What did you eat for breakfast?
Spinach, avocado, almond milk and peach smoothie (made it myself).
What’s your workout?
Peloton Spin class
What picture is on your phone’s home screen? Share it with us.
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
In 2001, our children were three and five years old and we hadn’t started a college fund for them yet. My husband was a teacher and I was a nurse practitioner, fully employed but thought we’d start a business on the side popping kettle corn. We imagined that we could do it together as a family, bring our children along and teach them the value of work and have them participate. We bought a kettle and started popping popcorn in our garage that fall. We had no idea that 15 years later Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP would be sold in all 50 states, Canada, South Korea, the Caribbean and Mexico. Sold in all major food retail outlets. It’s been an incredible journey, learning every step of the way! I’m grateful for all the incredible people we’ve met.
What do you see for your future?
I’ve been involved in a number of organizations that support and mentor women, specifically in leadership roles. I would like to continue to dedicate energy in this direction and I am open to seeing how this evolves.
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
We have about 280 employees, two production facilities and partner with many organizations to produce our products. We are in every major grocery retail outlet and online outlet in the US and Canada, and Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP is one of the fastest growing popcorn brands.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
Early in 2007, we were growing out of our small 2200 sq. ft. production facility and could barely keep up with the demand. We knew we needed a larger facility to build production capacity for future growth and we needed working capital. At least a dozen banks told us no. Looking to our future (but way over our skis) we already started to build out production lines in a new facility that seemed perfect. We were getting desperate. Late one Sunday evening we called our babysitter’s father who was a branch manager at a local bank and he was gracious enough to tell us to come in on Monday morning to meet with him. He had a team there, including their SBA specialist. On paper, we weren’t a very good risk considering the size of our business. Maybe they believed in us? Maybe it’s because we had great credit scores? Maybe it was a character loan? But Voyager Bank put together a package for us that included the participation of local government funding for economic development, gap funding from two regional nonprofits and an SBA backed loan that closed in late 2007. If we would’ve waited any longer to move forward, that loan would never have happened because the bottom fell out of the financial markets and we would’ve been stuck without a pathway to grow.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
The marketplace is competitive, and that competition makes us better. It’s made us always re-evaluate our contribution, our relevance and our differentiation, and to invest in an outstanding team and partnerships.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame?
We met with Costco in 2009. The buyer told us that they had tried popcorn in the past and that it didn’t work in their warehouses. But the buyer loved our kettle corn and gave us an opportunity in a couple of warehouses. Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP hit a homerun. We were the first popcorn that ever worked in Costco warehouses.
Mistakes? Too many to name just one. Let’s just say, we tried never to let a mistake go uncorrected.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love that we employ hundreds of people! We’ve built a community and extended family around the business. I also love that our success is our people’s success.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
What matters most about our business is that we conduct our business in a way that’s honorable, ethical and empowering to our people and to the marketplace. That, as a business, we have a platform to create a culture where people can thrive, where there is a mindset of empowerment, tolerance and community. Leadership is key. I once read that leadership comes from influence and influence can come from any position. Absolutely! Positive, dynamic leadership in every direction in an organization is, in my opinion, optimal. Empowered people can change the world.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
Entrepreneurship is an act of creativity. My superpower? It’s the creativity of meaning and purpose in all endeavors.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
My good friend Jennifer Smith, the founder and CEO of Innovative Office Solutions based in Minnesota. She has had to reinvent her business to stay relevant in the office supply business but she has been successful because she continues to allow her business to evolve. She has made tough decisions to invest, acquire, shift, pivot and chase – all done in the smartest, most honorable, classy way. She’s a mom, wife (in fact, her husband Brooks works for her) and daughter (she has taken care of her parents), all while building her business. She is an inspiration in every way. And her business is now worth more than $100 million. She’s incredible.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
On one hand, it feels as if I’d like to hear Beyoncé sing, “At Last” to all the female entrepreneurs. It’s been a long time coming where women are taken seriously more than objects, property or the means to market a product. There is so much energy and celebration of female entrepreneurs and leadership right now. It’s so important because my son and daughter need to see women in leadership roles like it’s a normal, everyday thing instead of something that is out of the ordinary. We’re getting there.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
My husband and I built our business together, and we definitely bring different attributes to the table. Maybe they’re rooted in gender, maybe not, but I can absolutely tell you that we approach things differently. Our perspectives are different, but I also think it’s related to life experiences and our upbringing. I know that I question myself more than Dan. I look at broad implications, he looks at driving straight forward. It just seems as if women experience a lot more self-doubt than men, even when they are highly successful. Ok. I accept it, so what?
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
Best advice? Probably from my grandma: “Be a good person.”
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