Featured Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Feature: PAMELA BEARDSLEE

Meet Garden State Kitchen member Pamela Beardslee, the entrepreneur behind Puras Paletas, a gourmet ice pop company focusing on pure ingredients. Here’s her story.

Puras Paletas – Gourmet Ice Pops Loaded with Latin Flavor

Coming up with the concept for her artisan ice pops, Pamela leaned on her roots. “I have the culture and passion in me,” Pamela says. Having spent the first five years of her life in Chile, she speaks Spanish. She also married a man from Costa Rica. “I didn’t want to go the traditional American route. I wanted to express our heritage and background, to have a little Latin flare out there to spice up everything else.”

The name Puras Paletas comes from “pura vida,” a popular phrase in Costa Rica that Pamela learned about from her husband. While the literal translation from Spanish is “pure life,” she says it means so much more than that. Pura vida is a phrase that can be used as a greeting or an affirmation, a flexible, all-purpose answer to many of life’s questions. “These are words of positivity that everyone in the country says to each other all the time,” she explains. “I took the ‘pure’ – puras – and added paletas, the Spanish word for ice pops and got Puras Paletas.”

A Focus on Whole Ingredients & Holistic Values

Pamela takes pride in her frozen treats, using only ingredients she would be comfortable serving to her own family. “I’ve always been a natural kind of eater,” Pamela says. “I like to eat clean.” She reads food labels and is a member of the Holistic Moms Network, values she incorporates into her business.

Her paletas are a blend of fresh fruit and whole ingredients, made without preservatives, chemicals or additives. Hibiscus berry is a popular flavor, along with strawberry, and a coconut version made with fresh shavings of the fruit in the center. She sources organic, local or fair trade when possible, and avoids peanuts, dairy and other common allergens. “I want to accommodate the food allergy community as much as possible,” she explains. “I want my customers to feel like they can finally go to a carnival and have a treat that’s not dangerous so they can enjoy themselves and have fun.”

She’s On a Mission to Help Others Eat More Healthy Food

One of her long-term goals is use her products to educate families about the benefits of healthy eating and living. “If I can help in any way, or just steer people in a healthier direction, I will be happy,” she says.

Pamela also enjoys seeing her customers savor her popsicles. “I love to see people’s reactions to the paletas,” she says. “When the kids bite into my chocolate and banana and they smear it all over their faces and they’re licking their hands, it’s great. It’s only organic cocoa and bananas that they’re eating. It’s good for them and they really like it. No carrageenan, which is a thickener, or anything else is added.”

Going a step further, her banana fudge recipe features a brand of chocolate free from 12 of the most prominent allergens. “I already have a 10 year-old girl who looks forward to seeing me at events because she knows that she’s allowed to eat it,” Pamela says. “She’s allergic to peanuts.”

DIY Inspiration & the Ice Cream Truck

Two things inspired Puras Paletas: her son’s food sensitivities and the neighborhood ice cream truck. Pamela says she felt conflicted whenever the truck appeared at the playground because she wanted to give her kids a treat, but she didn’t want to feed them food with artificial ingredients or a lot of sugar. “My friends and I would be like ‘Oh no, here it comes’,” she says. She would try to dissuade her kids, but sometimes caved so they could feel like they fit in with the others. “I would think to myself ‘I wish there was something better.’ I would dive at that truck in a heartbeat on a hot summer day if there was.” Since there wasn’t, she decided to make her own.

While it was the ice cream truck that got her started making paletas for friends and family, it was a tragedy that pushed her to evolve into a business. After an electrical fire forced her and her family from their home during winter storm Quinn in March 2018, she turned to her husband and said: “You know what? Life is too short. This is a scary dream of mine, but let’s just go for it. Let’s do it.” And so, they did.

Starting to Sell & Scaling Up

Her first time out as a vendor, Pamela set up her cart outside of Redwood Elementary School in West Orange. Her paletas were an instant hit. “They were just so appreciative and happy,” she says of the kids and parents who indulged in her guilt-free treats.

Soon after, she joined Garden State Kitchen and started blending large batches in the commercial setting. Her popsicles stand ready in the walk-in freezer for festivals, farmers markets, wholesale orders and special events. She also won an Instagram contest, gaining admission to one of the kitchen’s professional development workshops on DIY food styling and photography. “I never win anything – that was so exciting,” she says. “Normally I just go to auto and hit click so it was nice to learn.”

It’s a Family Affair: Balancing Entrepreneurship & Parenting

Years ago, Pamela and her husband agreed that she would stay at home with their children. Now that her youngest is in kindergarten, she’s finding time to grow her business, but it’s still a balancing act. Puras Paletas happens in her rented commercial space, but still she keeps an extra chest freezer stocked with ice pops in their bedroom. The whole household stays involved. “They are my official tasters – and they will tell you what they think,” she says laughing. Her kids love celebrating birthdays and milestones with paletas, and she likes feeling supported by her family.

With each event, Pamela says she learns something new or figures out a better way to work. She’s constantly networking and is part of a group for artisan ice pop makers all over the world. Hearing insights from businesses in different stages of development from South America to India to California is very helpful.

What’s Next for Puras Paletas?

While Pamela says she doesn’t need to totally dominate the world of frozen desserts, her dreams are still evolving. She wants enough success to live comfortably and she’d like to wholesale her products to the Turtleback Zoo. Her sweets could also be a healthier option for local schools and community pools. In addition, she’s developing a line of alcohol-infused ice pops perfect for catering gigs and adult events. “I’d love to make a household name for myself and for people to get to know a Latin American brand name,” she says. “I would love for people to shout out ‘Pura Vida!’ to me on the street.”

Where to Find Pamela & Puras Paletas

Find Puras Paletas at festivals and farmers markets around New Jersey. Wholesale or special events orders can be placed through her website www.puraspaletas.com. Follow Puras Paletas on Instagram or Facebook and see where Pamela will be next.

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