When my friend Steven started talking about quitting his job and opening a popsicle business, I thought he was joking.
It wasn’t until he purchased a used Mexican paleta machine and drove 10 hours to Miami to extricate it from customs, before dragging it into his apartment and plugging it in where his washing machine used to be, that I began to think he might be serious.
Then he actually did the thing that most of us just talk about.
More than a decade later, the business he started is an Atlanta institution and its products can be found in grocery stores throughout the United States. At one point King of Pops employed more than 150 people across seven states.
I was one of them.
Being risk averse, I only joined the business once there was an actual business to join. To me, the idea of starting something like that from scratch was just too daunting.
But during my seven years working alongside Steven and his cofounder (and brother) Nick, I would come to realize that intimidating challenges like this were usually not all that . . . challenging.
When permitting held up the construction of a physical store, Steven quickly pivoted and bought ice cream push carts instead. When people kept wandering into our production facility, asking if they could buy pops, he paid someone to cut a window into our office wall and we took turns selling them directly to passersby. When Nick was frustrated with the distribution company we were using, he simply started his own.
The answer to every challenge was, “Eh, we can probably just figure it out.”
This mantra wasn’t reserved for grand gestures, it applied to minor roadblocks too.
One day a massive whiteboard showed up in our loading dock. I probably walked by it ten times before Steven asked me if I wanted to help him hang it up. I had wrongly assumed we would hire someone to professionally install it, but Steven suggested we “just give it a shot.”
It wasn’t perfect, but 30 minutes later it was up on our wall.
I’ll never forget him saying, “most hard things really aren’t that hard”, as we worked to hang the board.
I didn’t fully realize it while it was happening, but simply being around people with this mindset was infectious. Working with Steven and Nick impacted the way everyone in the company tackled problems and I am certain the experience gave me the confidence to eventually start my own business.
Closely observing people doing seemingly impossible things is demystifying.
The exposure helps us see possibilities—in the world and in ourselves—that we couldn’t see before.
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