SasaPops is an American success story happening near North Las Vegas. Hardworking entrepreneurs and siblings Joe Vergara and Liza Vergara-Gross are the co-founders of SasaSweets. The company produces frozen gourmet dessert pops called SasaPops.
"Even though we were born in Chicago, we consider ourselves Las Vegans now," Vergara said. "We have a commitment to creating jobs and creating growth in this town."
SasaPops feature two distinctive types of frozen treats: fruit bars and dessert bars. The frozen fruit bars are larger than the average mass-produced bar and contain three ingredients: fruit, filtered water and organic sugar. The flavors range from the classic lemon lime and watermelon to the unique: raspberry lychee lemon drop, pink guava and blackberry lemonade.
The frozen dessert bar concept grew out of Vergara-Gross' background as a pastry chef. The decadent treats include nonfruit items such as chunks of rich German chocolate cake to create a new dessert profile. Made in small batches by hand using vanilla beans from Madagascar, European chocolate and dairy from hormone-free cows, it is easy to see why SasaPops won the Food and Beverage Product Innovation 2012 Award presented by the National Restaurant Association and the Award of Excellence from the American Masters of Taste, an independent judging panel.
"Even to this day, our parents think this isn't a real job," Vergara said. With a master's degree in industrial organizational psychology, he followed a corporate career route and found little personal satisfaction. His sister was also at a professional crossroad when they decided to give up their jobs and become entrepreneurs.
Vergara-Gross left her marketing job to train as a pastry chef at Nick's Fishmarket in Chicago. The siblings partnered to found SasaSweets, a pastry business in 2007. They started small by selling cookie dough to Chicago-area restaurants.
Vergara convinced his sister to relocate their business to Las Vegas in 2008.
"I love Las Vegas simply because it has real 'salt of the earth' small-town type people with all the amenities of a large city," Vergara said.
At the height of the recession, the duo struggled by renting a commercial kitchen in Boulder City and selling their pastries and shaved ice at local farmers markets. After two years, it became clear that a different business plan was needed for SasaSweets to survive. The local pastry market was saturated, and the siblings needed to think outside the box.
The idea of combining pastries into a frozen dessert was a new innovation in the frozen pop industry. SasaPops was born in 2011, and the response has been remarkable, they said. The company outgrew its small space in Boulder City and moved to its 4,000-square-foot facility at 2580 W. Brooks Ave., Suite 101.
SasaPops are sold at area farmers markets, station carts at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets - North, 875 S. Grand Central Parkway, and at Whole Foods Markets throughout the valley. They retail for $3.49 apiece at Whole Foods.
"We are the only manufacturer nationally and possible globally that doesn't use any stabilizers, gums, fillers, starches or added flavors," Vergara said. "We make it the same way that you would make it for your own children in your own kitchen."
"There is so much stuff out there now that mimics food that isn't real food."
When asked about advice they would give to entrepreneurs starting a new business, Vergara-Gross said, "Be prepared to give up all your free time."
Her brother agrees. "It's not a job - it's a lifestyle," he said.
In the beginning, they had just each other to worry about if the business didn't succeed. The employee count is now 12.
"We care that our employees have benefits and make a sustainable living wage," Vergara said.
They hope to continue growing and become a made-in-Las Vegas nationally recognized brand.
Recently, Vergara called his sister to tell her he had a customer from China at the Premium Outlets mall who said his friends told him, "When you go to Las Vegas, make sure you go to this mall and try SasaPops."
"We were amazed," Vergara said. "So maybe in a way the ball is already rolling."
For more information, visit sasapops.com or email joe.vergara@ sasapops.com.