Realizing success as an entrepreneur can be difficult at any age. But don’t tell that to nine-year-old Kai Walker, the founder of Kai Bear’s Popcorn. The popcorn company he started with his parents this spring landed a contract with University of Richmond to supply Kai’s popcorn in their concession stand for football and basketball games.
Kai’s journey started when he mentioned to his parents he wanted to be a YouTube star. A lover of LEGO, Kai, a fourth grader at Glen Allen Elementary, watches YouTube to learn about building.
His parents suggested that Kai start a business instead. “I told him if he started a business, he could buy all the LEGOs he wanted,” says his dad Art Walker, adding that when his son saw a path to making his own money, he was very enthusiastic.
Starting a Popcorn Business
The idea for the business came from Kai’s mom’s passion for attending a variety of events combined with his love of popcorn. “We put those two together and came up with popcorn,” says Art, who has an expertise in business.
The family teamed up with an independent movie theater who agreed to package Kai’s popcorn brand.
“Everything happened so fast,” says Art. “We launched the company and went to the West End Farmer’s Market on Mother’s Day.”
Now, Kai is a vendor at fairs and festivals throughout Virginia, selling up to a hundred bags of popcorn in a day. “It depends on the type of fair or festival, the hours and the location,” his dad says about sales. “In one day, he has grossed $600.”
Before each event, Kai helps prepare sample cups of popcorn – a minimum of eight different flavors – which are free for interested shoppers. Kai also counts inventory prior to events and withdraws cash from his business account in order to have change for customers.
One of Kai’s favorite duties is taste-testing the popcorn. The company has approximately fifty flavors, including chocolate drizzle and cinnamon bun.
“Kim and I still do like traditional movie theater butter and caramel as well as the new infused flavors,” says Walker of his wife, Kimberlee Garnes-Walker. “Kai’s favorite is yellow cheddar.”
Kai Bear’s Popcorn is a Family Affair
The popularity of the popcorn has prompted more invitations to events. On October 13, Kai Bear’s will be at Crump Park in Henrico for the Movie in the Park showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas and hosting popcorn-inspired crafts at Artisan Alley in Hopewell in October, November, and December.
“All three of us are enjoying it. Kim goes to an event. Kai shares his popcorn with everyone. I love it because we are doing this as a family,” says Walker, who would like to help other parents who want to help their kids build a brand.
“We intend to donate to VCU’s Children’s Hospital in the near future and also offer fundraisers,” says Kim.
Before launching Kai Bear’s Popcorn, Kai and his family were already writing reviews to establish an online presence. They have over 829 Google contributions and 7 million views on Google maps.
Kai has written reviews for his visits to Legoland in Florida and New York.
Now that Kai has his own financial account, he uses his pay to buy video games and LEGOs. He also adds ten percent of his income to his savings account and ten percent to his charity envelope.
As majority owner, Kai directs his parents to reinvest most of the money into the brand. “He’s frugal,” says his dad.
And Kai says the business is more than a way to make money. “I’m having fun!” says Kai.