HARLINGEN — What started out as selling candies at a garage sale and making $50 for a savings fund became a job and a dream come true for a trio of young entrepreneurs.
Samantha Ponce, 19, Adam Ponce, 18, and Bryon Ponce, 15, did not know their business idea six years ago would flourish as quickly as it did. Even during COVID-19, it has kept its pace and is still going.
The siblings saw their parents involved in the cooking business for years but said they never thought it would lead them to owning a business.
They now own Sab’s Candy Shop, located at 918 N. 77 Sunshine Strip.
Brenda Ponce, their mother, said she remembered her daughter asking her husband for candy to sell.
“She liked she was making money and so did he and the little one. They were very little,” she said.
The brothers and sister were 13, 12 and 9 years old when their venture began.
“All the money they were making they saved it up so when school started they had money to buy their clothes and school supplies, and they liked that,” she said. “They kept selling snacks and then they saved enough money to buy their own raspa machine.”
Ponce said the brothers and sister would host movie parties at their house while selling nachos, candies, popcorn and raspas, Spanish for snow cone.
Samantha said she began to make homemade fliers to promote her snack shop. She said kids at school would bully her and told her what she was doing was embarrassing.
After opening their business in August 2018, the negativity continued, according to Samantha, but she said negative comments did not stop her from trying to reach her goals.
“We prayed every day, but I said to myself, ‘we have to keep going,’” Samantha said.
With COVID-19, Samantha and her brothers faced another set of challenges.
Although the family is the backbone of the shop, the employees were a huge help, but once the pandemic began, they did not want to go back to work.
“We offered them the hours, but they did not want to come in. It was only us working every single day. It’s been hard. We tried to sign up for business loans, but I didn’t get accepted because I don’t have my own credit,” she said.
The shop closed for one week in March to disinfect and get ready for curbside service with positive energy, according to Samantha.
Luckily, Samantha said her regulars kept visiting and curbside had a steady pace that kept them busy.
“I actually thought we were going to shut down,” she said.
Adam is currently a Harlingen High School student and Bryon attends Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy. But the three have been working and going to school simultaneously for six years.
“It was hard, sleep was uh… We wanted to do it. We said, ‘yes we are tired but we rather be tired than broke,’” Samantha said, remembering when they started.
“We got this. I wanted to show everybody you can still pursue your dreams and finish school,” she said.
Social media sensation
Samantha hopes to one day become a mixologist, but she’ll have to wait until she’s 21 years old. In the meantime, she considers herself a raspa expert.
Her combinations and concoctions have gotten her to go viral on social media. Before opening the business, Samantha created a raspa called “The Gusherlicious” with flavors featuring the candy brand Gushers.
After posting a picture on Twitter and tagging the brand, the company reached out and sent boxes to Samantha to make more raspas.
She said fans of the candy flew from out of state to try her original refreshing drink.
“I have a passion with colors,” she said.
Samantha has even created characters out of her raspas, such as Rick and Morty, Olaf from Frozen and Baby Yoda.
With the pandemic, she relied on the social media platform TikTok to promote her business.
“I tried it, and TikTok has been such big help. People from out of town, four to six hours away from us, came and recorded their trip. Right now, we have around a 170,000 people following us,” she said.
“It is a dream come true, when people notice it,” Samantha said.
One of her most viral TikTok videos is a watermelon and cherry snow cone named “Juicy Juicy”, based on a rapper Doja Cat’s song.
Her brothers have their own specialty as well.
Adam does most of the cooking and is the mastermind behind their Hot Cheetos fried chicken sandwich, Hot Cheetos grilled cheese and cheese sticks and even Hot Cheetos coated buns for burgers.
Bryon is in charge of making the milkshakes, which feature any candy bar a client could ask for — Ferrero Rocher, Snickers, Twix, Kit Kat and even a Mazapan version are available.
Between the three of them, an extensive menu was created with endless options that features fried Oreos, fried brownies and chocolate covered funnel cake.
Samantha said there have been a few failures in their food ideas, but if they do not like it, they won’t serve it.
A family business
“I have a lot of passion with what I do. My mom taught me how to do the shakes, but I had to switch it up,” Bryon said.
Adam said he believes his most popular item is his burgers.
“I have teachers asking me when I’m making burgers and tell me it is the best they’ve ever had,” he said.
“I love working with my family because we know what they like or don’t like,” he said.
Today, their parents have joined the business, and the family is dedicated to it.
A personalized T-shirt was created for them to wear as uniforms and has a girl sipping from a snow cone to represent Samantha, a graffiti artist and boxing gloves for Adam and a football for Bryon.
The T-shirt has one more detail on the corner, a Psalms verse under their logo.
Psalm 23:5 reads, “You prepare a table before me and the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head full of oil, my cup overflows.”
“Do what you love to do, keep going and don’t give up. Ignore the hate, hear the support and believe in yourself,” Samantha said.