Special to South Florida Times
LITTLE HAITI — A couple laid off from their jobs as marketing managers for the Nintendo video games company have found sweet success in an unlikely field: selling gourmet popsicles.
Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson, owners of Feverish Ice Cream, have made such an impressive mark that they have been tapped for recognition at The White House this Thursday.
They will be among young entrepreneurs who made the Empact100 list for success in their ventures and for giving back to the community.
“We were selected for the list but have no idea who nominated us,” Hatcher said. “But we are both really excited about receiving such an honor.”
Empact100 business owners are those 30 years of age or younger as of Dec. 30, 2011. Their businesses must be U.S.-based and have pulled in more than $100,000 in revenue overall for 2010 or 2011. They must also make efforts to inspire others to join the entrepreneurial movement by starting businesses of their own.
The honorees will gather at The White House for the celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Hatcher and Pearson, both 28, hit on the idea for Feverish Ice Cream, located at 7251 NE Second Ave., in Miami’s Little Haiti community, in 2008, when they lost their jobs with Seattle-based Nintendo of America.
“It was a crazy idea but we really didn’t have anything to lose,” said Hatcher, who grew up in Delray Beach.
The couple started the company with no outside funding, “so we had to be really creative,” she said.
“We purchased two tricycle carts that we found on Craigslist. As the business grew, we were able to reinvest more money into it, buy more equipment. We were always about growing as organically as possible, sustaining that growth and keeping it in the family for generations,” said Hatcher.
A Lynn University graduate with expertise in marketing, she focuses on the economic growth and development side of the company.
Feverish Ice Cream has always been a private event catering company, Pearson, said. “We started as resellers but catering is the core of our business,” she said.
They now have a commercial kitchen where they create their own organic gourmet popsicles. By gourmet, said Pearson, a native of Bainbridge, Ga., and a Morehouse College graduate, “we mean quality ingredients and putting effort into the products.”
The company also runs PopPreneurs, a youth entrepreneurship program in which students can learn how to start and operate their own Popsicle carts.
Working in partnership with the Youth Enterprise Project at The New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Hatcher and Pearson donated an ice cream cart and facilitated workshops motivating 14 young entrepreneurs, ages 14 to 18, to reach for success.
“We wanted to figure out a way to get kids really excited about entrepreneurship and get them to understand that they have the power to make a change within themselves and the communities and help their families,” Hatcher said. “We taught them how to start and run a business, not just how to run a Popsicle cart.”
Pearson uses his background in finance to teach the young entrepreneurs about managing their finances. “Mount Olive be-came the first organization to partner with us,” he said.
Broward County has a 31.9 percent youth unemployment rate, Hatcher said. “That’s a huge problem when you think of these kids not being able to develop skills that they usually get with their first job,” she said.
The youth entrepreneurs have named their business Happy Feet, Gourmet Treat. Kyra Everett, 17, has played an active role in the business since June.
“We have two carts and sell every Sunday after church,” said Kyra, a senior at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. Each week, the carts make $350 to $400, she said.
Kyra lends her skills in mathematics to the team. “You have to count fast, keep things in order. The experience has really helped me with math as well as developed my people and customer service skills. You have to speak well, smile a lot and get people to come back,” she said.
Pearson said the kids place their orders with the company and are invoiced directly, not through the church.
“It’s a wonderful partnership and working with them is a blessing,” he said.
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Photo:Derick Pearso and Felecia Hatcher