Have you ever dreamed of turning your passion project into a profitable business? Do you have a side hustle that you work on whenever you have some free time? If so, you might be inspired by the story of Jen Martin, the co-founder of Pipsnacks, a popcorn company that sells organic, heirloom, and non-GMO kernels.
Jen Martin started Pipsnacks with her brother Jeff Martin in 2012, when they discovered a rare variety of popcorn kernels that popped into tiny, crunchy, and flavorful snacks. They decided to package and sell their popcorn at local farmers markets and online, using their own savings and credit cards to fund their venture.
But it was not until 2014, when Jen and her husband went on their honeymoon, that Pipsnacks really took off. Instead of relaxing and enjoying their vacation, they spent most of their time working on their side hustle, making calls, sending emails, and fulfilling orders. They even brought their laptop and printer with them to print shipping labels.
Their hard work paid off when they landed a deal with Whole Foods, which placed their popcorn in 40 stores across the Northeast. They also got featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, which boosted their sales and exposure. Soon, they were getting orders from celebrities, influencers, and media outlets, who loved their unique and delicious popcorn.
Since then, Pipsnacks has grown into a multi-million dollar business, with investors such as Oprah Winfrey, Kendall Jenner, and Sophia Bush. They have also appeared on Shark Tank and secured a deal with Barbara Corcoran. They are now selling their products in over 10,000 stores across the US, including Target and Costco.
So, how did Jen and Jeff Martin turn their honeymoon side hustle into a multi million popcorn empire? Here are some of the key lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from their success story:
1. Find a niche and differentiate yourself.
One of the reasons why Pipsnacks stands out from other popcorn brands is that they use a special type of popcorn kernels that are smaller, denser, and more flavorful than the conventional ones. They also use organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free ingredients, and offer a variety of flavors, such as sea salt, truffle, kettle, and cheese.
By finding a niche and differentiating themselves from the competition, Pipsnacks was able to attract customers who were looking for a healthier, tastier, and more fun snack option. They also created a strong brand identity and story, which resonated with their target audience.
“We wanted to create a brand that was fun and playful and had a personality,” Jen Martin said in an interview.
2. Be persistent and resourceful.
Another reason why Pipsnacks succeeded is that Jen and Jeff Martin were persistent and resourceful in pursuing their vision. They faced many challenges and rejections along the way, such as running out of money, losing their kitchen, and dealing with production issues. But they never gave up and always found a way to overcome the obstacles.
They also leveraged their network and relationships to get their products in front of the right people. They reached out to friends, family, and acquaintances who could help them with distribution, marketing, and funding. They also took advantage of every opportunity that came their way, such as pitching to Whole Foods, applying to Oprah’s Favorite Things, and auditioning for Shark Tank.
“We were just hustling. We were doing everything we could to get the word out there,” Jeff Martin said in an interview.
3. Be flexible and adaptable.
A third reason why Pipsnacks thrived is that Jen and Jeff Martin were flexible and adaptable to the changing market and customer needs. They were willing to experiment with new flavors, packaging, and pricing, and to listen to feedback and suggestions from their customers and partners. They also embraced new technologies and platforms, such as social media, e-commerce, and subscription services, to reach and engage more customers.
They also adapted to the challenges and opportunities brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, which increased the demand for online and home delivery of snacks. They ramped up their online presence and sales, and partnered with other brands and organizations to create bundles and gift boxes. They also donated their products to frontline workers and communities in need, showing their social responsibility and generosity.
“We’ve always been very nimble and agile as a company. We’re always looking for ways to innovate and improve,” Jen Martin said in an interview.
Pipsnacks is a remarkable example of how a side hustle can turn into a full-time business, if you have a great product, a clear vision, and a lot of determination. Jen and Jeff Martin proved that with hard work, creativity, and resilience, you can achieve your entrepreneurial dreams, even if you start small and bootstrap your way to success.
If you have a side hustle that you are passionate about, why not take it to the next level and see where it can take you? You might be surprised by the results. And who knows, maybe one day you will be the next Pipsnacks.