Alum of Business: POP Mama POP!
Popcorn begs to be shared. So it’s no surprise that Kathleen Hackett, founder of POP Mama POP!, is one of our most connected and community-oriented alumni. After making kettle corn at home for her family, Kathleen decided to bring her mission-driven snack food to hungry corn-avores all over the world. Using heirloom variety popcorn and hand-infused sugars and spices, POP Mama POP! creates unique signature flavors while supporting the biodiversity of our food system. Whenever possible, Kathleen sources, pops, and sells locally. A true kernel to couch treat!
Kathleen first initiated herself into the Food Craft Institute family as a student in our Business Intensive (the precursor to our Quarterly Business Modules) and, since then, has started selling her kettle corn at stores and events all over Northern California, including the Mazda Raceway and (shhh!) is in discussions to possibly be a vendor of Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. She is also the first FCI alumni to receive a loan through Kiva Zip. With fundraising fresh on our minds, we contacted Kathleen to discover how she found success with financing. According to her, it’s all thanks to the people – and popcorn – that helped her hit the big time.
When did you first decide to start a food business?
The real question is when did I become interested in making good food. The answer: when I started a family. I became aware and engaged in our nutritional intake and the effect it had on our quality of life, and our community at large.
How did the Food Craft Institute’s Business Course help you grow your business?
Firstly, I LOVED the class. The information presented was extremely valuable and relevant to anyone growing/starting a food business. However, the other gift was the people I met, and continue to keep in touch with, as well as the community of like minded foodies that are supportive and invested in the success of POP Mama POP as a local business and in me as an individual. It’s an amazing organization that employs experts in the field and creates a community of amazing food and people.
Who is your biggest food inspiration
I’m very inspired by Minh Tsai and Hodo Soy. I met him a couple years ago through the Business Course at FCI. The way he conducts his business and has grown it is an inspiration. They value their employees, have grown sustainably and successfully, and utilize a cooperative of soybean farmers. There are a lot of wonderful components about their business I would like to model my own after. Thank you, Hodo Soy!
POP Mama POP! was our first alumni business to receive an FCI-endorsed crowd-funded loan through KivaZip. What was the process like to achieve the loan and how has the loan helped you grow your business?
It was so exciting and a great honor to be the first alumni to procure a loan with KivaZip. They made the loan process very easy and straight forward. The loan has helped me tremendously by jumpstarting my cash flow and allowing me to purchase a large volume of supplies including packaging, as well as allowing me to participate in larger festivals that continue to improve my cash flow and grow the business.
What do you envision the upcoming years will bring for POP Mama POP?
The upcoming year for POP Mama POP includes expansion, expansion, expansion. We have been working with the Super Bowl 50 Business Connect Program and are potentially doing something involving Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium. We are scaling up with a manufacturing facility to support our increasing concession accounts, as well as multiple distribution channels in the five western states. In the upcoming five years we will continue to increase our production output, open up POP Mama POP shops, and expand our variety of product offerings to include a line of sugars and spices as well as other popcorn products. Keep your eyes open for amazing new products from POP Mama POP!
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered?
The biggest obstacle I faced prior to enrolling at FCI was “going at it alone.” Becoming a part of the amazing community at FCI has been one of my most valued gifts to date. Obstacles after FCI don’t seem like obstacles, but opportunities to learn and do better by reaching out to my community for help.
What advice do you have for new food entrepreneurs starting out?
Advice I would give to myself a year ago is three-fold:
1. Reach out for help. Utilize the resources in your community. FCI, Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and of course friends and family. Something that made a lasting impact on me on the very first day of the Business Course, was by instructor Elizabeth U. She led an ice breaker for all of us, and instructed us to imagine the people who have supported us in the past; friends and family. Then bring the circle out in front of us and imagine all the supporters who we do not even know yet, then bring it back to us. It was powerful because it allowed my support system to increase exponentially in an instant. Even today there are POP Mama POP supporters, enthusiasts, and fans that I have yet to come into contact with. It’s so exciting!
2 . Know that things, tasks, and expansion usually take longer than first anticipated or expected. Trust that everything is unfolding perfectly and at a perfect speed, and that all the necessary people, places, and things are lining up to support the success of your business.
3. The question is not if this business is going to work. The question always will be how big do you want to get. Trust that your vision will lead you to success, however you define it.
To see what’s poppin’ with Kathleen, visit the POP Mama POP! Facebook page.
For more information on fundraising, sign up for Fundraising & Pitching. Enrolled students will receive automatic placement in the Food.Fund.Fest pitch competition – an opportunity to share their business plan with potential investors, win a prize package, and take the main stage at Eat Real Fest 2015! Mark your calendars – class begins August 26th!