Business Booms for Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP!

From a garage-based business to an admired, award-winning workplace for hundreds of employees, pioneer Angie Bastian 91N has grown Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP into a snack food leader.

By Michelle Valigursky

Angie Bastian 91N, co-founder of Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP.

Topics in this article:

Kettle Corn Cafe

An early festival setup for the Bastian's new kettle corn business.

Heat a kernel of popcorn and the water inside the hull will begin to steam, and build pressure until the hull splits open to reveal a crunchy, delicious bite of popped corn. But each time a kernel pops, a more powerful metamorphosis takes place: a snack food comes to life that makes people smile. For Angie Bastian 91N, Co-Founder of Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, better-for-you popcorn has transformed her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Family recipes for sweet and salty kettle corn and popcorn prompted Bastian and her husband, Dan, to purchase a kettle online in 2001. With their sights set on selling at street festivals and events, the goal was to involve their children, then 3 and 5, in the part-time business started to create a college fund. “We had one rule. It had to be fun for all of us,” says Bastian. “And it all began in our garage with a great idea how we teach them about the value of hard work and spend time together as a family.”

This garage-born entrepreneurial venture has since grown into a 280-employee (and hiring) award-winning company that has received top workplace honors. The founders have also earned numerous awards for their leadership and innovation, and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show. In 2015 Angie Bastian was inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owner’s Hall of Fame.

Dan Bastian

Dan Bastian creating outdoors in the company's first kettle.

Bastian, a nurse who graduated with her master’s degree from Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, practiced and cared for patients throughout her 28-year career. Until 2011 when she retired from full-time nursing, she contracted with Minnesota county mental health clinics serving hundreds of patients.

“I quickly learned that I needed a flexible schedule to help Angie’s grow,” she recalls. “There is a misconception that when you own your own business, you own your own time. That’s not true,” Bastian reveals. Even so, “We were determined to create a legacy for our children. Now that they are in college and have spent summers popping and selling, they have grown up with the business.”

Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP® has a simple belief: That the best way to get out there and crush it every day is by making a better-for-you snack with real, simple ingredients. After all, when it comes to everyday snacking, what you want is whole grain. Not a list of words that make you tired just trying to pronounce them. “That belief is how we turned a little local company into a BOOMing national popcorn brand. Now we want to help you crush it.”

Boom Chicka Pop
Angie’s Growing POPularity

People immediately loved the recipes that the Bastians perfected.  Real, simple ingredients, whole grain, and gluten-free, the range of products continues to grow. The company now offers original Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn, Sea Salt Popcorn, White Cheddar Popcorn, Real Butter Popcorn, Light Kettle Corn, Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, Sea Salt & Vinegar Popcorn, Dark Chocolaty Sea Salt Drizzled Popcorn, and many more varieties.

In an early marketing move, Bastian thought it would be fun to send their popcorn to the Minnesota Vikings’ training camp. The move paid off and in short order they became the official kettle corn of the Minnesota Vikings football team. This turning point taught them a great deal. “We realized we needed a sales and marketing team,” she says.

The company was approached by family-owned Lunds & Byerlys, a prestigious grocery chain and food co-op in Minnesota. “We later leased space for a production facility and set up an Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP kitchen in a former grocery store,” Bastian recalls. “This enabled us to reach a broader audience.”

Vikings Game

Selling popcorn at the Minnesota Vikings games, circa 2002.

In spite of momentary setbacks, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP products started to show up in SPINScans and Nielsen data. “Grocery stores positioned us in the natural and organic section. Our product was driving traffic to the shelves and increasing business.”

Distribution proved problematic in those early stages, and Bastian considers the lessons they learned invaluable. “We grew our distribution too soon before we truly understood the business. Some days it felt like we were always over our skis,” she says. “Our model was flawed and we faced bill backs. But we were fighters and rectified every mistake.”

“The most surprising realization was when private equity companies wanted to partner with us,” Bastian says. “It was great validation that they believed in us as a team.” In 2007 the company signed a large conventional loan to produce greater area economic development. “Had we not pushed through the early hurdles, it would never have happened,” she notes. 

Fast forward to 2010. Bastian left nursing in 2011 to lead the company. Manufacturing and distribution facilities continued to expand in their home base of Mankato, Minnesota and in 2016 to Reno, Nevada. Now, with more than 280 employees and distribution to every state, “We never could have predicted our family business would impact so many lives.”

Angie at Target Field

Angie and friends at Minneapolis' Target Field home games in 2010.

Encouragement and motivation is important to Bastian. Earlier this year, she traveled the country on the POP of Positivity Tour, during which women, children and men of all ages were invited to step inside a life-sized bag of Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP and video record what they want to “crush” for themselves and their communities, sharing that commitment in real time using the #crushit hashtag on social media. Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP also partnered with the nonprofit I AM THAT GIRL, a global community that supports, celebrates, and inspires fulfillment of the highest potential in every girl.  

“It’s been incredibly gratifying to build Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP,” Bastian reflects. “We are very excited for what the future will bring.”

Editor’s Note: Follow Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP on social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. For more information, please visit the company’s website.

Emory entrepreneurs like Angie Bastian network with each other through the Emory Entrepreneur Network and Emory Connects. Join them and see where your next Emory connection might lead.