Popped with love

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Talicia Richardson is a Phoenix mother who runs two businesses — Simply Manners, through which she teaches etiquette to corporate employees, and the more appetizing gourmet popcorn business, Yuri’s Popcorn.

What is Simply Manners?

Simply Manners is a company I launched last year to promote the use of etiquette in corporate America. In a day where technology minimizes the building of trust in a business relationship, we specialize in providing proven techniques from cublicle etiquette, servicing your customers and effective communication to proper networking.

How did Yuri’s Popcorn come about?

I was the vice president of operations for a hotel chain before we moved here from Austin, Tex. in June of 2008. I was dabbling and researching the business while working for a hotel chain, but things really took off in September of 2008 with the approaching holiday season. I launched the popcorn business in November of 2008.

I’m very busy but it’s a good thing when it’s your love and your passion. Titles and money mean nothing if you lose your sanity and your family life. Three or four years ago, my husband and I put a two-year timeline on my position at the hotel chain. Then we would reevaluate see what the impact was on our family. At that point we decided that the job was great, and I did love it but we didn’t like how it was impacting our family. This was right during Hurricane Katrina, which hit my territory. That really helped me see things clearly. We saw the need and were able to help those in need by offering free hotels before FEMA could get there. I saw kids running around unsupervised and I saw doting parents who made sure their kids got in school and it really forced me to decide what kind of parent I wanted to be. So we planned accordingly with our finances to be prepared to live on one income.

God has truly blessed us. We’ve still been able to take vacations and do fun things but we have simplified our life. My daughter was jumping for joy when I quit: “Mom’s not going to travel anymore and [will] be home with me!” I explained that I would still be working but that we would just have to find the balance between work and home.

I tell you, with my popcorn business, I started researching it online before I even came to Phoenix. In December of 2007 I really started to build my network online. I started contacting people. I called someone I heard on the radio in Maricopa who had the same last name as my grandmother and guess what? He called me back. Apparently he was a prominent figure in the area, he was the assistant city manager at one point, and he was very, very welcoming. I asked if he could help put me in contact with some people and he did. I researched what it would take to have a retail store, asking people questions and things and, at that point, decided to postpone it. I knew I needed a storefront but I didn’t want to jeopardize my family so I decided to go at this from a different angle until I had an online following. That way I won’t be someone who just hung up my storefront thinking, I am here so people will come.

I spent from November to February of this year handing out samples of popcorn, visiting schools and storefronts in my area, meeting owners of businesses. I tried to keep my networking efforts for both businesses separate and I felt like it paid off when someone told me that she’d gotten into a little tiff with another lady who knew me about which business I owned. Both of them knew me for different reasons. That’s when I knew, okay, this is working.

Is it just you?

Just me right now. And my daughter Yuri [12] assists with the popcorn.

How do you manage being a mother and the owner of two different businesses?

Organization, organization, organization. I have a little board in my office and every Sunday evening I clean it off… wipe the slate clean. I’ve got everything going on from both businesses plus a board that I sit on and other appointments. If something has been on my board for two weeks, it takes priority. If I realize something is out of my control, if I’m waiting for a bid or something, I will call them periodically to stay on top of it. Organization is the key to not being overwhelmed by the things I need to do but also realizing when I need to take something off my list. I tell people I’m not afraid to fire a client. If they are stringing me along or I’m losing money on them, I cut them loose. They could fire me, so if I don’t feel like it’s a fit I feel very comfortable walking away. If I have to lose my sanity it’s not worth it.

Two things people really need to realize going into a business is you have to create a schedule and an organization system that works for you and if a client is pulling you away from your goal or it’s just not a good fit learn to walk away no matter how much money they’re offering.

The third thing is to give. Give of your time and give of your services. Allow yourself to give something that is a little piece of you. That may be sharing your information with a contact or supporting them at an event that they have going on. Build those relationships where you give to someone and you’re not always taking.

Right now Yuri’s Popcorn is exclusively online?

Most of our business is online but we are also in four coffee shops across the Valley in Tempe, Glendale and Phoenix. Our plan is to open a storefront [in] September of next year. Right now we actually have a contract with a commercial kitchen. In my opinion, a lot of business owners get in trouble because they jumped into a property too soon. You have to know how much you need to be bringing in to break even and how you’re going to make that happen. I know how much I want to spend, I know what I want and I’m going to be very prayerful that it’s the right time and I’m not rush into anything.

What’s different about your popcorn?

Hopefully when people receive it they know that our popcorn was made with great quality ingredients and caring hands. I pray over my popcorn. We are a true family business and we make everything by hand. I’m not a distributor. We come up with our own flavors. A friend of mine puts jalapenos all over her popcorn at the movies and so we have our jalapeno cheddar flavor. The bluberry mojito popcorn is made with real rum and blueberries. We have white cheddar, zesty ranch, garlic parmesan and more.

We also offer organic popcorn. The flavorings are not organic and the popcorn is a little more expensive. Popcorn is a healthy healthy snack. Dogs are prescribed popcorn to lose weight. It’s one of the healthiest snacks in its rawest form — high in fiber, low in sugar — and gives you the feeling of being full because of the fluff.

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