After 12 years in the oil industry, Texas A&M graduate Sarah Ables pivoted her professional life toward popsicles.
Ables, 37, opened a franchise of Frios Gourmet Pops in Montgomery in March 2020, just a few weeks before life came to a halt due to COVID-19. She has now expanded her franchise into Aggieland, where her Frios trailer is part of a new food truck park on University Drive near Wellborn Road.
“College Station obviously holds a place in my heart, being an Aggie, and I think it’s really cool to come full circle and have my business here where I have so many great memories,” she said. “My goal is to just make it a staple for the area. We want to get established with customers, and we want to grow and obviously have multiple units to sell from and pack the calendar.”
What makes Frios popsicles gourmet, she said, is they are made fresh each week at the corporate kitchen in Mobile, Alabama, with no preservatives or additives. The company also produces flavors not usually associated with popsicles, such as pumpkin cheesecake — with pieces of graham cracker crust in the popsicle — and banana pudding, with a vanilla wafer cookie frozen inside.
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Ables graduated from A&M in 2007 with an agricultural systems management degree. She was hired by oil field company Halliburton working offshore in Louisiana, then doing sales in Dallas, handling sales and operations in Midland before ultimately working in sales in Houston.
The career shift came as she was preparing to return to work after maternity leave with son Westley, who is now 2.
“After like five months of maternity leave, I wasn’t real thrilled to go back to work just because I wasn’t 100% satisfied with what I was doing, and also just liked the freedom,” she said.
She and her husband, Colt, had always talked about owning a business, and as they started a family in Montgomery, she said the timing was right. They researched different franchises and found Frios, and signed on after meeting with the corporate team and trying the popsicles.
“My husband and I both really like dessert and ice cream,” she said. “Then also just the price of it, the flexibility of it, having the freedom to make it kind of what we wanted it to be, but also having support from corporate.”
The College Station trailer will be operated by sisters Jenna and Leigh Freeman, both current A&M students. Jenna previously worked for Ables in Montgomery. The trailer’s hours are Thursday through Saturday from 3-10 p.m. through the fall, but those times could be adjusted based on home football game schedules.
How did you feel when you decided to take on the franchise?
It was exciting. At the time, when we signed up, my son was seven, eight months old, so it was kind of like we had gotten out of the fog of being new parents, and we were finally trying to figure out what we’re going to do moving forward. So it’s kind of exciting for me to come out of a 12-year career and have a new focus on something else. It’s fun to get through what I needed to do, and to figure it all out, of what I needed and the training and how it was going to work and what all I needed to set up. That was kind of fun, and I’ve used a lot of my skills from school and my career as far as management and leadership and accounting. A little bit of everything. It’s been fun. It’s something different, introducing popsicles to different people.
What is your favorite part about owning a Frios franchise?
My favorite part about it is probably just bringing fun to my customers, you know, seeing their faces and hearing their reactions when they enjoy what they’re tasting. And also the flexibility of scheduling events when I can or taking the day off or weekend off if I have to. I enjoyed having employees and teaching those that have come through my store. That’s always fun; something I enjoyed. I think the number one thing is probably the customers. You get a little pride when somebody walks away or makes a point to come back and tell you, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever had.’ That makes you feel pretty good. It’s definitely a huge pivot from the oil field.
How does a 12-year career in the oil field influence how you run a popsicle franchise?
I was a female in the oil field, which, thankfully, it’s more prevalent now than it used to be when I started. But, you know, I’ve had obstacles my whole career, especially working in the field as an engineer. It helped me build who I am and how I operate. I take pride in what I do, and I always did there. I did a lot of sales work, so taking care of my customers and making sure they were happy and getting done what they needed. Problem solving when issues come up, trying to resolve that, you know, because running a business is not easy, and things happen and stuff breaks or you got to reevaluate and pivot. … Just taking the right steps to be successful. Even in the oil field, Halliburton was really good about training, and we did a lot of management leadership classes, and those are definitely applicable to running a business. You got to take all those skills to manage every aspect of what it takes. It’s really a little bit of everything. It’s definitely a different application, but it’s the same principles and the same work ethic.
What do you hope your son takes away from seeing you own this franchise?
It’s life skills and work ethic. I hope to teach him all of it. We want him to be well-rounded and to be able to be independent, take care of himself and function in life. And I think owning a business teaches you a lot of things that help in all areas. We hope he enjoys it and wants to be a part of it too.