Middle school siblings put summer on ice

Sage Kos, 11, and her brother Cedar Kos, 13, help a customer at Niskayuna Town Hall Thursday, August 9, 2018. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)Sage Kos, 11, and her brother Cedar Kos, 13, help a customer at Niskayuna Town Hall Thursday, August 9, 2018. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)

To run a successful business, executives must have ice-cold nerves.

Cedar and Sage Kos — executives in training — have ice-cold products. And a cool approach to a summer enterprise.

The Niskayuna brother and sister team have been selling homemade ice pops for the past three summers. They opened their first C + S Pops stand at the end of their driveway on Ash Tree Lane in 2016. This year, the team sold frozen fruit at three shows during the town of Niskayuna’s summerlong concert schedule on the Town Hall green space.

“We usually sell 45 or 50 a week at home,” said Sage, 11, who will enter the sixth grade at Iroquois Middle School in September.

Like the late Paul Newman — a more famous entrepreneur who included goodwill in his product line of salad dressings, lemonade, salsa and other foods — the Kos kids are using frozen assets to give back to their community. They charge $2 for each stick, with $1 from each sale going to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.

“My brother and I like animals,” said Sage, who worked solo at Thursday’s Kitchen Jazz musical performance at Town Hall. Cedar was on the driveway on ice pop sales detail. “I like dogs, and he likes cats.”

Dogs and cats will never like fruity ice. People do.

“We have black raspberry, fudge, mango, brilliant blueberry and straight blueberry,” said Sage, explaining the “brilliant” component is cream. “Fudge and mango have become the top two sellers.”

The team is used to answering questions from prospective buyers.

“They ask how long we’ve been doing it, why we chose to donate to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society,” Sage said. “They want to know how we make them, what’s in them. They always ask how much money they are.”

Cedar, 13, who will enter the eighth grade at Iroquois, loves the trajectory of C + S Pops.

“I think it’s going great,” he said in a phone conversation on Friday. “We have raised over $600 for the humane society over the last three seasons. It makes me feel really proud I’m doing something for a good cause.”

Cedar and Sage use fresh fruit — organic when possible — and pay attention to products in season. Blueberries are plentiful right now, so the dark blue pops are inexpensive to make.

Cedar said that it takes about 90 minutes to make 15 pops, with fruit, simple syrup and sugar among the ingredients. Inventory has grown so much that the Kos family has invested in a second refrigerator.

Daniel Kos, who along with wife, Heather, are always around during sale nights, said the kids are learning about business. They know about customer service, handling money, how much each pop costs to produce and which pops sell the best.

Marketing is another subject. The populists have even learned how to deal with the press.

“They hope to start a website shortly,” Kos said.

Quality is job one. “We use really good ingredients,” Kos said. “We could make them cheaper, but we try to get the good stuff in there.”

Kos also said the business has generated some buzz in his neighborhood, the town’s Birchwood section. When the kids are out Thursday nights in the driveway, company is always expected.

“People will come,” Kos said. “They stay and chat, meet other neighbors they don’t know from other parts of the neighborhood. It’s become a social occasion, especially for parents with young kids.”

Julie Lohre, who works in Niskayuna’s community programs department, said she checked with town officials to see if a permit was required. Business-minded Brendan Mulvaney, 7, of Ballston Spa — his line is lemonade — got plenty of free publicity in July when the state Department of Health said he could not operate his stand without a $30 permit.

With the flap generating plenty of media coverage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked with health department officials, asked them to reach a resolution and promised to pay for Brendan’s permit fee himself if the Health Department did not reverse its position.

Brendan will sell lemonade later this month. Like the Kos kids, he has an altruistic attitude; lemonade sales help defray expenses for a young Ballston Spa girl who is dealing with medical issues.

“They said for something of this magnitude, a permit wasn’t needed,” Lohre said, of the town’s take.

Lohre is also a fan of the flavors.

“And I just love the idea,” she said. “What a great lesson these kids are learning. And the lesson of giving back.”

Others at the concert outside Town Hall met Sage, who wore a homemade “C + S Pops” T-shirt and sat at a small table with an orange tablecloth. Signs advertised each pop.

“For a cause like this, it’s as good as it gets,” said customer Pete Briscoe.

“What do you have good here?” asked Earl Bristol, who then heard the product lineup and decided on black raspberry.”

Bristol got his licks in. “I patronize everything,” he said.

Kos said the enterprise earned $250 in 2016, $400 in 2017 and is aiming for $500 this year. Cedar and Sage will make about $150 each for their efforts.

Cedar would like to continue the enterprise through high school. He said he gets along fine with his business partner, although there has been some discussion over manufacturing procedures.

“I’m more in favor of more sugar in the pops,” Cedar said. “She’s not in favor as much as I am.”

Sage is looking forward to a milestone. “We think we’ll sell our 1,000th pop this summer,” she said.