David Greenfeld is the real-life Willy Wonka and founder of Dream Pops, a plant-based sweets company. Here he shares his step-by-step process for food and beverage success.
By Brad Klune
We spent an afternoon with David Greenfeld, who started Dream Pops out of his family’s kitchen while also working an arduous finance job. David saved up his vacation days and launched the company in two weeks, and the rest is sweet, sweet ice cream victory. His plant-based, naturally sweet treats are now available in Whole Foods, Erewhon, Bristol Farms, and more retailers. His advice might just be the cherry on top of your dream business!
Step 1: Find the Big Idea
David’s advice: “Ask what’s missing?”
When you look around at the way you live and the things you love and care about, ask yourself what kind of product would greatly improve your quality of life. What do you wish existed? Bonus points if you belong to a big group of people who feel the same way.
For David, the thing that was missing was a way to satisfy his sweet tooth. “Working long hours in finance, you find yourself craving a little afternoon treat.” And like many children of the ’80s and ’90s, David craved nostalgic confections like Dibs, Dunkaroos, and Gushers. But as a vegan and lactose-intolerant dude, those weren’t options.
So he set out to make a product that had the whimsical, snackable allure of these sweets, but without all the artificial sweeteners and dairy. And so, his dream snack, Dream Pops, was born!
Step 2. Make Your Prototype
“The early days I was literally in my mom’s kitchen making these products.”
So many entrepreneurs agonize over every detail of their prototype, but here are two important things your prototype doesn’t need:
Perfect execution from the get-go. You can and should get used to iterating it with feedback.
Instant scalability to 1 million units.
The most important thing your product does need, however, is to be differentiated in its look and function. David had the vision to build something “equally as beautiful internally as it is externally.” Dream Pops aren’t just delicious, they are architectural, colorful, and unique-looking.
If you’re prototyping a food product, follow his advice:
“Deliver on taste” with simple ingredients.
“Make it look cool” with geometric design and unique packaging that stands out
Step 3. Put your product out there
Unlike other businesses out there, consumer goods really do make for a great side hustle.
David spent a year and a half catering events and hosting pop-ups with brands. Well-known brands like Patron, Soul Cycle, and H&M would pay $5K-$10K for a popsicle event. David would listen for real-time feedback and update his formula.
Did you see the Beats by Dre DreamPops at Coachella?
Step 4. Scale thoughtfully
Don’t get lost in the sauce.
Getting into Target doesn’t make sense right out of the gates. Don’t chase revenue, but consider profitability, product quality, and overall risk.
Some retailers require you to pay “slotting” where you spend $50K to $100K to be on the shelf for eight months. And, as David shares, “if you don’t perform, you’re out.” The risk is massive and can put you out of business before you have the opportunity to flourish.
Instead, find independent grocery stores and regional grocers with 3-10 locations. Find partnerships that like supporting local brands. For Dream Pops, Erewhon and Bristol Farms were the perfect partners. Similarly, Stacy’s Pita Chips started at Berkley Bowl and eventually sold the business to PepsiCo for $250 million.
As demand for your product increases, you’ll have to leave mom’s kitchen!
David tells us, “Don’t be afraid to ask around. Find experts in your field through friends, family, LinkedIn, Google, you name it. Then you can truly find the best contacts for suppliers and factories.”
It’s ok to change the way you build your product, but you must know your non-negotiables. For Dream Pops, they keep several promises to customers: