Born and raised in Mexico, Julia Padierna-Peralta (SFS ’87) left home to attend Georgetown in the early 1980s. From there, she flew over an ocean to enroll in the London School of Economics and Political Science for her master’s degree and then back to the District where she studied for her law degree and began working at a large international law firm.
But something was missing. It seemed that Padierna-Peralta had forgotten something at home, something sweet and flavorful — the ice pops of her childhood.
Honing in on her passion, Padierna-Peralta decided to resign from her attorney position of 15 years and founded a gourmet fruit ice pop company, Maracas.
Now approaching its two-year anniversary, Maracas has returned to campus to sell its organic products.
Padierna-Peralta said the inspiration for her startup’s name came from her late mother, who was a musician.
“She was a professional singer. Music is something she really cultivated in me since I was a child,” Padierna-Peralta said. “That’s where Maracas comes from.”
In order to form her startup, Padierna-Peralta partnered with the Latino Economic Development Center, a Washington, D.C.-based educational resource for local Latin-American homeowners and entrepreneurs. In addition, she received assistance from Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, which advises small business owners in the food and beverage industry in partnership with one of the country’s leading nonprofit microlenders, Accion.
Maracas has catered for many Georgetown events, including the recent 60th anniversary photo-op for the McDonough School of Business, but students can also find the company’s ice pops at Vital Vittles, the GU Farmers Market and at the Georgetown Waterfront. The water-based fruit pops come in strawberry, kiwi, lime, pineapple, melon, coconut, mango, pear, watermelon and hibiscus flavors.
Another unique feature of Maracas is its tricycles, which serve as both a form of eco-friendly transportation and an eye-catching customer venue.
According to Padierna-Peralta, she required much training both within the United States and Mexico over the past decade to perfect her ice pop recipe.
“In the last 10 years or so, during my spare time, I obtained professional training, both in Mexico and in the U.S.,” Padierna-Peralta said. “I studied the science of freezing fruit pops, you know, everything that I could learn about frozen treats.”
Padierna-Peralta said Maracas uses all-natural ingredients in its ice pops and aims to use high-quality fruits.
“The pops are all-natural fruit,” Padierna-Peralta said. “I use a little bit of organic sugar cane and a drop of natural gelato texturizer.”
Maracas ice pops are different from other brands, as they contain more natural ingredients compared to the large amount of artificial flavors and preservatives in commercial products, according to Padierna-Peralta.
“What sets Maracas ice pops apart from other frozen treats is the quality of its ingredients,” Padierna-Peralta said.
Maracas is not alone in embracing organic products. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the organic food industry has consistently shown double-digit growth in recent years, and currently accounts for 4 percent of total U.S. food sales. Nearly 20,000 natural food stores and three out of every four conventional grocery stores sell organic products nationwide.
Maracas is also claiming a niche in a massive market. Popsicle, a Unilever brand, sells 2 billion ice pops per year while the broader American frozen dessert industry accounted for $7.9 billion in product shipments in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Padierna-Peralta said she felt lucky to have the opportunity to found Maracas.
“I just feel very fortunate that I’m able to pursue this childhood dream of being an ‘ice-pops-preneur,’” Padierna-Peralta said.
Nicholas McCarthy (COL ’18), tried the lime ice pop in an impromptu taste test and enjoyed how the flavor of the fruit pops was not overwhelming and could allow him to recharge during hot weather.
“The flavor’s actually really subtle, which is really nice,” McCarthy said. “It’s not overpowering, it’s not overbearing. Just refreshing on a nice summer day.”
Andrew Ham (SFS ’18), who tried the watermelon flavor, noticed the genuine taste of the fresh fruit and appreciated how closely his ice pop matched the flavor of a real watermelon.
“It really does taste like a watermelon — it’s kind of incredible,” Ham said. “A lot of things that are watermelon-flavored aren’t really that authentic. This is so nice.”