How to Start a Popcorn-Making Business

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Through popcorn making, you can be creative.
Through popcorn making, you can be creative. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

With a variety of color and flavor options, popcorn making has become both a science and an art. Popcorn businesses offer low start-up costs and plenty of ways to be creative with packaging and products. Knowing what is essential to a popcorn-making start-up, as well as your options, will help you make the best decisions to fit your budget and personal goals.

Starting Your Own Franchise

One of the most affordable, and least time-consuming, options for starting your own popcorn-making business is to join a franchise. Franchises provide owners with a business plan and supplies to get started with. Popcorn Papa, a franchise provider, offers training, business plans, supplies and recipes. According to its website, some of its franchise options have no fees. Poperella is another franchising option, which offers freedom to create your own flavors and provides business guidance while still allowing you to make your own decisions. Poperella charges $600 for an initial consultation, half of which will go toward your franchise costs if you decide to move forward with that company.

Starting from Scratch

Although opening your own business making popcorn allows for more creativity and freedom with ingredients, packaging, marketing and product placement than with a franchise, the responsiblities and costs are also greater. Opening a brick-and-mortar popcorn shop without the funding and security of a franchise can be too costly for some starting entrepreneurs. Introducing your homemade gourmet popcorn through home parties, a farmers market or consignment in local shops can help you raise money to build your business while spreading interest in your product. You may also choose to not open a brick-and-mortar shop at all, and sell online or in supermarkets instead.

Operating a Popcorn Cart

Starting a popcorn-making business in a traveling popcorn cart for festivals, flea markets and local events can be rewarding. According to Entrepreneur magazine, popcorn-cart operators don't have franchise options. Although startup costs can range from $10,000 to $50,000, there are ways to reduce your costs. For instance, instead of purchasing a new cart for $15,000, a used cart can run you only $2,500 to $5,000, depending on its condition. The markup on popcorn bags sold on carts can exceed 500 percent, according to Entrepreneur.

Essentials for Popcorn Makers

Regardless of how you decide to sell your popcorn and whether you go in it alone or with a franchise, every popcorn business needs essential supplies and equipment to avoid legal troubles. You will need something to pop your popcorn, which can include a countertop popper, cart popper or small-scale popping plant. You will also need kernels, flavorings and toppings, and either popcorn bags or buckets. Popcorn businesses also need a ventilation system in place to handle steam in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association code requirements and state and local laws.

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