Utah entrepreneur has customers chilling out with coffee for summer project

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SALT LAKE CITY — On the Fourth of July in Sugar House, it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But people at the neighborhood's holiday arts festival were taking their temperatures down with a coffee on a stick.

"It's good, so delicious," one satisfied customer said.

It's an idea that's been brewing in Darby McDonough's mind for a while now — Coffee Pops. Her creation, she said, is "a latte Popsicle mixing cold brewed coffee, milk, sugar and cream."

Troy D'Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, was impressed with McDonough and her Coffee Pops pitch. "She had all of the elements — kind of how to manufacture it, how to distribute itm and how to market it all put together," D'Ambrosio said.

Turns out that these were all the ingredients to earn McDonough, a graduate student at the U., a coveted spot in the Lassonde Institute's summer Rush to Revenue program.

Just like in college, the pressure has been on McDonough to perform. In this case, the goal is to generate revenue off of the Coffee Pops before the summer semester wraps and students return for fall classes. Lassonde provides the grants and the guidance from local businesses.

Ronni Kennedy of Salt Lake's London Market, 439 E. 900 South, is one of the local business people to step in and give McDonough a helping hand.

It was an easy decision, according to Kennedy: "She told me she was doing the Coffee Pops and could she come and use our space; and I said, 'Absolutely.'"

After all, it's not all tea and crumpets at the market. Kennedy believes her customers like coffee too.

"I mean we're in summer right now, but who doesn't like a nice iced coffee? Then, you get a Popsicle, so it's like you are a kid with a coffee," Kennedy said.

McDonough rents space in the London Market's commercial kitchen to freeze, wrap and label her product, and Kennedy is selling the Coffee Pops at the shop.

"I like working for myself," said McDonough, but she really hasn't had to go it alone on this venture. There has been lots of support from family and friends.

"Four of my six brothers are entrepreneurs," McDonough said. "Three of them are in coffee."

Longtime friend and coffee roaster Mark Wilson of Rimini Coffee helped McDonough find the perfect blend of beans to create her ice pop concentrate.

"And each Popsicle, right now, contains half a cup of coffee," McDonough said. So, at $3 a pop, she thinks the price is reasonable.

"It's the same (price) as a small latte at a coffee shop," she said.

Pricing, adjusting and listening are all part of the entrepreneurial process.

"I've been very encouraged. The feedback has been amazing," McDonough said.

D'Ambrosio never doubted McDonough's ability or willingness to take a gamble on her idea. "Giving students that opportunity to try, but also breaking down the fear to try" is what the Lassonde Institute and Studios are all about.

McDonough agreed and emphasized that "if you have an idea, don't be afraid to pursue it." She suggested getting good advice and support, like her summer "shot in the arm" from the Lassonde Institute.

"If I would have done this just on my own, without the help of Lassonde, I probably wouldn't have been here until next summer. So, it's been great," McDonough said.

On Pioneer Day, McDonough doubled her Fourth of July sales and boosted her brand name recognition while selling Coffee Pops at Liberty Park.


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Sandra Olney


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