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How to Start a Kettle Popcorn Business in 19 Steps

Do you want to start a kettle popcorn business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a kettle popcorn business with no money and no experience. One of the things that make kettle popcorn a desirable type of snack is the fact that it is sweet, crunchy and salty. Kettle popcorn business is one of the businesses that an entrepreneur can successfully start in the corner of a busy street or at a mobile shop without breaking the bank for cash.

Kettle popcorn shops/kiosks can be located in any part of town as long as there are children and even adults who like kettle popcorn in the location. Commonly, kettle popcorn businesses are located at events, parks, shopping malls, railway stations, bus stations, campuses, sport centers and in any public facilities.

Opening a kettle popcorn business is not complicated and it can generate steady profits if well situated and properly managed. Whoever plans to start this business needs to understand that dealing with customers in the most appropriate way is very essential.

You also need some capital to purchase or lease/rent a suitable facility (if you are not settling for mobile Kettle Popcorn shop), capital to get the required equipment/utensils, and furniture. You would also need additional capital to purchase your initial supply of corn.

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19 Steps to Starting a Kettle Popcorn Business

Table of Content

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1. Understand the Industry

The popcorn production industry is made up of businesses that essentially produce popcorn, including microwaveable, ready-to-eat and other consumer packages of un – popped popcorn.

IBISWorld has shown that over the five years to 2016, the uptick in discretionary spending has buttressed snack and confectionary industries such as the Popcorn Production industry. The report also stated that a healthy eating trend sweeping the nation in recent years has made consumers wary of eating high-sodium popcorn products, and has also led other consumers to find healthier alternatives to chips and candy.

Moving forward, the industry is positioned for continued growth over the next five years. The report further stated that popcorn producers will continue to adapt their products to match changing consumer tastes, specifically the healthy eating trend, which will continue to drive demand for industry products.

The Popcorn Production industry is a flourishing sector of the economy of the united states which generates over billion annually from more than 194 registered popcorn producing companies all around the United States of America. The industry is responsible for hiring over 3,000 people. Experts project that Popcorn Production industry to grow at a 1.8 percent annual rate.

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A large percentage of the popcorn consumed all around the world is produced in the United States. Although global sales of popcorn are progressively growing, Americans devour more popcorn than people of any other country. At least six US locations say there are the “popcorn capital of the world.”

The locations are Ridgway, IL; Valparaiso, IN; Van Buren, IN; Schaller, IA; Marion, OH; and North Loup, NE. So also, the traditional Corn Belt states grow most US corn. The 12 states in the Corn Belt are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio.

The kettle popcorn business has negligible barriers to entry, with low startup capital and no specific licensing necessities. The majority of popcorn shops operate as non – employers and the capital costs of establishing retail outlets are not substantial relative to many other retail industries, such as department stores.

On the other hand, the high level of competition and market saturation in a declining industry can prove challenging to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start their own Kettle Popcorn business.

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With this kind of business, if you want to start on a small scale, you can from your home. All you would need is contacts, business cards and good marketing and customer service skills. However, if you intend opening it as a full – time business person, then you should rent a shop in an area that is prone to high human and vehicular traffic. The good thing about ensuring that your Kettle Popcorn shop is visible to all is so that people may easily walk into your shop to make purchase.

Notwithstanding the fact that the industry seems over – saturated, there is still room big enough for aspiring entrepreneurs who intend opening their own Kettle Popcorn shop in the United States of America. The kettle  popcorn production industry is a profitable industry and it is open for any aspiring entrepreneur to come in and establish his or her business.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who buy popcorn cut across all genders and age groups. Adults and children all consume popcorn hence the demographic composition for kettle popcorn business is all encompassing. Reality is that when it comes to selling popcorn, there is indeed a wide range of available customers.

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So, if you are tinkering with opening your kettle popcorn shop then you should make the demographics all encompassing.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

It is significant to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to kettle popcorn business. Every player in this line of business are involved in preparing and serving/selling different flavors of Kettle Popcorn. Naturally, it is common to find a standard kettle popcorn shop engage in some of the under listed;

  • Producing consumer packages of un – popped popcorn
  • Producing microwaveable popcorn
  • Producing ready-to-eat popcorn
  • Selling Franchise
The Level of Competition in the industry

The competition that exists in the kettle popcorn business goes beyond competitions amongst kettle popcorn shops in your location; you are expected to compete with supermarkets, mobile food trucks, and any other outlets that also sell Kettle Popcorn. Thus, it will be right to say the competition in the business is tough.

