Food Startup Friends

When we started Quinn Popcorn we had no food industry knowledge. It was just the two of us, newborn Quinn, and an idea. Our lack of experience didn’t really worry us because we assumed that we would just learn as we went. That’s not exactly how it happened.

The food industry is full of complexities and pitfalls. The industry is run by giants. Little fish like us need to be so careful. One egregious term in a distributor’s contract could cost a fortune. The food industry, however, has one incredible balancing force. The people are amazing. We receive priceless advice just about every day. Without our food friends we would be long gone by now.

The teams at Little Duck Organics, Evol Burritos, Justin’s Nut Butter, Taza Chocolate, and other’s have helped us with everything from long term growth strategy to the name of a good box supplier. We reach out to these guys almost every day. We have that many questions. Seriously.

I see two reasons that food companies are so willing to work together. First, people who work in this industry are just generally nice people. That sounds oversimplified, but it’s just true.

The other reason there is so much openness is that very few food companies are actually in direct competition. The only time your success results in another companies decline is if their product is within 5 feet of yours on the shelf. That’s pretty rare. Although very few companies are direct competitors, we all share the same challenges. We all have relevant advice.

We were asking all the questions for a long time, but now we are finally at a point where we can help too. Through this blog, industry events, and word of mouth, our food friends network keeps building. Some companies are just starting out and others are way past us.

So, my first piece of advice to those starting out; make friends. There is no formula here. Just get out there. Give when you can, ask nicely when you need help, and be persistent without being pushy. If you can do that then you will quickly find yourself surrounded by food friends.


  1. Varada at Tipu's Chai wrote:

    This is so true! We have also received invaluable help from our friends in the food industry. Thanks for telling this story!
    Your friends at Tipu’s Chai

  2. Chiazor wrote:

    I really appreciate this post. I do have one question. Did you all having any issues navigating through the process of getting into local stores? Also is there an online community that has helped you with support as a food business?

  3. Coulter wrote:

    Getting into stores is really a black box. We start so many conversations, and keep our chins up when many don’t go though. There really isn’t a shortcut. It’s a ton of legwork and creating relationships is key…and difficult. We don’t know of good online community for food startups. Stonyfield has a good group on LinkedIn. If you find something please let us know!

  4. Squarebar wrote:

    Truer words (as the saying goes)…

    It’s all about reciprocity. You wonderful Quinn folks were/are a big help to us, so we feel it is our food civic duty to turn around and share advice to the next batch of up-and-comers (you see what I did there… ‘batch’). Furthermore, when it comes to newbies making good people- and earth-friendly foods, we’re happy to allow our brains to be picked! It’s a team effort.

    Thanks QP… much love from your Left Coast friends!

  5. Mason's Creamery wrote:

    Congratulations on your success! We just started a mobile ice cream business in Cleveland, OH, and have already made very good food startup friends at our shared kitchen. Thanks for blogging as you go, loved reading the backstory to how you got where you are.

  6. Lynn T. wrote:

    We got our Quinn order on Friday and that was what was for dinner! Delicious! We love it. Our 9-year old said: “It’s bester than homemade!”

    Thank you!

  7. Jon Jew wrote:

    We (my son and I) are a startup prepopped popcorn company with a special recipe developed over the past many years. Our marketing plan is small and simple; we will be selling our tasty and delicious, healthy and nutritious popcorn direct over the internet to a targeted demographic. They are people who habitually snack throughout the day and want to feel good during and after a “binge attack”. Our ingredients are grapeseed oil, organic popcorn, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt and organic white cheddar cheese powder. We really appreciate your openness and willingness to help us little guys get our products to market. My question to you, Coulter, is; could you sustain a viable business strictly through internet sales and marketing, building a customer base with recurring orders? Apparently not for you, but could this work for us? Our plan is to have 500 habitual user customers on a monthly, recurring subscription type plan, where they would get delivery of 8 bags a month, 1 shipment of 4 bags every 2 weeks. This subscription plan can be user friendly and flexible. By the way, your popcorn is fantastic, I can easily see how I could get my “fix” through you. We also plan to donate $1 from every bag to a tremendous global cause, Charity; water. We are all about causing “life extenders”, in every direction possible.

  8. Marie A.Kelson wrote:

    I have been enjoying reading your web psges regarding you and your company and how it all began and what your hopes are for the future. As a fanatic re popcorn (small, white and hull less is my favorite) and I like to buy it in the ‘raw’ and pop it myself. However, I am not adverse to buying prepopped popcorn and am especially charmed with your butter and salt popcorn (my favorite) – what would inspire me further is if you would give a more specific ‘measurement’ – one box equals 2 bags does not cut it for me. How much is there in each box – a specific poundage? I have been surfing around the net today trying to find my favorite unpopped corn that doesn’t charge more for the postage then the item. I LOVE that you (and I saw this no place else) offer free shopping if I spend a certain amount (and not an exhorbinate amount of money) -I would have considered ordering you salt/butter popcorn had I known the actual amount inc. for the cost stated. Am looking forward to getting your blogs in my email.

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