Using popcorn as his canvas, Cedric Wouldfolk, owner and operator of LoveChicagoPopcorn, is sharing his delicious artistry throughout the Austin community and beyond.
The self-taught entrepreneur learned how to make popcorn through the use of cookbooks and cooking seminars he attended. He called the process of making popcorn “slow and arduous,” given all he had to learn.
For example, Wouldfolk had to learn the finer points of popcorn-making, including the difference between “air” popping and “wet” popping of popcorn; what specific influence oil flavors, such as peanut, grapeseed, and olive oils, have on popcorn; and at what point is the saturation threshold for a popcorn kernel is reached, among other subtleties.
“I’m a one man-shop. If I put my blood, sweat and tears into it then it has to work.” said Wouldfolk. “Success is nothing but perspiration and inspiration so if you put those things together it has to come together. Karma has to work itself out. If you have a strong enough belief in yourself then the universe has no choice but to respond.”
All but two of LCP’s recipes are based on Chicago neighborhoods. The Chicago House Mix is made using caramel and cheese flavors and is based on the style of music that originated in the city. The Obama Mix celebrates 44th U.S. President Barack Obama and is made using Hawaiian coffee as a primary flavor.
Wouldfolk’s favorite flavor, The Comiskey Mix, which is a macaroni and cheese flavor, is named after the former name of the Chicago White Sox’s baseball stadium. The said he was can still recall the smell in the air when he attended games as a youth. The Austin community inspired a flavor called triple chocolate. LCP strives to showcase all of the neighborhoods of Chicago, said Wouldfolk.
“Because Chicago is so underserved, it seems like everything is based on three neighborhoods: Wrigleyville, Lakeville, and Downtown,” said Wouldfolk. “When I did my research on the popcorn industry [I found that] 90 percent of all gourmet popcorn shops are located in four neighborhoods.”
LCP currently does not have a brick and mortar location. However, Wouldfolk, a lifelong Austin resident, wants to open a storefront within his community. It means everything to develop LCP and to expand the business model in his neighborhood, he said.
“We have to change the narrative associated with our community,” said Wouldfolk. “I think there’s nothing more inspiring than an example. If I can do it, anybody can.”
Wouldfolk has considered selling his products to grocery store chains like Mariano’s and Whole Foods but he’s run into complications. For instance, in order to sell a product in those stores, vendors need to include nutrition labels on their produces, which can be costly because each individual ingredient has to be accounted for. Additionally, measuring the precise weight per package requires tools that Wouldfolk said he does not currently have access to.
Yet, despite temporary setbacks, he said he’s “humbled” his business been able to gain traction.
In just his third year since starting his business, Wouldfolk accepted an invitation to the Monroe Foundation Boot Camp that gave him insight into how he would improve and expand his operation. He called the business boot camp experience “very humbling”.
“The lessons were so tangible and all of them applied directly to me,” he said.
“You need more than a great product to be a great businessman,” said Wouldfolk. “It takes a lot more. You have to account for cost analysis, suppliers, taxes, licenses and more. It takes a whole lot more to being successful than having something that tastes real good.”
All purchases can be made online through lovechicagopopcorn.com and payments can be made through PayPal.