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No matter the level of competition in an industry, just ensure you are good at preparing the different flavors of Kettle Popcorn, you can deliver excellent customer care service and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

In every industry, there are always bigger and better brands. Those that perform better or are better regarded by the customers and general public than others. Some of these brands have been in the industry for a long time, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

These are some of the leading kettle popcorn shops/production companies in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • ConAgra
  • Snyder’s Lance
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops®
  • Popcorn County USA
  • Benchmark USA
  • Great American Popcorn Company
  • Popcorn USA
  • Kernel Encore of Orlando
  • POP! Gourmet Foods
  • KuKuRuZa Kettle Popcorn
  • Popz USA LLC
  • Doc popcorn
  • Popcorn Buddha
  • Popcornopolis
  • Popped! Republic – Kettle Popcorn
  • Cravings Kettle Popcorn
  • The Popcorn Store
  • Popcorn Opolis
  • The Popcorn Factory
  • Popcorn Bistro Mall of La
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Economic Analysis

Kettle Popcorn shop business is not a green business; as a matter of fact; you will come across several Kettle Popcorn shops and supermarkets, mobile food trucks, and any other outlets that also sell Kettle Popcorn when you drive through town.

So, if you are mapping out your economic analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of what is required to rent a space where you are expected to open your business and the amount required to purchase Kettle Popcorn making machines and utensils and also the cost to successfully run the business.

You should also consider branding and how to build a robust clientele base. The truth is that if you are able to build a robust clientele base, you are going to maximize profits in the business.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When it comes to opening a business of this nature, it will do you good to buy the franchise of a successful Kettle Popcorn brand as against starting from the scratch. Even though it is fairly expensive buying the franchise of an established Kettle Popcorn brand, but it will definitely pay you in the long run.

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But if you truly want to figure your own brand after you must have proved your worth in the industry, then you might just want to start your own business from the scratch. The truth is that it will pay you in the long run to start your Kettle Popcorn shop business from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a location to launch the business.

Please note that most of the successful Kettle Popcorn shopd around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you choose to start your own Kettle Popcorn business today, one of the major tests you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established shops, supermarkets, mobile food trucks and other outlets that also sell Kettle Popcorn.

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Some other threats that you are likely going to face is economic downturn; if the economy is in bad shape, such businesses usually struggle to uphold their old customers or even welcome new customers. So also, unfavorable government policies can also hamper the growth of your Kettle Popcorn shop. There is nothing you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to stay positive that things will work well for you.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When considering starting a Kettle Popcorn business, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to control how big the business can grow.

Normally, you can pick general partnership, Limited Liability Company, or even a sole proprietorship for business. Sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business construction for a small – scale Kettle Popcorn shop business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate startup capital in a small neighborhood and with just one outlet.

But if your meaning to grow the business and have chains of Kettle Popcorn shops across the United States of America, then selecting sole proprietor is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

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An LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to function and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholder meetings and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should reflect before choosing a legal entity for your; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners and investors’ expectation and of course taxes. If you take your time to study the various legal entities to use for your Kettle Popcorn business, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be imaginative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. If you want to begin your own Kettle Popcorn shop business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Delight® Kettle Popcorn Shop, LLC
  • Mullaz®, Kettle Popcorn Shop, LLC
  • Prappy® Kettle Popcorn Mobile Truck, Inc.
  • Deo’s delight® Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Maria Looms’® Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Peter Flavors™ Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Maddison’s© Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Magic Licking™ Kettle Popcorn Shop LLC
  • Hunger Burster© Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Cruchy Delight© Kettle Popcorn Shop, Inc.
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9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t run a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most suitable insurance policies for your Kettle Popcorn business.

Here are some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own Kettle Popcorn shop business in the United States of America;

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10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you want to start your own Kettle Popcorn business, will not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run it without having any cause to sue anybody for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

When it comes to operating a Kettle Popcorn shop business, you do not need to have any prescribed training or special certifications. All you need is informal drill that will expose you to the in and out of formulating varieties of flavors of Kettle Popcorn and also effectively running the business.

