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Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022
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In Hot Valley, Iced Popcorn Tastes Cool

Joshua Chaney and his girlfriend Sulmaz Rahimpour are building their popcorn empire one kernel at a time. But success didn’t just pop up for them; the couple started humbly, selling caramel corn at farmers’ markets. Today the two are retailing more than 47 flavors of popcorn at their West Hills storefront California Frozen Poppers, which will expand to new locations in the beginning of the year. It all started when Chaney decided to leave the entertainment industry after 17 years working as a key grip on such hit shows as “Friends” and its spin-off “Joey.” During that time, his mother fell very ill, and while in the hospital, she gave Chaney his great grandmother’s secret caramel recipe. As his mother was recovering, Chaney began experimenting with the recipe, creating different flavors to put on popcorn. He decided to test his product at the Northridge Farmers’ Market. “That night, I not only sold out eight of the 10 flavors, but I also made $500 in profits,” said Chaney. “That kind of forced me to go home and look at this as a business.” Soon after, he met Rahimpour on Skid Row while the two were feeding the homeless, and in February 2013, they opened Mad Poppers, which was later renamed California Frozen Poppers for franchising and licensing purposes. Now California Frozen Poppers sells between 100 and 200 bags of popcorn a day, retailing from $5 to $15 each. Many of the products are dairy, gluten and animal-free as Chaney’s caramel recipe does not use butter. Chaney and Rahimpour differentiate their product by air popping the corn and using real caramel, which is also why they freeze it. Chaney said that most caramel corn is artificially flavored, which is why it stays hard at room temperature, as opposed to their house-made caramel, which is chewy at room temperature. In oversaturated markets like the popcorn industry, it can be difficult to make your product stand out. However, marketing expert and board member in charge of communications for the New York American Marketing Association Lisa Merriam said sometimes developed markets can work to an entrepreneur’s advantage, because the public is already familiar with the product. “Going to a well-developed market and carving out a niche in an existing market can be less risky and expensive for an entrepreneur than doing something totally new,” she said. Chaney and Rahimpour are looking for a flagship store location in areas such as Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice as well as exploring franchising opportunities. “Nothing has been done with popcorn since microwavable popcorn, and we do popcorn a lot different than everyone else,” said Chaney. – Stephanie Henkel

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