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Innovators through history: Frank Epperson

Popsicles, invented by Frank Epperson To mark the launch of the NZ Innovators Awards for 2012, we're celebrating a series of vaunted innovators and inventors throughout time.

Who: Frank Epperson

 What:  The Popsicle. Self-help gurus and Oprah may waffle on about how “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, but 11-year-old Frank Epperson would probably disagree. On a winter’s night in San Francisco, luck was nigh when a spoon in a cup of fizzy drink met a sub-zero overnight temperature. Yes, sometimes a science degree or kiwi ingenuity doesn’t pay the bills as much as pure, dumb luck.  The morning when he pulled his spoon out of the cup, the Popsicle (a portmanteau of soda pop and icicle) was born.

When:  1905

Impact: Little Frankie thanked his lucky stars forever more for being so forgettable in leaving his favourite drink on the porch on a winter night. However, the wait between personal luck and public launch was 19 years. In 1924 he began selling his Popsicles in California, and, in a country that craves calories, they became a sure-fire summertime hit.

Power, fame and money: Epperson, upon seeing his invention’s popularity, quickly patented the ''handled, frozen confection or ice lollipop''. He later sold the patent to a food company after 1929 (ka-ching!), not before launching seven different Popsicle flavours and increasing the youth diabetes rate by 80 percent.

Legacy: What a legacy! Not only do sales of Popsicles top 2 billion a year but Epperson’s invention gives hope to failing students and youngsters selling lemonade. You don’t need maturity or management degrees when luck’s on your side. Epperson added a whole new category to junk food and one of my favourite elements of an ideal summer.

Has your company innovated its way into the list of summer essentials? Or maybe you are the guilty owner of pure dumb luck? Do not be ashamed – be  rewarded. The NZ Innovators Awards are now open, so enter at  innovators.org.nz before the opportunity melts away.