 27 with no real financial or personal obligations, I realized this was the least risky time in my life for taking a chance and starting my own business. I thought, why NOT me? Why NOT now?
Why did you decide to “disrupt” the popsicle industry?
Ice cream stuck out to me because all the dairy-free options at the grocery store contained ingredients like “guar gum” that I'd never even heard of. I started making my own ice cream at home from coconut milk and cashews and sharing it with friends for feedback. Then I turned the mixture into popsicles so I could make more units at a time. My Cuisinart was small!
I brought some popsicle prototypes to a dinner party at my now co-founder's house. She loved them! Within a month, we’d both quit our jobs to build a company and create a product we couldn't find on the shelves.
Tell us about the mission of your business.
We're providing a whole-food alternative in the dairy-free ice cream space. While the majority of products on shelves contain gums, fillers or processed sweeteners, we believe in using only ingredients you'd find in your home kitchen. Our customers care about the ingredients they choose to put in their bodies, and we do, too!
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned working for yourself?
Prioritization is key. There's only one of you, and, when starting a business, there are almost literally a million things you could be doing at any moment. When you're working for someone else, they're deciding what's most important for you or the company to focus on, so it’s easier to know where to direct your energy. When it's just you (or you and a co-founder), you constantly have to make trade-offs and choose what direction to move in.
Describe a typical day in the life of Izza Pops.
Every day is different. We produce pops in our kitchen in San Mateo twice a week. Those are usually eight-hour days of just making ice cream. When we're not in the kitchen, I'm making sales calls, meeting with investors or working an event. If I'm really lucky, I’m going through email at a café.
What do you love about your work – and what’s difficult?
I love that I get to wake up every morning and build a company with a mission I believe in. There is nothing more rewarding than meeting a customer and hearing how your product has helped them in some way or just made them happy.
I also love making a physical product and selling it in physical stores to real people. It feels very old fashioned, in a great way.
The hard part is feeling that despite all the progress we’ve made thus far, it could just as easily be taken away. Since we’re running a start-up, the pressure is always on to not let this thing we love so much die.
What do you know now that you wish you known when you were starting out in business?
How long everything takes. Someone once told us to expect everything to take double (if you're lucky!) the time and money, and it could not be more true.
What do you hope to gain at Intuit Small Business Week?
Lisa and I are so excited to meet the team at Intuit, connect with fellow small business owners and get feedback on our product!
Alexia, tell us one more thing we haven’t yet asked about.
Here are two things. We named Izza Pops after my beloved grandmother, who inspired our philosophy about food. And my favorite flavor of ice cream is Moose Tracks!
Before you go
QB Community members, which small businesses will you be supporting during Small Business Week?
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