If you’ve ever attended a state fair, you’ve likely seen a kettle corn booth. The delicious and nutritious snack can be found in booths, tents and concession trailers around the nation at almost every public event, no matter how small. Opportunities are endless for the entrepreneur looking to start his own kettle corn business and willing to invest the time needed to get his business afloat.
Contact your health department to learn how the health codes and regulations will affect your business as a fixed or mobile vendor and to get your permit. If your business will be mobile, you’ll need to get clearance from each county. Generally, you will need a business permit, food permit, vendor permit and liability insurance before getting clearance to start your kettle corn business.
Purchase a tent for your kettle corn business. A good-sized tent will be about 10 x 10 feet. You’ll also need a truck or trailer to move your equipment. Decorate your tent with eye-catching banners, signs and balloons.
Purchase a kettle corn cooker that is National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified. Your cooker should be deep enough to reduce the risk of burns from escaping heat and have a large enough diameter to allow for faster cooking. The more surface area your cooker has, the more even and efficient cooking you’ll have. Another factor to consider is the weight and mobility of your cooker. Find a 160-quart wok-style cooker and accessories for $3800 at Northbendoriginals.com. Kettlecornmachine.com offers an 80-quart wok for $2000. Though it will only produce half the amount of popcorn in the same amount of time, at 115 pounds, it’s a much more mobile option.
Purchase supplies for your kettle corn business. Cookers can get as hot as 500 degrees. Kettle corn burns are serious business. You'll need safety gear such as long-sleeved shirts, goggles, face masks, covered shoes and gloves, as well as uniforms, aprons, custom-printed plastic bags, a hand-washing station, wooden paddles, propane tanks, a cash drawer, cleaning products, a fire extinguisher, paper towels, a sifting bin for popped corn, tables and a corn scooper.
Buy ingredients for your kettle corn business. Purchase bulk popcorn, oil, salt and sugar. Some kettle corn poppers swear by canola oil or peanut oil. Others refuse to use anything but corn oil. Experiment with your recipe until you’ve found the perfect flavor.
Set up shop at craft shows, festivals, concerts, sports events, car shows, popular retail spots, zoos and family farms, farmers' markets, gas stations, busy intersections and store grand openings. Look for upcoming festivals online or in your local newspaper. Attend festivals and network with other food vendors to get inside tips on upcoming shows.
Shanika Chapman has been writing business-related articles since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in social science from the University of Maryland University College. Chapman also served for four years in the Air Force and has run a successful business since 2008.