Success Story: Mile Hi Popcorn

Mile Hi Popcorn in Centennial, Colorado

Julie McGuire and her son Sean hit the ground running and haven’t looked back. Co-owners of Mile Hi Popcorn, located in Centennial, Colorado, they’re busy making a long-time dream of Julie’s a reality.

Gourmet Popcorn Dreams

Filling decorative tins with gourmet popcorn at Mile Hi Popcorn

Julie McGuire, co-owner of Mile Hi Popcorn

Julie worked in theaters and popcorn shops when she was younger and always thought it would be fun to start a shop of her own. Life happened, however, and she found herself with a successful real estate career instead.

Sean, Julie’s middle son, inherited her love of popcorn, and years later, when he was uncertain what career move to make, they began discussing the idea of a gourmet popcorn shop. They had both noticed that when shopping for good popcorn, they couldn’t really find what they were looking for, and Julie had a feeling she could make a better product than what was already out there. So they went for it!

A Challenge Becomes a Success

Gourmet popcorn shop setup

Getting ready for holiday sales at Mile Hi Popcorn

Once they were in the thick of things, they realized how difficult starting from scratch would be. Julie was still working in real estate at the same time, and they ran into trouble getting the shop ready for their planned opening date due to contractor schedules and construction.

Instead of opening in the fall and having time to strategize for the holidays, construction pushed back the grand opening of Mile Hi Popcorn (a nod to nearby Denver’s nickname as the Mile High City) to November 2017 – right at the height of the retail holiday shopping season.

But Julie and Sean pushed through and emerged strong. Aside from a couple of part-time college student helpers, they are currently doing it all – Julie makes the products and Sean provides customer service. They plan to hire someone soon to shoulder part of the workload, including marketing. But in the meantime, they’re doing just fine.

Getting the Word Out While Making a Difference

Wine and popcorn pairing fundraiser

Diane, from ONEHOPE, explaining wine and popcorn pairings at the fundraiser

Marketing is extremely important for a new small business, but doing good is equally important to Julie and Sean. When a chance to do both at once popped up, Julie jumped at the opportunity.

A member of her church works with ONEHOPE, an organization that sells wines and gifts to benefit a variety of charitable causes. When an individual or business hosts a tasting with ONEHOPE, 10% of all sales goes to the cause of the organizer’s choice. Together, Julie and Diane from ONEHOPE developed a plan for a wine and popcorn fundraiser.

Diane selected the pairings of wine with popcorn flavors, some of which included:

  • Brut with dill pickle popcorn
  • Rosé with kettle corn
  • Pinot noir with cinnamon popcorn (the crowd favorite)
  • Reserve merlot with dark-chocolate-covered caramel corn

Prep work for the event was minimal and didn’t take up too much time. Julie created a flyer and sent out digital invitations. She prepared the popcorn in gift baskets on her front counter and brought in wine glasses and a pitcher of water for guests. Even though the event was planned quickly, 15 guests attended, and they were able to raise approximately $500 for suicide prevention initiatives, Julie’s chosen cause.

A Bright Future

The success of the popcorn and wine pairing event has inspired Julie to look for additional similar opportunities. She plans to pitch the tasting idea to local breweries to partner with her and is excited to be even more involved in her shop in the future. “Being able to create different flavors and see what you can do is fun,” she says. She looks forward to making more people happy through delicious and surprising popcorn flavors now that the business is up and running.

Visit Mile Hi Popcorn’s Facebook page for the latest updates. And if you’re interested in hosting a similar pairing event at your shop, use these downloadable guides for beer and wine popcorn pairing options.


Categories: Fundraising Ideas, Popcorn/Gourmet Popcorn, Starting a Concession Business

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