Women-led food businesses have popping up everywhere like Sprinkles cupcakes, Health-Ade kombucha, and Loving Cup frozen yogurt shops — which means that if you have a passion for a culinary niche, you might want to think about a career in the food industry. Isupen this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Angie Bastian, the co-founder of Angie’s Boomchickapop, about how she turned a homemade snack into a booming brand with unique flavors like dark chocolate drizzled sea salt kettle corn (want!) and chile lime popcorn that have earned loyal fans nationwide.
Meet the popcorn Pro: Angie Bastian
In 2001, Angie Bastian and her husband Dan made a startling realization that they didn’t have a college fund set aside for their then-toddler-aged kids. At the time, Dan was a Spanish teacher and Angie worked as a nurse practitioner, and they wanted a fun activity that they could do with their kids and sell to set money aside for their children’s college fund. They started popping popcorn in their garage and selling it at local street fairs, neighborhood events, and they got their big break selling their kettle corn outside of the Minnesota Vikings stadium in 2002. By 2004, Angie’s Boomchickapop was in grocery stores and has been expanding nationally ever since. Last year, Conagra Brands acquired Angie’s Artisan Treats, LLC, the larger company that makes Boomchickapop, for $250 million.
Brit + Co: What’s your morning routine?
Angie Bastian: My morning routine has changed over the years, especially since our kids went off to college. Now, our 12-year-old dog Maya wakes me up. She’s quirky and sleeps in my closet. Every morning around 7am she emerges, sits on my side of the bed, and nudges me. I let her out, grab the newspaper at the front door and a cup of coffee. She gets fed while I put on my workout gear. Then, I’m off to spin class, breakfast, and on to my day.
B+C: What inspired you to start your company?
AB: Seventeen years ago, my husband Dan and I had a little freak-out parent moment when we realized we hadn’t started a college fund for our children (who were three and five years old at the time). Dan was a junior high Spanish teacher and I was a nurse practitioner. We wanted to do something together as a family, to teach our children the value and integrity of working together, and we wanted to put some money away for their education. We bought a big outdoor kettle and began to pop kettle corn in our garage and sold it locally. When we started, we never imagined that Angie’s Boomchickapop would be sold internationally and become one of the most empowered brands and favorite ready-to-eat popcorn on the market.
B+C: What has been challenging for you as an entrepreneur?
AB: The challenge for me is finding the balance between trusting my instincts as a leader and innovator while learning and listening to industry experts. As our company grew, we didn’t know how bigger food companies did things, so we needed to learn about everything from logistics to production. I think we learned, grew, and I’m very proud of what we were able to create together, and in the end, the balanced approach created great value in our company.
B+C: Tell us about how your family and friends help support your business.
AB: Grandparents jumped in and helped pick up our kids from school and spent time with them when the business started getting crazy. My parents even helped us pop popcorn at a couple of events in the very beginning. We had friends that bought our products, gave us honest feedback, and helped us taste test. We had a group of friends and family weigh in anonymously on Survey Monkey as one of our first consumer insight groups. Dan’s brother became our CFO and his dad helped us deliver to local stores early in the business. We hired a lot of our friends and their kids who were going to college and needed summer jobs. Our friends, family, and the larger community in Minnesota were incredibly supportive, and we couldn’t have done it without them. We are abundantly grateful!
B+C: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
AB: Be a good person.
B+C: What do you love about your job?
AB: I love that we employ people and especially love seeing our people succeed. I had the opportunity to watch our employees grow to become experts and leaders. I also love it when an Angie’s Boomchickapop fan realizes that there is real person behind the product, that our popcorn has become a part of people’s lives, and we’ve contributed in some small way to making their everyday life better.
B+C: Name two female heroes who you think should get a shout-out.
AB: JK Rowling is an incredible inspiration. She was a single mom, in the darkest of moments in her life, and yet she preserved using her imagination, creativity, and discipline to write. She created her life. Second, Malala Yousafzai. She said it best, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” And she has been a brave and powerful voice advocating for the education of girls. I am in deep admiration.
B+C: If you could tell aspiring creative women anything, what would it be?
AB: Trust yourself. Create the life you want.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos of Angie Bastian via Angie’s Boomchickapop; popcorn product shots via Tersey Regan)