Andy Talbert is in no way crafty, the Snow Pops co-founder said.
“At all,” he emphasized, eliciting laughter from the crowd at Startland’s “Hustle in the Making” Innovation Exchange. The event — sponsored by Plexpod and Polsinelli — explored the evolving spectrum of startup businesses that could be considered “makers” in modern entrepreneurial culture.
Kansas City-based Snow Pops — a three-flavor line of frozen, alcoholic popsicles for adults — doesn’t fit the traditional mold of makers, said Talbert, noting his role in the creative process lies not in hands-on production of a physical consumable good, but in the strategy that gets it to market.
“I didn’t invent popsicles. I didn’t invent alcohol,” he said. “So, in essence, the innovation is through the lens of building the brand, the idea, the lifestyle, and then scaling it. There’s no opportunity or money in making five popsicles — the money is in making five million popsicles.”
“I personally am not capable of making any popsicles,” Talbert added. “So I definitely can’t make five million [myself].”
Makers typically are considered to be craftspeople who create products by hand or with limited automation, said maker community leaders and panelists Nick Ward-Bopp, co-founder of Maker Village KC, and Katie Mabry van Dieren, curator and owner of Strawberry Swing KC.
Both noted increasing resources for Kansas City makers — such as Maker Village, Hammerspace Community Workshop and the Johnson County Library MakerSpace — as well as an uptick in sales opportunities online and at festivals.
Technology provides for a loosened definition of “maker,” said Carlanda McKinney, co-founder of Raaxo, who joined Talbert and Sean Null, CEO of Erkios Systems, for a panel conversation with Kansas City startup leaders at Innovation Exchange. Her company’s initial product offering uses an online tech platform to design and produce custom-made bras for women.
“You can still have crafts and handmade products,” McKinney said. “But at the end of the day, there’s still a human involved in the process, even if it’s just moving the product from one sewing machine to the next. So I think we can expand what we think ‘maker’ means. You could be making a popsicle or something with technology. Everything grows over time.”
It’s about more than adapting a mindset, Talbert said. Those hoping to scale must create a vision for their company beyond simply meeting capacity to satisfy the needs of today, he said.
“Snow Pops is a Kansas City brand, in that it was born here and grew here, but in a couple years if it’s not nationwide, I didn’t do my job,” Talbert said.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, McKinney added, noting a local stigma against transparently working toward national or global distribution.
“You can make something in Kansas City and sell it in Geneva,” she said with a broad smile.
Check out a photo gallery from Innovation Exchange below.