Welcome to the May edition of Coffee Talk with the Darby Crew. This month, we take a step inside the life of female entrepreneur and Ashevillian, Ginger Frank of Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn. So grab a bag of Asheville Mix and join us for an interview with the Queen of Popcorn.
Ginger, thanks so much for taking time to chat with us about being a female entrepreneur, your amazing popcorn business, and how things are going for you during this intense time for our country. Let’s go ahead and dive right in!
First off, can you tell us a bit about what you do for a living?
Wow, this is hard to answer at the moment. My job has changed so much in the past two weeks. I feel like right now my full-time job is keeping my kids focused on school work; reminding my kids that yes, while this feels like the worst, there are actually many things that are way worse; trying to keep a business afloat in an unprecedented time; watching more webinars than I ever thought humanly possible; applying for SBA loans and trying to understand the options and processes while in a race against the clock; and trying to keep spirits up around me including my own. These are tough times.
Many people in the Asheville area are familiar with Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, but not many of them are familiar with the origin of your business. Where did your dream for Poppy come from?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. My dad was a small business owner, and I think it’s something that you naturally have a heart and mind for or you don’t. I think many people have lots of amazing ideas, but seeing them through and weathering the ups and downs takes someone that feels that drive in their bones. To that, I always knew I wanted to do something and I’ve had several micro-businesses along the way during different stages of my life. The idea of Poppy came as I was really trying to change my lifestyle—I wanted more flexible time with my kids and really wanted to build a future for myself. Popcorn was the snack that I grew up on. We had popcorn ALL.THE.TIME. when I was a kid. Lots of times we’d go to the movie theatre just to buy popcorn and take it home. I always loved visiting popcorn shops when I was in a city that had one and eventually, I thought, “I can do this!” I can do it differently, build it around my life, and really make it fun. My immediate thought was that I wanted to have a popcorn truck that I could take out on the weekends and summers, like an ice cream truck. Needless to say, things have evolved a lot since then! I never actually achieved that popcorn truck goal because the more I learned, the more I realized that the investment to get started required a bigger commitment of time and selling opportunities to warrant the cost of it. So, I took the jump and opened the retail store in October of 2014.
What were the very first flavors available from Poppy?
Many of the original flavors are still top sellers, although we’ve added many along the way. Salted Caramel, Asheville Mix (salted caramel & white cheddar), Poppy Mix (salted caramel, white cheddar & jalapeno cheddar) and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Those 4 have been around since the beginning and are still four of our top-selling flavors year after year.
What’s your favorite flavor of Poppy popcorn?
It changes. I eat way more savory popcorn than sweet popcorn, although I love both. Really the “newest” flavor always seems to be my favorite! I also love to eat plain popcorn right out of the popper with nothing on it. I honestly just love popcorn!
We are definitely living in unique times. What have you found to bring you calm and happiness as you deal with new challenges every day?
My kids, friends, and dog have been my saving grace. I’ve also found the small business community here to be so supportive during this time, and many of them are folks who I consider my friends. The encouragement from others and a sense of we’re all in this together has really made the burden more bearable. The staff at Poppy have been so gracious and have really been the glue to hold things together. Their attitude of “we’re here for you, each other, the long haul, and what’s best for the whole company, not just ourselves” is something for which I have so much gratitude.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Asheville community?
Asheville is everything to me and is what has allowed Poppy to grow and thrive. From the folks that came in day after day in those early years to buy popcorn and still do all these years later, to other small business mentors and friends that were willing to be so open and honest with their information and experiences, to the community my family has been a part of over the years. There have been many times that I’ve had to call friends at the last minute and say, “Can you grab my kid from school?!” because something came up at work and then there are the friends that have come in over the years to help me get orders out when I couldn’t keep up. Then there is my staff who have said, “We’ve got this, Ginger—go to the baseball game” so I can spend time with my kids—I don’t think I could ever adequately put into words what Asheville means to me.
If it was a gorgeous day in WNC and we weren’t under a Stay Home order, where would we most likely find you?
Our favorite things to do when the weather permits include:
- Going to a baseball game
- Hiking on a trail with friends or my kids or both!
- Having a drink and cooking out on my back porch
- Hanging out at a local brewery with the kids and friends
What have you been listening to lately?
I have been working out with my trainer—my 15-year-old son, haha—and we’ve been listening to his workout playlist—so lots of 70’s and 80’s rock such as Guns & Roses, Bon Jovi, and Steve Miller.
Books or podcasts? What are you reading or listening to at this time?
I’m reading Educated right now, which is fascinating. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts. Sometimes I feel like my brain is full and can’t take in any more info. But I have been listening to Rise Together by Rachel Hollis and also the Making Do podcast.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m an introvert. I think I appear to be the opposite, but as much as I love people and being with them, I love alone time, too. Folks are also always surprised to learn that I didn’t go to college. I think there is a misconception that if you don’t have a college degree, you can’t be successful. I’m definitely not an advocate of not going to college, I certainly wish I had, but it wasn’t something that I grew up thinking was important. My dad had a 9th grade education and his motto was “hard work trumps everything,” which is probably true. But I do wish I had that college experience—I just didn’t know how to make that happen at the time without my parents’ support.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to start their own business?
Don’t do it. Ha ha, just kidding! That’s just the pandemic talking. I think if you really believe in what you want to do and want to go for it, you have to throw pride out the window. You have to ask for help and be humble enough to receive advice. The more you have that attitude, the more people want to help you, root for you, and see you succeed. It truly takes a village. You have to be willing to fail in order to learn what works and not let that failure define you. You have to keep figuring it out and working and pushing even if no one else around you gets it. It is most definitely not for the faint of heart.