Written By: Tampa Bay Community Manager, Ginger L.
Since 2004, Yelp has connected millions of people to the best in local business. In that time, we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.
For these salty gals, being sisters might just be the “pop secret” ingredient to their success at Salty Sisters.
If it’s not their sister telepathy, it may be the dedication to their community, or an experience-centric approach to customer service. The sisters can’t give away all of their secrets, however, Jen and Jill did sit down with us to share stories about their poppin’ world.
Meet our Salty Sisters: Jill (left) & Jen (right)
Okay but first, why popcorn?
Jill: We’ve always loved popcorn. We were on vacation in St. Augustine 8 or 9 years ago and saw a similar store and fell in love. We had never seen anything like it before.
Jen: Living in St. Pete our whole lives, we had watched the area for a long time and there was nothing like it
Jill: We just knew we had to do it.
Did working together come naturally?
Jen: Previously, we had totally separate careers. I am a registered nurse and Jill is a social worker. Really, it was just a lot of brainstorming in the beginning.
Jill: It was scary in the beginning and there’s normal sister stuff but since we were talking about it for such a long time and we were working on it way way before we opened, we could preview how we worked together.
Jen: And we know each other so well, and we know each other’s strengths better than anyone.
Can you take a guess as to how many iterations it took until you landed on “the” popcorn?
*insert sister laughter here*
Both: A LOT.
Jill: We started off in our kitchens, but you can’t do it in your kitchen. So we had to take the plunge and get the right equipment. Once you really learn and master the basics: chocolate, candy, and salty, you can get so creative. Popcorn adapts to what you put on it.
Jen: We learned in this process it really comes down to the kernel.
Okay so you have your concept, and your product…What about your name?
Jen: We brainstormed so many different names, there was Paradise Pop, Pelican Popcorn but then no, we thought that’s too much like Pelican Poop…
(insert laugh break here)
Jill: But then she texted me “Salty Sisters” and I was like “YES! that’s it”
Jen: Because salt water, salty popcorn, and yeah salty attitudes!
Now that you’re bona fide entrepreneurs, what have you found to be most exciting about your job?
Jen: I love coming up with new ideas, I am constantly thinking, “how can we grow this?” When I am being creative that is when I am at my best. And I get to do that every day.
Jill: It’s the customer experience. To be able to create something that people enjoy is something that I’ve never experienced before and we are responsible for it…It’s a really cool thing.
Our chat was briefly paused as the shop was visited by a couple of patrons. After our front row seat to the Salty Sisters in action, it is obvious how important customer interaction is to the business.
Speaking of customer experience… that was so fun! It is easy to see how you are so successful just by watching that!
Jill: Quality and customer service is everything and if you don’t have that then you don’t have a business. Sampling is a part of the experience!
Jen: We want people to find something they really like.
Jill: And then we have regulars that come back to see what’s new and they give us feedback.
As women, in business what are your thoughts on women starting and running their own company?
Jill: I think it’s so scary as a woman to open a business, because people will say, “You’re going to be away from your family, it’s going to be 7 days a week.” but being in it, it becomes worth it. My daughter, who is 4, if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she says, “a Salty Sister!” So even with all those times I am away from home, it’s still something she looks up to.
Jen: We are all about supporting female entrepreneurs. We like to support other women in business. We sell straws by Angie Millington, Florida Eco-Serveware, as well as the Everything Zoe scrunchies made by a young girl out of Treasure Island, and the brittle is from Psalm’s Brittle.
What would you say to a girl who is interested in owning her own business?
Jen: I knew I didn’t want to end this life without trying something I really wanted to do. At the end of the day, it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all.
Jill: If you have an idea for something that’s going to impact a community, follow your dreams, do it.
Jen: Jill said to me the other day, “What we learned along the way wasn’t wasted. No matter what happens, we’ve been changed and it was worth it.”
One final question…Can we be a Salty Sister?
Jen: Everyone can be a Salty Sister! There’s all kinds of ways you can be a Salty Sister.
Salty Sisters Gourmet Popcorn will be offering a limited time check-in offer on Yelp: 1 free signature mini bag
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This interview has been condensed and edited.