Black-Owned Houston Soda Company Launches Life Skills Workshops
Houston-based soda company Exotic Pop, known for its electric colors, unusual flavors and collaborations with rap stars both present and past, such as Trill OG “Bun B” Orange and DJ Screw Cotton Candy Blue, wants to help with more than just refreshment. It’s launching First Thursdays, a day for free workshops every month that teach valuable life skills, such as financial literacy, how to purchase a home, quality of life issues and more. The workshops are hosted at the Exotic Pop office at 1000 South Loop West, suite 190 and run from 5 to 6 p.m. While these are aimed to help underserved communities, anyone is welcome to attend.
The first workshop on May 5 is about homeownership and tax education. It’s co-presented by the Harris County Tax Office and Houston Realtor Noel Collier, who is sharing tips on how to help legitimately repair credit and navigate the homebuying process. Future workshops will include money management, budgeting, saving, credit, debt, starting your own business, healthcare and more.
Owner Charleston Wilson says, “This is a meaningful way for me to give back to the people of my hometown in areas of life where knowledge is key to survival and success. The people of Houston are hardworking, and many live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have time or access to resources that can help them manage their money, health and improve their quality of life. My goal is to give the community a non-intimidating environment to access people and skills that can empower them to go beyond survival to become financially independent, healthy and build generational wealth in their families.”
Wilson started Exotic Pop in 2017, initially selling from the trunk of his car. His next step up: finding nostalgic sodas exclusively found in Louisiana, and selling them at a barber shop. From those humble beginnings, he’s since grown a multi-brand company that includes Cool Cup Juice and Exotic Snax, which resells rare and hard-to-find food and drink products at a premium. Wilson struck a licensing and bottling deal with PepsiCo in 2019, and is now distributed in over 70 stores nationwide.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.