In Startup Food
Kristy and I arrived in Boston five years ago to an apartment rented sight unseen. We drove 18 hours to get there with our dog Colby watching the changing landscape in the back seat. A dream job brought us there, and now pursuing our dream of owning our own company is sending us to a […]
A year ago we scoffed at the idea of making a butter microwave popcorn. To us, butter popcorn was squarely against everything we stood for. We were asked all the time, but we literally laughed at the idea. We were pretty confident and, as it turned out, really really wrong. What was our issue with […]
Our last post titled Underdogs dug into some of the challenges of being a tiny company in a marketplace of giant brands. The cost and efficiency challenges are very real, but being small also has a set of huge advantages. There is so much we can do that they can’t! Fast and flexible: Making a […]
We have so much working in our favor and those are the things we focus on. Optimism, after all, is an invaluable competency for anyone trying to turn a new idea into a company. Sometimes, however, we can’t ignore the reality that we are swimming against the current. Grocery stores are packed with big national […]
A year ago I quit my job and went full time at Quinn Popcorn. It’s been an incredible year, but Kristy and I are still learning how to run our own company. In truth, it’s a whole new skill set, and it’s a real challenge. Kristy spends half of her average day on the phone. […]
We are ready to release our first new flavors since we started Quinn Popcorn! We have a super scientific methodology for creating new flavors. We try everything we (and you) can think of. Some are just okay. Other’s become staples at QP warehouse. That’s pretty much it. A big part of the year we spent […]
When we started Quinn Popcorn we had no food industry knowledge. It was just the two of us, newborn Quinn, and an idea. Our lack of experience didn’t really worry us because we assumed that we would just learn as we went. That’s not exactly how it happened. The food industry is full of complexities and pitfalls. […]
We have new business cards. Is this a big deal? Nope. But we did it our way, and I think it’s pretty cool. It took us well over a year to get our first business cards. We had too much on our plate, and we wanted to feel like Quinn Popcorn was the real deal […]
Just over a year ago Quinn Popcorn was an attic run experiment selling in a few local stores. Now we are a national product available in hundreds of stores across the country. In the world of food we are teeny tiny, but it’s still hard for us to comprehend how much as happened in a year. It’s […]
Before becoming an absolute food industry nerd I regularly experienced sticker shock. Holy sh*t. That jar of tomato sauce is $10!!?? Now I’m on the other side, and I spend most of my time working (almost always begging) grocers and distributors to keep the price of our popcorn as low as possible. If we had […]
The Nets, The Islanders, Quinn Popcorn??? Well, it’s not exactly complete franchise relocation, but we do have a desk in Brooklyn now, which we all find pretty freaking cool! A couple of things came together to make this happen. First off, one of our friends and heroes, Little Duck Organics, took the plunge and relocated […]
A few weeks ago Kristy, Quinn, and I packed up to go our first concert in months. We all had a blast. The Head and The Heart and Of Monsters and Men were both incredible. I highly recommend their albums. During the outdoor show I grabbed a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bar and noticed […]
Two years ago Quinn Popcorn was just an idea, Kristy’s idea in fact. We knew nothing about the food industry so we finagled our way into the Natural Food Expo, Expo East, held in Boston that year. It was a pretty mind blowing experience with lot of brands making some seriously good food. It was […]
A few weeks ago we got through the most stressful challenge yet. We took in investors and raised some much needed cash. The round ended incredibly well. All those on board truly believe what we are doing. Even so, cutting off a chunk of your developing company is very difficult. (The pic above is of our office before […]
Ken, a trustworthy, brilliant, master story teller, and investor in QP, asked C.V., Kevin, Coulter and me what we feared most during our monthly meeting today.
These are our first business cards. Yup, it only took us 20 months. At first I would give an “I’m a naive entrepreneur” smile when asked for my card. It was kinda funny in a pathetically hopeless kind of way. Later I just started saying that I was so sorry, but I had left them […]
I think it’s time to shed a little light on this whole GMO thing. As a techno geek, I find the topic fascinating. I mean, we are reaching in and manipulating a plants DNA so that it can serve us better. As a person who is eating the stuff, however, I find the topic a little […]
It’s been too long since we gave a overall update, so here goes. Last week we packed and shipped the last of our popcorn from Batch 2. Six weeks ago the warehouse was so packed with pallets that it was hard to move around. Now it’s nearly empty. That wasn’t supposed to happen this fast.
Launching Quinn Popcorn has been a ride. One minute we are hanging on a shooting star, and the next second we get blasted off. Both the constant highs and the severe reality checks keep us grounded, but what keeps us going are the customer emails and comments we have received along the way.
