It's hot, you're craving something cold and water isn't doing the trick. All you really want is some flavorful ice. The sugar in those water ices and popsicles though is just way too much sometimes - especially for those who work hard to get/keep those beach bodies!
Whimsicle understands the adversity. Not only in seasonal binges or adults dependent on sugar, but for the normal kid who gets googly-eyed over sweets and the health-challenged person whose confectionery options are slim-to-none as well.
The gourmet popsicles are sweet and full of fruit, but don't contain any added sugar. They're a healthy alternative to candied snacks and are becoming instantly recognizable throughout the tri-state area.
Today Salim Weldon and Tonae Simon, founders and co-owners, celebrate two years of business. They've worked with local leaders and a few of entertainment's movers and shakers (most recently Swizz Beats and Lee Daniels), and hope to someday reach Michelle Obama, Oprah, Tyler Perry and others alike who are as invested in the well-being of their community as they are. Below, Salim and I discuss what's made Whimsicle stand out over the past 24 months and how the brand expanded from Philadelphia to nationwide.
Aliya Faust: How'd Whimsicle start?
Salim Weldon: The start date of me officially selling them was July 1, 2012. It was just at a cookout we did, but the original reason why we started was for our son's party. We just wanted to create a wow-factor for them. Everybody at the party loved it. One of my friends was having a party and I called him saying I have something that can create a wow factor for your cookout for years to come, showed him the picture [of a Whimsicle] and he was like, 'whoa, bring it.' I took about 250 and sold them in a hour. We asked people not to put it on social media because we didn't come out as a business yet, but they put it on social media; overnight I went from 500 friends to 1500. After that, people started coming from all over the world.
Did you have a name for them at that point?
Yeah, it was already trademarked.
Where'd the name come from?
We kept everything kid-friendly. You know how people say 'on a whim?' It's magic and fairy.
Tell me a little about the vision behind Whimsicle…
Our main goal is to fight childhood obesity and diabetes. So that's why we don't add any sugar. The main Whimsicle is called fuse-fruit. It's kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, mango and grape. In the summer we add peach because it's a seasonal fruit.
Aside from no added sugar, what are some of the health benefits?
It's natural fruit, so it's natural sugar, and you get all your vitamins. People who are going through chemotherapy need antioxidants in their bodies, so we can base our [product] on that too. Any darker fruit: blueberries, raspberries, any berries that can help. But the key component is the no-added sugar. My grandmother actually passed away Feb. 7 from diabetes and that was another reason why were making them. She was in a nursing home; she wouldn't eat anything. She loved fruit, so I told the nursing home that I made this product and my grandmother loved it. She wouldn't eat anything, but she at a Whimsicle, it didn't raise her sugar level, it didn't drop it. It kept it balanced. They were amazed by that and that's another lane we want to take once we come full-fledge out.
How was the growth after that first surprise 1000 followers? How'd Whimsicle become national and international?
The power of social media. It enables you to have meetings with some of the top celebrities without actually sitting with them. I remember going to Friendly's (restaurant) when I was younger, we used to go there and take a picture that they'd put up on a wall. So I used that same theory. Every time I sold a Whimsicle, I asked the person to take a picture with the Whimsicle, post it and tag me. That gave us foot traffic and helped us grow. Tiff from Bellargo was the first person in Philly that physically let me come into her location and sell Whimsicles and actually buy them from me. I also did it down in Atlanta.
All the community events you're a part of, did the involvement grow out of Whimsicle or were you already doing that stuff?
My background, I work with [mentally challenged] kids. I'm more of like a counselor and mentor, so I also did stuff in the community. I played football for the Northwest Raiders when I was younger and because of Coach Wade Brockington - he was a mentor and like a father-figure to everybody in our area - I wanted to go to school and be a social worker and mentor.
Bloomsburg University, right?
Yeah, I graduated from Bloomsburg with a B.A. in business administration. My major was business management and my minor was social work. I still do both by doing the community outreach stuff and owning my own business.
What's the Whimsicle feedback been like in the city?
Amazing! It's amazing because I just have a fruit product that I made fashionable. I made it cool and I showed people that you don't have to sell drugs or shoot a basketball to get to the top. It's people that are in the NBA that can't get to the people I'm already sitting down in meetings with. But everybody has a plan for each other. In a positive way. I knew Whimsicle was going to take off, but people laughed when I said I sold popsicles. They laughed until they saw [me do] events with Roc Nation, Nike, Reebok and one of the biggest events for the Obama campaign. The feedback is good, but sometimes people do say they're not sweet enough. But they need to know the vision. They need to understand that I don't add any sugar to it, so if you have a tolerance for sugar, you may not like them or you may want more sugar. But we're going to stick to our goals. We're trying to get kids to eat healthy at a young age and just live life better.
What are your long-term goals?
One of our long-term goals is to be at Trader Joes, Wegmans and Whole Foods. The healthy supermarkets. But I also want to be in the school districts and attack the colleges. One day, we will franchise it. I don't physically want a Whimsicle store. You can't walk into a Coca Cola store or a Breyers ice cream store. Eventually one day, when it's a movie, because I feel like it's going to be a movie one day [laughs], I feel like I have the potential to change the popsicle look.
To purchase Whimsicles, visit mywhimsicle.com where all orders shipped overnight. Follow @_whimsicle on Instagram, @mywhimsicle on Twitter and @Whimsicle on Facebook for instant updates.
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