Meet the Founder: Rachel Flores of p.o.p. candy co.
Over the years, p.o.p candy co. founder Rachel Flores has learned a thing or two about adaptation. When her baking hobby blossomed into a full-fledged business, she had to learn everything on the fly.
With business/life partner Bill Waiste by her side, she’s ready to adjust to today’s unprecedented circumstances. This week, we caught up with Rachel to learn more about why she started p.o.p and what drives her to overcome every obstacle.
01 Why did you start p.o.p candy co.?
Butter crunch was my go-to holiday gift for family and friends. After a couple nights of flipping butter in my home kitchen, they’d get theirs in a ribbon-laced cello bag. They loved it!
Then, a couple years later, my hair stylist was raving about it as she pointed to The Peninsula in Beverly Hills. “You should be selling it over there!,” she said. She was a successful entrepreneur who had carved out her own business. I remember thinking, why wouldn’t I take her advice to heart?
I also spent years in the nonprofit world where I was driven and motivated, but always operating within boundaries set by others. One day, I saw a quote from Rachael Ray – “If you’re going to work that hard, it should be for something with your name on it.” BOOM! AB. SO. LUTELY!
With that clarity, I started to see the opportunities that helped set p.o.p. into motion. A friend who sold her products at a local farmers market let me set up a small table at her booth. We started with four flavors – our “p.o.p classics” – and sold out of everything, even though it was a rainy day. They offered us a booth of our own before we even packed up! We said yes and officially launched our business.
My not-yet-husband – a pro in the restaurant world (could I have asked for a better business partner?!) – agreed to help me roll out the product. We found a commercial kitchen, scaled up the cooking, created more flavors, and developed our packaging and branding. Honestly, it all happened fast and it was fairly easy. It felt like it was meant to be.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
A small business will drain every resource you have, if you allow it to. Your time, your money, your energy – and it always seems to need more. I’m proud of my growing business and it’s clearly an extension of who I am. But, I’ve learned the hard way that I cannot let it be all I am.
Besides, it’s not just about what happens internally. There are also things you can’t control. The latest example of that is COVID-19. Who could have expected this and how it would change things so dramatically in just one month?
We went from our most successful quarter to something of a simplified survival plan because we don’t know how long we’ll be in this state. And, it’s not just about us – we also have to be mindful of what our customers are going through.
So, we’ve pivoted. Instead of counting on live events, we’re building our online presence to connect with current customers and introduce ourselves to a new audience. It’s actually something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This situation forced us to shelter-in-place, but also gave us time to stay engaged with our customers in a way that’s been really fun and gratifying.
Recently, we kicked off our “p.o.p. comfort” sale and a giveaway of our “Hugs!” assortment pack, because we could all use some hugs right now. There’s much more to come. One thing I know for sure is that we’ve developed a tough skin in this business. We’ve already had to adapt so much and that’s helping us now as we work through this situation.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
- Be ready to adapt and know that it’s not just about you (see above).
- Never underestimate the importance of good customer service.
- Mentally prioritize your relationships over your business. Then, with that clarity, work on giving your business 120%.
- Forgetting to sleep catches up with you.
- If a virus strikes in your community, immediately check your inventory and order things FAST!
04 What’s on the horizon for p.o.p candy co.?
More flavors. More retail. More online presence. More fun.
We’re giving customers a peek at our five flavors in development and having them vote to pick their favorite. It’s similar to what we do at live demos, except it’s online. We’re excited about it!
Meanwhile, we’re keeping our retail partners stocked up and letting them know that we’re here for them whenever they need us. Just the other day, Bristol Farms called and asked if we could quickly create an order of gift baskets for the American Idol team to be distributed nationwide. We jumped right into the kitchen and made it happen. No matter what we’ve got going on, we’ll always make time for opportunities like that!
Of course, serving our customers with integrity, consistency, and high-quality products is always our No. 1 priority. That way, we ensure a fantastic experience for our customers, no matter how they discover us. And, if we do things right, we’ll be able to provide them with easy access to even more fun options!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
We keep it real while thinking outside the box. What drives us is knowing that we’re bringing love and enjoyment into the world of our customers. How cool is that?! I never could have imagined that we’d be able to share something so personal and get so much fulfillment in return.