Former pilots Heino Jakob and Deryn Zehrt built their burgeoning popsicle and ''dopsicle" business from the ground up since their abrupt layoff from Air Namibia
When the Namibian Government announced in February 2021 that it would liquidate the long-embattled national airline, Air Namibia, it left more than 600 employees with uncertain futures.
Not letting this misfortune keep them down, former Air Namibia pilots Deryn Zehrt and Heino Jakob took the risk to start something new and completely out of their comfort zone – an ice popsicle business called “Jet Blast Ice Pops”, a nod to their previous career as pilots.
The early days of Jet Blast Ice Pops started with Zehrt and Jakob learning how to make ice popsicles in a garage. The duo’s experimentation with popsicle formulations eventually produced the “real fruit” popsicles and “cocktails on a stick” or alcoholic “dopsicles” that the brand is becoming known for.
“The learning curve was steep, but after attending our first market in November 2021, the business grew exponentially”, explains Jakob.
From making their products themselves, Jakob and Zehrt built their business from the ground up by finding suppliers, marketing their products, engaging their customers in addition to other activities that are crucial to establishing a long-lasting business.
Elevating the homemade popsicles of many Namibians childhoods as well as the artificial flavour-rich options found in local stores, Jet Blast Ice Pops sets itself apart with its “real fruit” ingredients and innovative flavour combinations that appeal to both young children and adults.
Zehrt and Jakob exemplify how people have seen entrepreneurship as a route to job security and financial independence after experiencing job losses either directly or indirectly caused by the socio-economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the benefits of independence are not limited to the duo and their growing business.
“Every dollar spent on Namibian companies helps our country to move towards independence from importing goods and it also helps in creating jobs. The importance and appreciation for local support cannot be over-emphasized”, says Jakob.
For a business that was only established last year, Jet Blast Ice Pops have made remarkable headway in the local market. Their products are sold in a few supermarkets, they have catered various events, they regularly attend markets across the country and their growing clientele directly order boxes of ice pops from their new factory shop in Hyper Motor City, Windhoek.
Despite this, Jet Blast Ice Pops still faces some challenges including recent fuel price increases and competing with larger foreign ice cream companies selling similar products for cheaper.
Regardless of the short- and long-term obstacles, Jakob and Zehrt are determined to make their business into a household name and the preferred popsicle supplier in Namibia, which is something they are optimistic about given the quality of their products.
The innovative duo also have plans to diversify what they offer and further expand their product range. When asked why he thought buying Namibian products is important, Jakob explained that buying local is pivotal to cutting out competition from neighboring countries, especially South Africa.
“In general it adds value to the Namibian economy. It also brings us as a nation together, making us proud of what we can achieve and produce. Through such growth we will realize we do not have to be dependent on traditional suppliers from neighboring countries”, added Jakob.
“This feature is part of a UN Namibia series to highlight local goods or service providers in support of the Buy Local Grow Namibia campaign and who we believe are actively working toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The Buy Local, Grow Namibia campaign supports growth in the production and consumption of Namibian goods and services.”