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On the other hand, if you come across any form of certification that can aid you to conduct your Kettle Popcorn business, then by all mean try and pursue such certification.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your Kettle Popcorn shop business in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Tax Payer’s ID / Tax Identification Number
  • Foods and drinks handler certificate
  • Health inspection Certificate
  • Proof of district-issued food and drinks manager identification card
  • Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report
  • Business Plan
  • Employee Handbook
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use (if you also operate online liquor store)
  • Online Privacy Policy Document (basically for online payment portal)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
  • Building License

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Starting a kettle popcorn business can be cost effective specially if you choose to start on a small scale by running a small  popcorn shop in a street corner. But if you choose to start the business on a large scale, you need to source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large – scale business with the capacity to employ over a handful of employees.

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When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should deliberate on is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your kettle popcorn shop business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

When it comes to choosing a place for your kettle popcorn business, the rule of thumb is that you should be directed by the demand for kettle popcorn and easy access to corn, popcorn flavor and other supplies. Of course, if you are able to secure a central location for your Kettle Popcorn business, it will give people easy access to your shop.

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A business facility in good location does not come cheap hence you should be able to allocate enough fund for leasing/renting. You can as well talk to a business consultant or a realtor who has a full grasp of the city to help you out. .

These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your kettle popcorn shop business;

  • The demography of the location
  • The request for popcorn in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residence of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of kettle popcorn shops, supermarkets, mobile food trucks et al and any other outlets that also sell Kettle Popcorn in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

There are no singular technology or equipment needed to run this type of business except for kettle popcorn making machines, storage hardware (bins, utensil rack, shelves, food case), computers and receipt issuing machines, sound system (for playing music), Point of Sale Machines (POS Machines). You will also need computers, internet facility, telephone and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves) amongst others and all these can be gotten as fairly used.

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As regard leasing or outright purchase of a store facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standings, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short – term rent / lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long – term lease or outright purchase of the property.

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard  popcorn business with more than one outlet, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Popcorn Machine Operators, Sales and Marketing Officers, Accounting Clerk, and Cleaners. On the average, you will need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff members to run a small – scale but standard kettle popcorn business.

The Services Delivery Process of the Business

The business service process of the kettle popcorn business doesn’t have to be rocket science. Basically, it is the duty of the merchandise manager to help the organization purchase corn, ingredients, assorted flavors and packaging/serving materials.

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Once the kettle popcorn business is in full operation, the popcorn are prepared and they are listed on the menu. Kettle popcorn purchased from a shop is usually taken away because the shop may not have the capacity to house all their customers per – time.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

Running a business necessitates that you should be proactive when it comes to marketing your goods or services. If you choose to launch a kettle popcorn business, then you must go all out to employ plans that will help you entice customers or else you will likely struggle with the business because there are well – known brands that determine the market direction for Kettle Popcorn industry.

As a matter of fact, your marketing strategy should center on quality, and pricing, and above all excellent customer service. You should ensure that whenever your customers visit your popcorn shop, they will get quality products and excellent service.

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If you are able to put the above stated in place, you won’t struggle to retain your old customers and at the same time win over new customers. These are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can adopt for your kettle popcorn shop business;

  • Open your popcorn shop with a party so as to capture the attention of residents who are your first targets
  • Create a basic website for your business so as to give your business an online presence
  • Directly market your products.
  • Engage in roadshows in targeted communities from time to time to promote your popcorn business
  • Encourage the use of Word of mouth marketing (referrals)

17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One key influence that will help you sell your popcorns at rock bottom prices is to purchase your corns and other supplies directly from wholesalers in pretty great quantities. The higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from wholesalers, the cheaper you tend to get them.

Another policy that will help you retail your popcorns at the right price is to ensure that you cut working cost to the simplest minimum and station your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.

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18. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

Different flavors of kettle popcorn in your shop, your business process and of course your pricing model are part of what you need to stay competitive in the industry.

Another possible competitive strategy for winning your competitors in this particular industry is to build a full-bodied clientele base. Over and above, ensure that your shop is well located, key members of your team are highly qualified and can favorably compete with the some of the best in the business.

19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you do not make efforts to boost your brand awareness, then you should make do with whatever results you get. One of the secrets of larger corporation is that they are willing to spend a lot to boost their brand awareness.

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If your aim of starting a kettle popcorn business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be functioning from to become a huge brand by opening chains of shops and franchising, then you must be ready to spend money on the promotion of your brand.

Notwithstanding the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires reliable brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market.

Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand consciousness and create corporate identity for your business;

  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your Kettle Popcorn shop business
  • Engage in roadshows from time to time in targeted neighborhoods to create awareness of your kettle popcorn shop business
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • Advertise your Kettle Popcorn business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Position our Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where popcorn business is located.