Over the past 16 months Coulter and I have been going full speed ahead trying to get Quinn Popcorn on the shelves. There wasn’t time to think about competition, to worry about those who could crush what we have been working so hard on. I always joked about them jumping out of the bushes, but […]
Coulter and I just received some of the photos and video taken during the DailyCandy Start Small Go Big event back in October. Wow, October. That feels like a billion years ago.
While I’m being facetious with that title, it’s actually not that far off. The battle begins anew every night when I get home from my work, and Kristy gets home from the QP warehouse. The shot is of our typical landing spot, the kitchen table. It was late and we had moved from wine to […]
Coulter and I rang in the new year watching Harry Pottery- Deathly Hallows. We started Star Wars, but the DVD skipped to a halt due to our dog Colby’s customary mail slot attack. A few hours later we dropped right after the ball did. The night was a very calm end to an incredibly eventful […]
Okay, so it wasn’t live, but there were no retakes so it might as well have been. About a week ago the film team from the Boston area TV show Chronicle stopped by and filmed at our warehouse. It was mostly unexpected as we hadn’t really reached out to them. They heard about us through […]
About 6 weeks ago, smack in the middle of trying to get Batch 2 underway at our co-packing facility, I wanted to pull our Lemon flavor. Yes, you read that correctly. All lemon lover QP fans would have been extremely disappointed.
Quinn Popcorn’s reach is slowly growing, and connecting with our consumers is getting more interesting (and challenging). We spent this past Sunday demoing in the Portland Maine Whole Foods. The drive there was about as long as the visit, but it was well worth it for several reasons. The above photo was from a ridiculously good coffee […]
The Holidays are officially upon us and this week has been a total blur.
Wanted to quickly let you guys know that we have been packing nonstop so we can have QP available for the holidays. Batch two is in full swing and we are finally back online!
We have been pretty silent during the last few weeks, but a lot has happend! Batch 2 has taken longer than we had hoped. We have had minor bumps in the road, walls to scale, log jams, etc., but now it’s all coming together!
If you live in NYC the Red Rooster is a hopscotch game away in Harlem. We visited the restaurant and met with the owner during our DailyCandy Start Small Go Big event. It’s a pretty neat place and here is why…
We are making a lot of popcorn this time. Four times more than what we did last time. That’s a piece of cake for our suppliers, but it still takes time to get everything together. It’s going as fast as humanly possible, but that didn’t stop us from running out of our first batch. Sure, […]
That’s our new warehouse. It’s 1700 sq ft of empty right now. Ostensibly it looks like no more than big slab of concrete with fluorescent lights hovering overhead. It’s actually much more than that.
We have a few weeks until our next batch comes in. There is a ton of prep involved, but thankfully, I have been calling our suppliers daily, and everything is in order…right now. It couldn’t come soon enough as we have almost no popcorn left and in a week, some shelves will go bare.
See that up there, that’s our second batch getting underway. Or at least that’s my slightly abstract interpretation that allows me to smile at the concrete truth of a credit card that is overdrawn by $9k.
I spent the better half of last night looking up internal structures of companies whom Coulter and I both admire. We are about to get very busy, and I am nervous that if we don’t have some sort of guidelines/ownership in place, things will get too crazy, and we will loose control.
About two weeks ago I made a desperate plee for help on our local T.V station, NECN. “Please, we need interns!” We do, we need help, and the following week while I was interviewing them, I clearly backed that statement up.
Four months after going to production with Batch 1 we have pulled the trigger and mustered up the strength to jump in again. This time with greater ease than last time.
A friend and one-time colleague reminded me of the above saying recently. Since then I have repeated it roughly ten times a day. Kristy is ready to kill me, but she knows that it is true. It’s simple, but it’s helping us be more deliberate.
When we first started Quinn Popcorn our parents were our biggest fans. It’s easy to watch your children take on a promising career / paying job, but I am sure its a bit hard watching them jump off the deep end; first born, dog, mortgage, car payments, school loans, etc in tow. It would have […]
Kristy started talking to Whole Foods well before we had a product. I think the first meeting was only 3 months into it. We didn’t have any flavors yet, our bag wasn’t figured out, and we didn’t even have any branding put together. Nonetheless, the local foragers took the time to talk to Kristy about […]
All of the feedback we have received on the Batch One page, through email, and in person, has been helping us make some changes for the second batch. It turns out that things we thought would be sticking points were easy, and the things we never thought of ended up being sticking points. First up […]
We have been working on this for a while and written several posts about it and now our popcorn is finally available on Amazon. Well, most of it is. The variety pack sold out in two days, and due to a glitch the lemon will be available on Monday. Go take a look here!
This is exactly how I feel right now. I am trying to hold on…grasping to stay on this ride… “steady.. steady, you can do this!” Although, I think this cowboy just one upped me on this one. He is so darn graceful! (We took this shot in Montana at a July 4th Rodeo. Such […]
I felt like I was sending my child off on a school bus for the first time. I didn’t want to part with this pallet, partially because its about 1/8 of our popcorn. It is, however, out the door and on its way to Amazon.
