Last week, the national organization Black Girls Code launched a chapter in Miami and will be bringing its national curricula of technology education to its target market of girls of color ages 7 to 17. Kimberly Bryant, executive director of the nonprofit, said South Florida had Felecia Hatcher to thank for that.
Although several organizations were involved in the launch, “Felecia was the connector, the person that made this all happen,” said Bryant.
It’s hard to know where Hatcher, co-founder and “chief popsicle” of Feverish Pops, a frequent public speaker and the author of two books, finds the time for what she calls her “passion projects,” mainly involving exposing young people to technology and entrepreneurship, but she does. Besides helping to bring Black Girls Code here, Hatcher, 30, also started Code Fever this summer, which offers one day workshops for kids — and their parents.
So far, the organization has held coding workshops for kids on Saturdays at The LAB Miami in Wynwood and at the Village Multipurpose Center in Sunrise, and it has plans to add them during the school day.
Feverish Pops, the company Hatcher launched in 2008, is making moves, too. The boutique gourmet popsicle company could be found selling its products from carts around town and it even had a physical store for awhile, but now it is putting a larger focus on its core business of branding its products for corporations and organizations. Some of its top all-natural flavors include pineapple basil, mango, strawberry balsamic and chocolate salted coconut, and from its line of spiked pops: mango bourbon, watermelon ginger vodka and strawberry mojito.
“Most people think that we just sell popsicles to consumers, but our business actually focuses on bulk orders for major corporations that turn around and use our pops as promotional giveaways,” says Hatcher. “Think of it this way: producing 5,000 Strawberry Mojito popsicles with David Guetta, putting his name on the sticks and wrappers and giving them away to promote his new album, or producing pops to match each color of Google’s logo for their business event, or complete private labeling for major yogurt franchises wanting to offer pops.”
We asked Hatcher a few questions about Feverish and her passion projects.
Q. Your background is in marketing and technology for some large businesses — why popsicles?
I have been obsessed with desserts since I was a kid, and I got married at a hippie donut shop in Portland four years ago, if that is any indication of how much I love desserts. I thought it would be cool to create a business where I could merge all three.
As much as we are a food company, we are a pretty high-tech food company — from teaching all of our young employees how to code to building our own programs to make managing inventory and day-to-day operations run more smoothly so that we can practically run everything thing from our iPads and phones.
Q. What are some of the new Feverish flavors and what is on the horizon?
We have a cool new retail project we are working on with Barefoot Wines that will expand far outside of South Florida, and we will be making some interesting new flavors with their wines. The fall is coming around, so we are going to be rolling out some more pie flavors to complement the sweet potato and apple pie with cherry pie, pumpkin cinnamon coconut pie, and rhubarb pops.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge with growing Feverish?
Hiring the right people! In the era of Yelp and social media, a bad employee can cripple your brand. We stopped accepting resumes and applications last year and rely on tryouts for positions. I can teach someone how to make pops, handle paperwork or run a register, but I can’t teach passion for our brand and just an overall amazing work ethic — those things people have to come in the door with. So that is what we starting looking for when we they come in and want a job. We offer them a popsicle and tell them to sell it to us on the spot. Some people get uncomfortable; others really let their personality shine through. That’s something we learned from Mrs. Fields, who makes potential employees sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.
Q. Has there ever been a time in your entrepreneurial journey when you almost gave up?
Oh my gosh, there have been so many. Being an entrepreneur means that you are constantly on a roller coaster of highs and super lows.
I’ve learned to really embrace failure and trust that the bumps in the road are part of the process and that you really have to trust the process.
Q. What kept you going?
Surrounding myself with people like my husband, father and other entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to share their failures with me, and at the same time, stretch you to look past your current circumstance and keep pushing forward.
Q. Switching to your community projects, you’ve long been active in the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship and now you have also started Code Fever and are involved in bringing Black Girls Code to Miami. All these programs focus on kids in high school, middle school and in some cases elementary school. What is Code Fever, and why did you start it this summer?
Code Fever is a passion project for my husband and me. We wanted to create a program that focuses on equipping low-income, high-potential kids in our community with the technology and entrepreneurial skills needed to write their own meal tickets.
We started by teaching our employees at Feverish how to code, and then we branched out to the community. We wanted to show them that they can channel that creativity — that is unfortunately suppressed — into software that can change their lives and their families lives. So Code Fever is a weekend program that brings in local programmers, tech professionals and startup founders to speak to the kids and their parents about technology and the trajectory of technology careers and entrepreneurial paths.
Then the rest of the day, the students learn programming skills and entrepreneurial skills to help bring their ideas to market.
It’s a lot packed into one day.
Q. Why involve parents via a parents panel at Code Fever?
They are the biggest component in keeping kids engaged.
There’s a big generational gap with technology, even with entrepreneurship. We found that we would pour all the information and skills training and exposure into the kids but that most of them would go home and their parents would tell them to get off the computer or phones because they didn’t think they were doing anything constructive. It’s a way to help guide the conversations at home and get the parents excited about the career and entrepreneurial opportunities so that they become champions for technology education as well. We usually do this through the parents’ panel, but now we get a lot of request from parents who want to be a part of Code Fever training or for us to create a training class for the parents as well.
Q. Have you made any changes along the way in Code Fever or any future plans you can share about Code Fever?
We are super-excited to team up with Cares Mentoring, a program founded by Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence Magazine, which just featured our program in its national publication. By teaming up with its local chapter, we will be bringing Code Fever into a total of six schools during the school day between Miami-Dade and Broward starting in January.
We have also added a heavy entrepreneurial focus to the programs curriculum where the students learn not just the ideation and technical training, but how to bring their product to market, with pitch training and a demo day with community leaders and potential investors as well.
Q. Why is there a need to bring Black Girls Code to Miami?
We have entire communities that have no idea the power and potential that they have at their fingertips. Over the past two years, I have been excited about the technology and startup culture that is reshaping Miami.
But I would travel to cities that BGC was taking place and come home upset. Unfortunately, many of our kids, and especially our girls, have no idea that there is a space for them in the ecosystem and an opportunity for them to not only get involved but contribute in shaping Miami through technology. There’s a problem when opportunities don’t exist. But there is an even bigger issue when the opportunity is there, but they lack the skills to even understand the opportunity in order to take advantage of it. Black Girls Code is that solution, and I fell in love with the organization two years ago while working with it in Atlanta and have been trying ever since to get it to Miami. [Information on first BGC Miami event Nov. 23 here.]
Q. Who are your partners in the endeavor?
H. Leigh Toney, executive director with the Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center, and the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust are amazing partners on this project.
Q. What outcomes do you hope to see with Black Girls Code?
My very short-term goal is to see more African American and Caribbean American girls excited about building apps, video games and robotics, but my long-term goal with BGC is to build a community of girls that have the skills to not only compete for jobs but to reshape their communities. Would love to see BGC Miami set the model and expand all over Florida to impact more girls.
Q. What’s the best bit of advice you ever received?
All the bumps in the road are preparing you for huge success even if you can’t see it right now. Take calculated risks but make sure your contracts are so tight that if you have to go into litigation you will win.
Q. Complete this sentence: South Florida really needs ...
The Hyperloop. I travel all through all three counties at least four times a week and would love a better and much faster way.
Q. What’s a perfect day for you?
Any day that starts with breakfast in bed.