Creating a popcorn business popped into Timeko T. Davis-Wade's mind after a flood destroyed her family's house and left them homeless in 2011.
She thought, "What are we going to do? Being an entrepreneur, I need to figure out how I'm going to be a helpmate to my husband."
Now known as the Popcorn Lady, Davis-Wade, 48, is founder of Pop's Kernel, a nationally known online popcorn business that includes 50 flavors.
- Nellgene Hardrick
- Timeko T. Davis-Wade
She and her husband, Jamason, and their two children, Devin and Zoe, were living on three acres in a flood zone in North Memphis. "We were doing pretty well. At the time, both kids were in private schools."
Her son was a special-needs student at Concord Academy, and her daughter was at Hutchison. "When they found out we were having trouble and our house had been flooded, both schools, along with our church, started helping. Hutchison put us at a hotel for the whole summer of 2011."
The next year, Davis-Wade traveled to her hometown of Chicago to visit family. While there, she said, "I want to bring a little piece of Chicago home."
She lavishly spent $100 on Chicago Mix popcorn from Garrett Popcorn Shop for her family to enjoy. While eating popcorn on the train, she thought, "I can do this. I can make popcorn."
Davis-Wade told her idea to her husband, but it wasn't until the next year when she returned to it. They were having a party and Davis-Wade wanted to make popcorn. Her husband found a recipe for caramel popcorn online. She made it, and it was a success.
She tweaked that recipe and began making popcorn to help raise funds for missionary trips for her church, Life Church.
That led to her creating other flavors. To make her first batch of caramel cheese popcorn, she bought 25 boxes of macaroni and cheese just for the cheese powder.
She named the business Pop's Kernel because her children call their dad Pop.
Her son had a difficult time finding jobs because of his special needs, so she put him to work making popcorn. Eventually, the whole family took part.
She came up with other flavors, including Tuxedo — white and milk chocolate and caramel. People began ordering her popcorn for weddings, birthdays, and graduations.
Davis-Wade, who had only one air popper at the time, recruited helpers after a women's conference ordered 1,400 bags. "That was myself, my husband, my two kids, my mother-in-law, my mom, my two sisters-in-law, some of their kids. It was a whole house full of people."
Her business took off after Cynthia Daniels invited her to participate in Memphis Black Restaurant Week in 2016. "We had about 1,000 bags of popcorn. Within three hours, we sold 989 bags."
Business got so good Davis-Wade moved into a commercial kitchen. She began doing events for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Junior League of Memphis, and International Paper.
She now has eight air poppers and 50 popcorn flavors, not all of which are sold at the same time. I Love Tuscan is "olive oil base, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parsley, and garlic."
Her business boomed during the quarantine. "More and more people were staying home watching movies."
Davis-Wade operated her business at a pop-up at Wolfchase Galleria, where people picked up their pre-paid popcorn curbside.
After Daniels mentioned Pop's Kernel as one of Memphis' Black businesses in a HuffPost article, Davis-Wade began getting orders from all over the U.S. "This year, in the middle of the pandemic, it's been crazy-busy. I have orders every day. We're shipping all over America. I only advertise on Instagram and Facebook."
Pop's Kernel comes in various size bags, which range from $7 to $19.
Davis-Wade hired other young adults with special needs to help with the business. "They're the ones doing a lot of the labeling for us on the packaging. So I always tell people, 'If you get a label a little crooked, it was done with love. We're working with special needs.'"
To order, go to popskernel.com.