Pop of the Morning: The Story of a Small Business on the Rise
Small Business Inspiration from a Popcorn Entrepreneur
Mitch Bowman always loved popcorn. But a chance happening while on a trip to Chicago in 2012, opened his eyes to the opportunity of starting his own gourmet popcorn business. With a solid work ethic and the support of his community, Pop of the Morning is now a hometown favorite serving up a full menu of delicious popcorn flavors.
A Kernel of an Idea
Walking the streets of Chicago with his family, Mitch came across a long line of people waiting outside of Garrett’s Popcorn Shop. The amount of people was overwhelming. Then while his wife waited in the line to purchase some popcorn, he began to brainstorm. “I just knew I could do it,” shared Mitch, as he pictured himself in the popcorn business.
But selling popcorn was a bit of a jump from his current job working at Walgreens. He knew he had a lot to learn to even get started, but Mitch was a motivated entrepreneur. Thankfully, he came to the right place, Gold Medal of Central Illinois. Branch manager, Mike Wheeler was happy to introduce Mitch to the wonderful world of popcorn. He was able to see the equipment firsthand and even received some samples of popcorn and flavorings that he could try. It took about four months to save up the money, then Mitch was ready to purchase his equipment. Starting out, he made a 10x10 popcorn room in his house. His bought his first pieces of equipment, a Pop Maxx popper and Mark 5 cooker mixer. And he quickly went to work on creating his own recipes.
Mitch conducted extensive research traveling to popcorn shops across Illinois and in neighboring states to evaluate the competitive landscape. One of the distinguishing factors about Pop of the Morning is the thorough coating. Mitch is unwavering, “The number one thing to avoid is poorly covered popcorn.” He customizes his recipes to ensure each piece of popcorn is well coated. That is a quality that customers notice and appreciate.
Getting Started in the Popcorn Business
Mitch believed in the strength of the community and word-of-mouth. So, he grew his popcorn business working at local community events, musical concerts, farmer’s markets, and building relationships with individuals and other businesses in the area. As demand increased, it meant late nights and long hours to complete special orders. Covid also hit the business hard, but he was determined to keep it going. In spite of it all, Mitch kept a happy-go-lucky personality throughout. He said, “I get rewarded by the happy faces that enjoy my popcorn.” Mitch has always practiced simplicity. He does not have a storefront and does not do internet orders, yet Pop of the Morning has provided him the financial freedom to leave his job at Walgreens and make the popcorn business a full-time operation. In fact, he only wishes he would’ve done this years ago.
A Delightful Menu of Popcorn Flavors
Pop of the Morning has an impressive selection of flavors. He says his number one seller is the Cheddar and Caramel Mix, followed closely by Kettle Corn. But he also enjoys the creativity of gourmet popcorn with flavors like Birthday Cake and a Red, White, and Blue selection made with cherry, blue raspberry, and vanilla glazed popcorn.
Mitch is always on the lookout for new popcorn flavors. He enjoys researching flavors online and trying them out. New for this summer, Pop of the Morning will introduce Cotton Candy Corn.
Currently, he sells popcorn in two sizes – an 8 ½ cup bag and 4 cup bag. He uses sealed bags to ensure the freshness of the product.
Growth on the Horizon
A small-town success story, Pop of the Morning has grown from its humble beginnings in that 10x10 room. Mitch has built a popcorn building on his property which houses his production facility. Upgrading from his initial equipment purchase, he currently uses a Pop-O-Gold, Mark 20, and cooling table. Assisting him in the business is his son, Jake. When it comes to the future, the father and son pair plan to continue working together to build the business. After Jake graduates from college, he intends to look at ways to grow Pop of the Morning, including the opportunity to build a website capable of e-commerce.
Interested in Starting a Fun Food Business?
You can hear the smile in Mitch’s voice when he talks about Pop of the Morning. He enjoys what he does, and it shows. Plus, he has the loyal customers to prove it! When asked what his advice would be for someone looking to get into a fun food business, Mitch is adamant about how much Gold Medal can help. He said, “Taking the first step and meeting with Gold Medal was the best business move. From the very beginning, they made me believe I could succeed. I cannot thank them enough.”
Mitch also states that discipline and organization are extremely important qualities to practice. And he stresses to be positive and friendly with customers to help generate that valuable word-of-mouth advertising.
“It won’t happen overnight, but hang in there, because it is very rewarding,” encourages Mitch.
If this story inspires you to start your own business, here are some resources you’ll want to check out: