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Kettle Corn Business Journal: An entrepreneur's start-up guide to running a home-based food concession business. by [Bickernicks, Eric]
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Kettle Corn Business Journal: An entrepreneur's start-up guide to running a home-based food concession business. Kindle Edition

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Length: 211 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Product Description

Eric Bickernicks, of Velma's Kettle Corn, takes readers through the steps needed to start their own food concession business. He writes about his encounters with unusual customers, relentless health department officials and inept event coordinators. During this time, he documented everything on video, and this ebook links to over eighty videos which show exactly what transpired.

He goes over the equipment used to start his kettle corn business and the improvements he encountered as his business grew. He explains the different types of popcorn that are available and the benefits of each type. His business had many peaks and valleys and he shares the bad times as well as the good. He sold his product online as well as at events, and, on at least one occasion, US troops serving overseas were surprised with boxes of his kettle corn.

As marketing is always important for any new company, Eric goes over the different things he tried--from refrigerator magnets to t-shirt sales. He explains what it took to get a mention in the local newspapers and what other press he managed to get. He goes over what worked and what didn't in his attempts at SEO (search engine optimization) to get his website ranked on Google.

He learned the hard way that, contrary to expectation, bigger events don't necessarily mean bigger profits. He talks about the factors behind failed events, such as on-site location, when he was sometimes stuck in the far corners of a parking lot. At other times he was a victim of his own success, as with the occasion offended town officials stopped him from popping because his product became the focus of their event. Word of mouth spread about how good his kettle corn was, and he was eventually pursued by other towns for his services. He goes over his thoughts regarding corporate events, where the vendor gets payed up-front regardless of sales.

Some events were unconventional, like the time he gave away kettle corn to the neighborhood kids on Halloween, sold at a haunted hayride and set up his equipment on-site for a local movie night. He also took his set-up indoors during the winter, and explains why it never seemed to work.

Midway through his career, he moved and was forced to find locations all over again. He goes over his perceptions of each event before and after he attended. He took his business on the road to Florida where he explored the business opportunities available during the winter months when, back home in New England, popping outdoors was impossible. He even traveled to Hawaii, exploring it as a possible business location.

Creativity plays an important role in attracting customers and he writes about how he got customers to sing songs and participate in unusual challenges (all on video) just for a free bag of his product. On one occasion he even got an artist to go against his aesthetic judgement and paint on black velvet for some kettle corn. He also found out that kettle corn has non-human fans, such as cows and pigs.

Dealing with criticism from demanding customers and disgruntled competitors has been an ongoing issue. He relates stories about these confrontations and talks about what other bloggers and competitors said about him and his company. These tales include his account of the kettle corn vendor at Boston's Fenway Park who felt the need to confront him and when the failure of a wealthy town to embrace his product changed his perception of what makes a good customer.

These personal anecdotes illustrate the rewards and perils of running a small business and make Bickernicks' book more than just another business start-up manual.

Velma's Kettle Corn website:

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6507 KB
  • Print Length: 211 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Biksco Media (Feb. 16 2015)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #642,103 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d865574) out of 5 stars 37 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a6b557c) out of 5 stars Great and often humorous read March 5 2015
By Doug Erlandson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As someone who has started one business and been part of the startup of another business, I'm always interested in reading of the experiences of others and seeing what I might learn from them. This is a major reason I downloaded this book when it was free on Amazon.

Having been a mail-order, flea market, and card-show sports-card dealer for a few years in the 1980s and 1990s, I could relate to Eric's experiences of setting up in the morning, having no idea what to expect by way of traffic, taking everything down and putting it in the van at the end of the day, and going away, sometimes elated, sometimes disappointed, and sometimes perplexed, but always determined to repeat the process the next weekend. As I read through the book I appreciated Eric's often self-deprecating humor and his ability to maintain a positive attitude no matter the success or failure of a particular event. Without this attitude and a dogged determination no one who is trying to establish a business of this sort would make it. Thanks, Eric, for reminding me of this.

Eric's book is also a reminder to anyone starting a business of the central truth that any successful business is going to require a lot of hard work and that there's going to be minimal reward at the start. Some 13 years ago my wife and I along with another couple started an internet business selling gourmet licorice. After a year we opened a local shop as well. The first couple years were tough. Long hours of work with little remuneration to show for it is discouraging. And Eric's account of the early years proves this. But the day comes when a business turns the corner. And Eric's book reminds us of this as well, that eventually the hard work pays off. But only if you keep plugging away. Reading Eric's book, I received the impression that throwing in the towel was never an option. If the reader learns just this one lesson, this book will have served its purpose.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a936e1c) out of 5 stars Continuous improvement in action March 21 2015
By Robert C Ross - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is a perfect example of the principles of continuous improvement in action. Wikipedia's intro to the concept:

"A continual improvement process, also often called a continuous improvement process is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek "incremental" improvement over time or "breakthrough" improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility. Some see CIPs as a meta-process for most management systems (such as business process management, quality management, project management, and program management). W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer of the field, saw it as part of the 'system' whereby feedback from the process and customer were evaluated against organizational goals. The fact that it can be called a management process does not mean that it needs to be executed by 'management'; but rather merely that it makes decisions about the implementation of the delivery process and the design of the delivery process itself."

Years ago I learned and taught these principles in a large corporation with interesting and useful results. I started to use them at home, and my wife joined in with enthusiasm. When I became a full time care-giver, they were very helpful -- each night I would go over the day's events and in the morning found new improvements that helped my "customer". Today, as a volunteer, I constantly seek small incremental improvements in what we do in the not-for-profits entities I work with -- small changes work best in my experience.

Eric's book and his contemporaneous blog are real life examples of how he improved his products and services over time, some set backs, some successes, always interesting -- it was a business I knew nothing about, enjoyed learning about, and most of all saw the principles of continuous improvement demonstrated page after page.

Robert C. Ross
March 2015
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a7be2c4) out of 5 stars You need a good business plan March 19 2015
By Raven - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Book Review: Thursday, March 18, 2015

Kettle Corn Business Journal by Eric Bickernicks. Velma's Kettle Corn

To become an entrepreneur, there are several things one must consider. There are, of course, the goods or services you plan to offer. There are times that what seems to be a sure thing can go belly-up in a flash wiping out your entire investment. Which brings me to the second thing. You need a good business plan. Simply throwing money and hoping for the best won’t cut it.

In your business plan you need to consider the costs of starting up the business, the monthly debts, and how much goods you will have to sell to make any sort of an ROI (return on investment.) Investing in any business is something of a gamble. You are betting that the goods or services you offer will do well enough to make a reasonable profit margin.

This brings me to a third requirement. You need to do a thorough study of the marketability of your particular wares. Many a business has failed because it turned out few people wanted the product. It doesn’t do any good to have a great product or terrific services if you cannot sell them.

You also want to check out the competition. The question here becomes one of supply and demand. Is there enough demand for your product or services that you can make a real inroad into the market? Or will you have to go to so great lengths to deal with the competition that there is no profit left?

And you need to learn about advertising. You cannot sell a product or service if no one knows about you.

This is the story of Eric Bickernicks and friends who wanted to start a business selling the popular treat known as Kettle Corn. In perusing this book, the reader can learn from someone who’s been there the ups and downs of starting and maintaining such a business.

Eric and company’s Kettle Corn business wasn’t the overnight success that so many people dream about. At times after paying fees to set up at a Farmer’s Market or Fair, they barely broke even. And often the money had been taken from somewhere that required it to be returned, pronto.

Eric goes step by step with the reader, showing how to get started, avoiding some of the most common pitfalls, and how to build your enterprise from scratch to success! Along the way he gives us humor and tears as he begins to sell the Kettle Corn, the good times, and the disasters of owning a small business.

This book would make a great guide to those beginning or thinking of beginning a small business. I give this book, as targeted for a specific audience, four out of five stars.

Quoth the Raven...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a971840) out of 5 stars Recommended For Those Who DON'T Want To Start Any Kind Of Business At All! March 3 2015
By Steve Thomas - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Most of my working life, I was creating businesses from scratch, then once they were up and running, I sold them to people who were afraid to try an unproven business. I'm also a fan of kettle corn, and I used to make it to impress dates (and, yes, that DOES work!) So I was eager to see what kind of start-up guide this would be.

So there's bad news ande there's good news. The bad news id that this is NOT what I'd call a start-up guide. The good news is that "Mt. Velma" has written an amusing blog on building his business. It's not a belly-buster. but it's as funny as the Jimmy Stewart classic "Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation". Eric is self-deprecating, and good thing, too, because he writes of others who would gladly do the deprecation for him. And he's honest enough that he reveals times when he's sort of a jerk - frankly, it's sorta jerkish to run down competitors as he does, but we're all jerks at times (and I guess I'm being one right now), but it's clear Eric basically like everybody, even those he criticizes, and Eric is himself likeable.

He doesn't talk about his costs per bag, nor the price he's selling the kettle corn for, so when he saus he had an "eight oil day", we don't know how much he actually netted. That's pretty basic information, isn't it? He tells us that he compared Act II popcorn versus Pop Weaver, so obviously, he's not averse to sharing details about the business. He figures it's safe, since few will buy his expensive kettle to make their own corn.

But he's wrong when he says make kettle corn at home. I melt lard in a dutch oven, add sugar and stir until the sugar melts and then carmelizes (turns brown), and immediately add the popcorn kernels, and shake the pan until it stops making a racket, immediately turning the contents out onto newspapers (to soak up any oil) and salt it. He adds everything together right away at the start, and maybe that's the difference. I can't comparre his corn with mine, but I get raves on my corn as he does on his.

The book is fairly well written. He uses "descent" a couple of times where he means "decent" but that shouldn't spoil the book for you.

Mostly, the book is about finding places to pop and getting people hooked on what he calls "kettle crack." That's no small thing. The three most important factors in the success of a retail business, according to an old saying, are "location, location, location," and I've found that to be understating the case.

If you watched "Circus Boy" and read "Toby Tyler" when you were growing up, you'll probably get the same vicarious enjoyment reading this as I experienced. I don't think I'd enjoy the heat of the kettle and spending hour after hour on my feet; you might well be different. There are two things you ought to know about running your own business. Work is what, if they stopped paying you, you'd stop doing it, and if you love your occupation, you'll never work anoth day in your life. The second thing is, you ought not expect someone else to make decisions based on what's best for you and yours; his wife and children will (and should) come first.

So I not only recommend this book to those who want to start a kernel corn business, but to anyone who's ever thought of being his own boss, and even more to those who've never considered iy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b416744) out of 5 stars Kettle Corn Business Journal by Eric Bickernicks......try it you'll like it. April 17 2015
By Marvin Smith - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kettle Corn Business Journal by Eric Bickernicks is an entertaining and witty read. It is actually a compilation of blogs from Eric's Kettle Corn website. The result is a chatty journal of the ups and downs of popping and selling kettle corn for farmers' markets, arts and crafts fairs, flea markets, etc. It is liberally sprinkled with colorful photographs of the concession and the participating parties as well as links to the website and YouTube videos showing Eric and company popping and selling and apparently having a great time doing it. There are also several opportunities to link to Eric's actual how to book with much more information on how to start your own kettle corn business.

As I said above this is an entertaining read, and I now know more about kettle corn than I have ever wanted to. Not that there is anything wrong with that. We start at the beginning in 2006, and the work brings us all the way up to 2014. This isn't a novel, so there isn't a plot. If you are looking to start a kettle corn business or if you just want some light reading this one will be to your liking. Give it a try and let Eric chat you up.
Apparently he was able to give up his corporate job and make a living at this.

This review was requested by Eric Bickernicks and I downloaded a free copy from Amazon's kindle store.