If you have noticed, I tend to write updates when I am so overloaded I don’t know what to tackle next. Therefore, check out the totally insane to do list below!
We have only demoed Quinn Popcorn twice at Whole Foods, but the experience so far has been pretty awesome. Surpassing our wildest expectations and leaving us hoping that it will continue!
Our son Quinn just had his 1st birthday, and Quinn Popcorn turned one a few days after that! This past year has FLOWN by, but It has been one of the most interesting years I have ever had. I was packaging in the warehouse today, still trying to get Kickstarter packages out of the door, […]
So, that first demo went amazingly well. We were totally unprepared, our setup was generic at best, and we sucked at the one sentence summary. There is a lot we will improve on, but we still sold out all the boxes on the shelf, all the boxes Whole Foods had bought in preparation for our […]
Tomorrow is our first demo. It will be at the Hingham Whole Foods from 11:00 – 1:00. I shouldn’t be, but I am a little nervous. While the support and positive feedback keeps mounting, this is the first time we will be interacting with customers in a grocery store. It’s a little like that day before vacation […]
About 3 days ago we were way behind in Daily Candy’s Start Small Go Big contest. Honestly, I had given up. I stopped hounding friends for votes. I hoped they would just forget about it. If it wasn’t going to go well I just assumed it happen quietly… Then, something remarkable happened. I started to see […]
Our Kickstarter backers are just starting to get their popcorn, and we are just starting to get some feedback from them. It’s been amazing so far. Lots of good things, some not so good things, but all of it is constructive and will help us make the next batch better. You might have noticed the […]
We had almost given up on the Start Small Go Big competition but we just pulled into the lead. You guys are amazing, but it won’t last. Please go vote for us here. This just might work!
We had plenty of boxes packed up over a week ago, but we finally got our first set of Kickstarter boxes out tonight. We knew figuring out our shipping system would be tough, and it’s finally up and running.
In order to qualify as a local vendor, you need to package your product in a facility not more than 250 miles away from that grocery store. Since we are going to be filling our product in our kitchen, that is once we have it certified, we will qualify as being a local vendor since we are only 4 miles away.
I need to come up with a better way to write/say “To Do List”. It is so uninviting that it makes me NOT want to do it. So my “Just Get It Done” list says, “stop whining and just DO IT”.
I bring this up because like everyone else in Boston, this weather is getting to me…. snow/sleet/ice/rain etc. = “snow fatigued” (I can’t take credit for this saying. I sadly read it on Facebook yesterday, but it best describes how I feel this morning.)
Kristy’s and I were in Boulder CO a few years ago and came across this amazing peanut butter at the local farmer’s market. Justin’s Nut Butter was a smaller company then and the owner, Justin Gold, was serving a variety of nut butters from a stand at the market.
Foremost we want to emphasize that out product is natural, and unmolested. Microwave popcorn currently feels manufactured and synthetic while ours should feel cultivated and pure.
Quinn Popcorn should feel fun but also sophisticated. A bit of a dichotomy I know. We don’t want to be the Doritos of the popcorn isle but, then again, microwave popcorn shouldn’t be serious. It’s is a treat often enjoyed socially, with friends, family, and/or children.
Our popcorn should feel accessible to anyone, yet it should also be seen as a treat, a small luxury. This is tricky because it shouldn’t feel like a high end tea or chocolate. It shouldn’t seem precious. Microwave popcorn is devoured rather than savored and we want to keep it that way.
So I did some research and found that there are three main ways to extract oils from plants and it is important! How the oil is extracted really does matter.
You may have noticed the different oil options that are available to you on the shelves of your super market, specialty store, etc, etc. Canola oil, for example, might say, “expeller pressed” or “cold pressed” on the bottle. Or it might just say “canola oil”.
So at this point, I have a love hate relationship with it. Every time I test a flavor, I make a full bag of popcorn to test it with. You would think after a couple of handfuls I would be able to put it down. Nope. I can’t even stop eating it even if I find the flavor horrible! I eat the entire bag…. every time. As much as I love popcorn, I don’t want to end up looking like a puffed kernel.
There are just a couple other topics we need to tackle… Things like brand development, graphic design, launch plan, product pricing, distribution, fulfillment, co-packaging, popping yield, user testing, nutrition info, upc codes, brokers, demos, promotions, marketing, etc.
For all those butter lovers out there, we are not going to be using butter in any of our flavors. I just wanted to get that out there. That said, we will be using oil, and the GOOD, flavorful ones!
