How to Start a Profitable Popcorn Business


Popcorn has many great qualities that make it such a popular business model. It costs very little to make and is completely customizable, allowing one to create a large variety of flavors for consumers. Plus, popcorn is a timeless snack that never loses its popularity. In 2021, over $11 billion was spent on this crunchy treat by the U.S. market alone!

If you’re a popcorn guru with amazing recipes and love sharing delightful treats, you’ll love starting a company in this industry. Before opening a gourmet shop or roadside stand to peddle your latest flavors, check out our helpful guide below to ensure your company gets a strong start!

Get Business Insurance Quotes

Right off the bat, you need to sit down and evaluate the risks of running a popcorn company. From third-party injury claims that your product broke a customer’s tooth to weather events interrupting your ability to operate, knowing what liabilities threaten your success is crucial.

So is adequately preparing for these events by purchasing business insurance. For many entrepreneurs in this market, a general liability policy can fend off customer lawsuits alleging bodily injury, property damage, and claims related to libel and slander.

You might also want to consider some of these additional policies below if you plan to have employees, buy specialized popping equipment, or operate in an area that experiences severe weather:

Workers’ Compensation is a mandatory coverage required by 49 of the 50 U.S. states for business owners employing one or more employees. This policy takes care of most costs and lost wages an employee experiences after a workplace injury. General liability insurance for your food business doesn’t cover on-the-job accidents involving your workers but only third-party claims.

Business Interruption coverage can replace part of your lost revenue due to covered events making it impossible for you to operate. For example, if a wind storm knocks out power in your area for several days or a fire damages your building, production of your popcorn products halts until the repairs get finished.

Commercial Auto is also important coverage if you plan to travel to different events and festivals to sell your popcorn. Personal insurance typically won’t pay for accidents while traveling for business.

Put Together a Business Plan

You know you want to sell popcorn. Next, determine in what capacity and write up a business plan. For example, if you want to sell holiday tins of chocolate-drizzled kettle corn and other tasty popcorn products, your business plan should cover every aspect of your operations. Include details about market research, forecasted profitability, startup capital needed, any goals or milestones to be achieved, and more.

This plan is a literal roadmap to your future as a successful business owner. It will also prove extremely helpful to potential investors when applying for funding. By providing a clear snapshot of everything from startup expenses to future expansion plans, you’ll be able to keep on track to reach these goals.

Decide on a Poppin’ Business Name

One of the greatest aspects of creating a business is choosing your brand’s name. With popcorn, you have an especially unique opportunity to be creative with your choice. From puns to homophones and alliteration, have fun with your brainstorming session!

Once you have a few options, check your state’s business website and verify if the chosen moniker is available or already in use. This is crucial to avoid copyright issues later on down the road.

Choose the Type of Business You’ll Run

Another important aspect of creating a popcorn business is deciding how it’s formed. The structure of your organization will directly impact not just your taxes and operational hierarchy but also the level of liability you’ll hold.

For example, you may opt to start out as a sole proprietorship since you don’t have to register or pay a bunch of filing fees. But this also means both your commercial and personal assets are on the line if something goes wrong. On the other hand, if you opt to form an LLC (limited liability company), you only have to worry about commercial liability.

Do your research and take time to speak with a business adviser about which entity formation is best for your future popcorn company.

Pick the Perfect Business Location

Whether you plan to operate out of your own kitchen, a traveling festival stand, or a storefront in a mall, you want to ensure your popcorn business gets maximum exposure to traffic and visibility. Concession stands are a popular startup that allows you the flexibility to move around where consumers are and cost less when it comes to initial funding.

Ensure You’ve Gotten Necessary Licensing and Permits

Regardless of your industry, most federal, state, and local government business agencies have a laundry list of licensing and permits you’ll need to operate legally. In addition, the Small Business Administration has a helpful website full of resources and general information to help you locate what you need based on your location.

Popcorn businesses will likely need health inspections, sales tax permits, and a federal Employer Identification Number. So, make sure you have everything in order before you start selling your products.

Acquire Funding

The good news is that many popcorn-based businesses can start up with little to no funding, depending on their operations. If you’re planning on opening a store in a mall or buying a food truck, you’ll need to qualify for a loan or convince investors to support you. This requires decent a decent credit history, a well-thought-out business plan, and funds of your own already in the bank.

Also, ensure you don’t mingle your personal and business finances. For example, open a separate company account with your bank. This not only simplifies tracking income and expenses but should you get audited at tax time, the IRS won’t confuse your personal purchases with those of your organization.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

Believe it or not, your business plan will cover some of your marketing plans, but it doesn’t lay out your entire strategy. First, you need to draw in customers. Then, despite the popularity of popcorn, you have to market your company effectively to attract consumers and grow your brand.

Fortunately, you don’t have to waste thousands on ad spending each month. There are a number of free marketing channels you can take advantage of online. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are fantastic communities focusing on aesthetics and behind-the-scenes media. This will draw in the audience and get their mouths watering, hearing the kernels pop, and enjoying close-ups of the final product.

Staff Your Popcorn Business with Top Talent and Equipment

Depending on the size of your business, you’ll probably need at least one employee to help out. Of course, you might be lucky enough to have family members willing to help out when busy. The important thing to remember is only having team members who understand the popcorn industry or are eager to learn it. You want to associate great customer service with your brand just as much as great flavors and fantastic crunches.

You also need to make decisions about your equipment. For many new entrepreneurs, there isn’t a lot of capital to work with at first. To make ends meet until they’re profitable, renting or leasing may be the best option at first.

Just make sure you only acquire what you absolutely need at first. This includes how much popcorn, flavors, and packaging supplies you initially ordered. Don’t order so much that it goes to waste and generates a loss.

Final Thoughts

Starting a popcorn business isn’t an overly complicated process once you know some of the steps involved. However, you must give your company the best chance possible at success. Take time to write your business plan, and don’t skimp on business insurance. You’re investing a significant amount of energy and money into this venture. Protect it and enjoy focusing on more important things, like creating tasty treats that make customers happy.

Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown, an MBA graduate from Columbia University, New York, has been a fixture in the business world for over 20 years. His expertise in strategic management has been a cornerstone of our content since he joined in 2016. Previously, Andrew held executive roles in several Fortune 500 companies, where he led transformative business initiatives. His years of experience in corporate leadership and consulting bring a wealth of knowledge to our readers. Outside of work, he mentors young entrepreneurs and enjoys playing chess.

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