Bob and Rose Augustyn weren’t really looking for a business opportunity when they took a stroll through downtown Greenville during a visit in 2008.
They were looking for a place to grab a quick snack, and Rose says a glaring absence “popped” into her mind: there wasn’t a popcorn store or stand.
She’d had just been “downsized” during the recession and was thinking of next steps when the possibility of a popcorn shop lodged in her mind. The idea inspired her to go back to college for a degree in entrepreneurship.
Rose said she saw the tremendous growth potential in Greenville and began working on her business plan while pursuing her degree.
She did market research and feasibility studies and, among other things, learned she’d probably need daily foot traffic somewhere between 8,000-10,000 for a popcorn shop to thrive. After completing her studies and taking a year to develop a business plan, Rose and Bob moved to Greenville and opened Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn in 2012.
For SCORE mentor David Esch, the attention to detail and level of preparation Rose put into Poppington’s is rare among clients looking to start a business.
“For all my years with SCORE, it was the most complete business plan I’ve ever seen,” Esch says.
“I’ve learned to do things on my own. You do what you have to do.” — Rose Esch
He adds that one of the first things he helped the Augustyns do was define roles. Rose focuses on business and product development while Bob spearheads production. They have a range of 50 artisanal popcorn products, all of them made in-house at Poppington’s 1,000-square-foot South Main Street location.
That specialization has made the business more efficient, and Rose says the company is expanding manufacturing to include special products and customized packaging for corporate clients like zoos and hospitals.
“I’ve learned to do things on my own,” Rose says. “You do what you have to do.”
Esch says Rose’s initiative and drive to continue learning and improving the business has made her one of the clients he enjoys working with the most.
“It’s been so much fun because Rose has been so thorough,” he says.
Esch adds there are many other SCORE clients who seem to think that because they have a mentor, success will follow like “magic.”
“But you have to do the work,” he explains.
Poppington’s products come in a variety of flavors and even colors, ranging from caramel to cheese to chocolate, to name a few. Rose says the company orders between 500 and 1,000 pounds of corn at a time and, pre-COVID, produced more than 55 tons of popcorn a year.
Looking forward, Rose says they are deciding just how much to expand production. While they’re weighing those decisions, she says she’ll continue to learn from other businesses and the multitude of resources available through SCORE.
SCORE is funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.