BRISTOL — They’ve learned about saffron, food presentation and how to judge the quality of chocolate all while also learning the basics of supply and demand.
They’re students involved in a non-profit organization started last fall by sixth-grader Saleem Al-Azawi to raise money to build a playground in Bristol Mobile Village.
Though he does live in the mobile park, Saleem, a sixth-grader, said that he wanted to build the park more for his younger sisters and for other kids who live there.
With help from a few school staff members, Saleem created a non-profit organization called Philanthropy on a Shoestring, complete with a logo, president and other positions.
To raise money for the playground, the students decided to make and sell cake pops cake mixed with frosting and covered with chocolate or candy coating on a lollipop stick. The group named them Posse Pops, not only because of the posse of students creating them, but also as an acronym for Philanthropy on a Shoestring Student Entrepreneurs.
“We were thinking of something that everyone likes,” Saleem, president of Philanthropy on a Shoestring, said in an interview. They first thought about making cupcakes. “But we wanted to make something more stylish.”
“And unique,” added Evelin Calderon, secretary of the organization.
In just a few months, the business has taken great strides.
The group acquired the necessary permits from the health department and sold 4,000 pops this winter at Bristol Elementary alone. They’re now set to provide Posse Pops at a wedding in March, and other engaged couples have contacted the company about helping cater their weddings. Sixth-grader Emily Turner, Philanthropy’s resource officer, has designed clay models of Posse Pops for displays, and crafted a clay charm of Philanthropy on a Shoestring’s logo of a cupcake atop a shoe. Once more are made, those may be sold to raise money as well. Representatives from a few local businesses have also talked to the group about different aspects of business.
Students said Thursday the way the business is growing and moving is exciting.
“But it’s also a lot of hard work,” Saleem said.
The group has developed business plans, figuring out price margins and looking at what can be outsourced, and gone far beyond boxed cake mix flavors. Zach Lucchese of Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant in Elkhart has worked with the kids, helping them develop flavors and teaching them how to make cake pops, as well as giving some business advice.
“Really, I think the most fascinating thing for me has been their pallets,” said Lucchese. “Their pallets are much more advanced that you’d think.”
The group has narrowed down their menu to five Posse Pops including the “Red Velvet Pomegranate Rocker” and the “Chocolate Lime Caramel Crawler.” The original 10 flavors included “Black Raspberry Basil Bridge” and “Mint Chocolate Merry-go-Round.”
Other current flavors include “Strawberry Slide,” “Recess Peanut Butter Chocolate” and “S’mores Swings.” Each Posse Pop flavor has a piece of playground equipment in its name, going along with the group’s goals to buy playground equipment.
The menu is always changing, though.
At the group’s business meeting Thursday, they unveiled an Italian Orange Spice Cake flavor that will be featured at a wine tasting at Lucchese’s, as well as become the official Pirate Pop, since it’s coating and orange sprinkles are close to Bristol Elementary’s school colors of orange and black. They’ve also got ideas for producing pie pops, pretzel pops and a savory pop that woudl include goat cheese, fig and onion. The group has talked to Lucchese about possibly using saffron in a cake pop and Saleem said he would also like to try developing soda-flavored pops for the summer, such as root beer and orange creme.
Emily, who as resource officer is in charge of shopping and locating other ingredients, said that she lives near a playground, which is part of why she wanted to help out.
“I thought it’d be really great to give the kids at Bristol Mobile Village a place to play,” she said.
The charter members of Philanthropy on a Shoestring are all sixth-graders and will move onto middle school next year, but the group is recruiting fifth-graders now to join them and continue the work. They also hope to establish a middle school chapter of the group too.
Posse Pops are available at Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant in Elkhart, Stone Soup Emporium in Bristol, and online at possepops.org.