Today we’d like to introduce you to Miriam Cohen Franzen.
Miriam, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Boston, but grew up in North Carolina. As an adult, I have lived in both Massachusetts and North Carolina. Massachusetts is really a wonderful place and I plan to spend the rest of my life here. My professional background is in both finance and administration. Personally my husband and I live in Waltham with our three teenage children. All the experience I have gained both professionally and with raising children has given me the knowledge and confidence to run a business.
While in North Carolina, I enjoyed purchasing popcorn from a gourmet popcorn shop owned and operated by a friend. She makes high quality popcorn in a wide variety of flavors and it was always fun visiting her shop. When my family and I moved back to Massachusetts, I looked for a shop like hers here and couldn’t find one. At the same time I was really exploring the option of opening my own business. I didn’t know what kind of business to start, just that I wanted to own one. When I wasn’t having luck finding a local gourmet popcorn shop, I realized that it would be the perfect business for me to start.
I did a year of due diligence. I researched every aspect I could think of, for starting and running a business from financing options to types of packaging. In addition to lots of online research, I took the time to meet with other business owners, representatives with the Small Business Association, and people in the popcorn business. On a trip to visit family in North Carolina, my friend was gracious enough to spend a few hours talking with me about the ins and outs of running a gourmet popcorn shop.
Finally it was time to stop researching and start acting. I found a location and began the process of turning it into the store that I had envisioned in my mind. A fellow business owner told me that it usually takes twice as much money and twice as long to start a business than you think it will. I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right. After squeezing out more savings than I was comfortable with, I had to swallow down my nervousness and finish the process.
I’m glad I did. While I’ve only been open eight months as of this writing, the cash flow has been positive and running my business has been an amazing experience. Plus my family and I get all the popcorn we want!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Fortunately I have not had any major struggles towards and during business ownership. The main struggles I’ve had have been internal. Like many things in life, owning a business is a learning process. Some aspects may be intuitive, but most you have to learn.
Prior to opening my business I only knew how to make microwave popcorn. I had never heat sealed a bag, made my own labels, submitted reports to a Department of Revenue, or worked with a Health Department. Even my accounting knowledge was not sufficient to do my own business accounting. I was easily overwhelmed and filled with self-doubt. But I am both determined and very resourceful, so I figured out how to do these things. Though I will say that I did finally hire a professional accountant and her services have been worth every penny.
It’s very easy to doubt yourself. But when I look at what I have accomplished in life, I remember that I am capable of more than I, and sometimes others, give myself credit for. Not long ago I took on leading a service at my synagogue, something I had not done for over 30 years. Public speaking makes me nervous and leading a service isn’t too different from that. Standing up in the front of the sanctuary, I could feel my heart beating so hard I thought it would pound itself right out of my chest. I had to remind myself that owing a business was a much bigger and more difficult task than leading a service for 40 minutes.
As a business owner, if you push away your self-doubt, then you realize that you can deal with whatever happens. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to close your business. Even then, you have gained tremendous experience in starting and operating a business, experience you can use to either open up another business or take another path.
Please tell us about Waltham Popcorn.
Waltham Popcorn is a gourmet popcorn shop that offers high quality popcorn in a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors, often flavors you won’t find in your local grocery store. All our popcorn is popped, flavored, and packaged on site. It’s always nut free, gluten free, and kosher.
Our popcorn can be purchased for individual consumption, in bulk for an event, and for gifting. I make my own labels and can customize them for your special event.
Many of our flavors are seasonal. The Pumpkin Pie flavor flew off the shelves in November. Jalapeno Cheddar and Pizza were very popular this past spring. Currently we have Root Beer Float and BBQ on the shelves. Of course we always carry standards like Butter & Salt, Kettle Corn, Caramel, and Cheddar. And we offer free tastings of all of our flavors.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I have lots of great memories from my childhood. There was one particular experience I enjoyed when I was a young teenager. My mother worked with a woman whose husband owned a small snack manufacturer. His company made potato chips, cheese puffs, and other concessions. My mom, sister, and I were invited to visit the manufacturing plant to see how these snacks were made. It was fascinating to see and I have, at times, looked at what other manufacturers whose production facilities I could visit. Most of these facilities are not open to the public, so I was fortunate to get to see this particular place.
- Sample size bag $3 or 5 bags for $12
- Small size bag $6
- Medium size bag $8
- Large size bag $12
- 5 gallon bulk bag $50
- Small gift box $4 plus popcorn
- Large gift box $8 plus popcorn
- Bag of kernals for at home popping $5
- Address: 901 B Main Street
Waltham, MA 02451
- Website: www.WalthamPopcorn.com
- Phone: 781-472-2324
- Email: contact@WalthamPopcorn.com
- Instagram: waltham_popcorn
- Facebook: @walthampopcorn
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/waltham-popcorn-waltham
Picture in front of store taken by Bill Whalen of Wicked Local Walham, Picture of salting kettle corn taken by Joe Kleinman. All other photos taken by Miriam Cohen Franzen.