I know I have already said this but we need the bag to be distinct. The bag is something that all other brands share. Our bag should be a part of our brand standing apart. It should reinforce the notion that we are reinventing microwave popcorn.
I received peanut flour from a farm in Georgia today. I am A. really excited to try our Honey & Peanut Butter flavor and B. really excited to bake some gluten -free chocolate chip cookies.
We began testing this flavor with regular peanut butter. We mixed it with canola oil over the stove and then poured it on top of the popped kernels. This resulted in a gooey mess, which is fun, but not really appealing. We also used regular honey. This didn’t work at all. The honey fell right off the kernels.
After nagging and hounding about using dry ingredients, Coulter finally gave in, and I was able to purchase 100% dehydrated honey powder, and roasted peanut flour. Both ingredients covered the kernels really well. They only thing, since the flour is pretty dry to begin with, we don’t want to use a lot of it because it becomes cakey and pretty much sticks to the roof of your mouth. We also found that you need to use a lot of it because the flavor gets lost in the honey. So, that said, I am on the hunt for peanut flour that really pops. I have found that there are 4 different options for us: A light roast at 12%, a dark roast at 12%, a light roast at 28%, and a dark roast at 28%. The darker roast is a stronger flavor, but I hear that it can be a bit bitter. I have not tasted this myself, so can’t say yet.
More to come when I have this all figured out!
We want to avoid coatings such as plastic, wax, or silicones that are needed to make regular paper grease proof. Remember that we are applying oil to the bag as part of the prep process. The oil would soak right through a plain paper bag leaving your hands covers and probably ripping the bag.
Glassine is a paper product that you are probably familiar with but the by a different name, parchment paper. Unlike paper, glassine is naturally grease proof; no coatings needed. Essentially glassine is paper that has been run though a series of rollers that smash the wood fibers into alignment in a process called supercalendering. This rolling and pressing give the paper its semi-clear and grease resistance properties.
I not only took about 20 pages of notes, but was also able to take home a CD of all the presentation material. I also have a new understanding of what a sales manager does. Because at the end of the day, no matter how good your product is, you have to be able to sell it. I need to become an effect sales manager on top of creating this food start up. I knew that, but now I am able to do this, or at least have information on how to do this.
The founder of Q Tonic, the new manager of Lesser Evil Snack Foods, and the co-founders of Chozen, an all natural ice cream company based in Brooklyn, were all there. The best part, I felt like I wasn’t alone in this crazy food industry. I actually have “friends” who are doing the same thing that we are doing; trying to make an existing product, better, and trying to sell it. It was very comforting.
This leads me to the question, why is pod coffee so friggin popular? Making a good coffee is so satisfying. Think about it; you go from raw ingredients to something delicious in minutes. You touch everything. Regardless of the brew method, everything you do has a distinguishable effect on the outcome. To top it all off, the result releases endorphins!
Between all the sourcing and problem solving we have been diligently trying out tons of flavor combinations. Over the past few months we have collected spices, herbs, and cheeses from around the globe; from Himalayan salt to Croatian sage. Millions of possible combinations and only a few hundred tried so far!
I wanted to pull apart a popcorn bag to see what makes it tick. It seems crazy but the bag is really an engineered system that is optimized for popping popcorn under the influence of microwave energy. A brown paper bag works just fine but somehow the modern microwave popcorn bag has become pretty complex.
A friend of ours who started a food company a couple of years ago suggested that we attend The Natural Products Expo East in Boston. We are obviously not ready to exhibit our product, but we were able to go as “buyers” so we could take a look at what we are up against.
Okay, here is my take in a few sentences. Rework makes you more aware of all of the distractions, excuses, and general crap that keep you from getting anything done. It’s about less analysis, and more experimentation; fewer closed doors, and more open conversations; fewer excuses, and more doing. It’s the kind of book that helps you become aware of truths that you always knew but never properly acknowledged.
Microwave popcorn is a product that was designed and marketed for convenience. Instant coffee and Lunchables are also convenient. Can you guess where I am going with this?
The popcorn bag is going to be one of our biggest hurdles. The existing bag is optimized and proven but it’s not going to work for Quinn Popcorn. The synthetic materials that exist in the current bag don’t fit with our all natural brand pillar.
I grew up making Jiffy Pop on the stove. I am sure you are all well aware that there were pros and cons to this event. Pros: making it with my sister, taking turns shaking it on the burner, watching the tin foil bubble magically grow. Cons: burning your fingers while trying to get to […]
With this post we officially announce Quinn Popcorn.
I guess that makes it real in some sense, but it is certainly very far from the shelves of your local grocery store. It’s just a concept, an idea that Kristy has wanted to pursue for years. It feels like we are at the starting gate of a marathon, tying our shoes. We have an awareness of the difficulty ahead but even more prominent is the anticipation. This just might work!