Those with a Marquette ID can buy one popsicle and get another free at Pete’s Pops’ original location, 3809 W. Vliet St., between Monday, Aug. 29 and Friday, Sept. 30.
Pete’s Pops’ founder, Pete Cooney, is a 2010 Marquette graduate and won the inaugural Rev-Up MKE small business competition in 2016. This year’s Rev-Up MKE event will run on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 5 p.m. at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom as part of Near West Side Week.
Pete’s Pops offers over 70 different all-natural popsicle flavors. A full flavor list is available online.
In a brief Q&A, Cooney discussed his experience at Marquette and owning a popsicle shop in Milwaukee’s Near West Side.
What was your time like at Marquette University?
My time at Marquette was great. I love the friends I met and all the fun things I did. I wasn’t necessarily daydreaming about popsicles or entrepreneurship as a student. I was mostly focused on making friends and going to basketball games.
What advice would you give to Marquette students right now?
Get involved in as many Marquette-related things as possible throughout your time here. Get outside of the Marquette bubble and make sure to bring those experiences back to campus.
My business is pure happiness and positivity. I truly believe that we help bring people together over this little treat and it makes me feel good. It’s just happiness and fun.
How did you feel when you won Rev-Up MKE in 2016?
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was a big deal for me and my business. I’ve had my business for nine years and looking back, it feels like the halfway point for me between when I started business and now. It was the first time I felt validated and like someone else believed in my business. I am proud of winning, and I think we are doing everything we said we were going to do plus more.
What does Milwaukee’s Near West Side mean to you and your business?
Everything. It is our home base, and I am proud. I live in the Near West Side, I like to promote the Near West Side and I try to do as many things as possible in the Near West Side. Having our roots in the Near West Side helps us speak about the things we care about the most.
How does Pete’s Pops give back to the Near West Side?
We put an emphasis on hiring in the Near West Side. We have something called the Vliet Street Special which is a rotating flavor offered at a discount price to make sure everyone can come in and enjoy our products. We host a neighborhood cleanup day, a neighborhood fall festival and give away popsicles throughout the year if we host events at Pete’s Pops.
What has been the biggest challenge of opening your own business?
There are a million challenges, but you learn to embrace them and have fun with them. The biggest challenge of them all is the seasonality of my business. We are really busy in the summer but slow in the winter. I’m trying to figure out how to handle that.
What has been your greatest reward for opening your own business?
Just like there are many challenges, there are also rewards. The thing I am very grateful for, and don’t lose sight of, is the fact that I have 65 people working for me. Some people work 40 hours a week with benefits and for some people, it’s their first job. I don’t take either lightly. It’s been an unbelievable experience for me as well as so many other people.
How do you foresee Pete’s Pops growing in the future?
We’ve grown every year and I think we can keep growing. We want to expand to Madison and Illinois as well as other parts of Wisconsin. We’re also not on grocery store shelves yet which is one of our long-term goals. We’re always taking big risks and doing big things. Stay tuned.
How do you want to see the Marquette community get involved in the Near West Side?
Marquette students should explore outside of Marquette’s boundaries. They should find out what they love about Milwaukee and find ways to change the things they don’t love. I also want to hire more Marquette kids. Lots of the key people in my company started working for us at 16 years old and now go to Marquette. We want to be known as a Milwaukee and Marquette business.