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Happy streaming! And we continue with our American Stories. Our next story is brought to us by the youngest person ever to be featured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine.
Let's take a listen. My name is Alina Morris. I'm 16 years old, and I am the CEO and founder of Zolly Candy.
Zolly Candy is all-natural, sugar-free candy that cleans your teeth. But my entrepreneurial journey didn't start at seven years old with Zolly Candy. I had been coming up with inventions and crazy outlandish ideas for products since I was about three years old. Around that age, two, three years old, my dad read me the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It was such an interesting experience because as much of the book that I didn't understand, the thing that stuck with me was, you can help people through business. So I began writing all of my inventions and compiling them into what I called my idea binder, and drawn what I had called a business plan, but was really more of just a picture with some labels. And as I grew up, I grew up with this binder. I would say some of the most prominent inventions from that time were definitely robot daddies.
The name is pretty self-explanatory. It's a robot that can go to work as your dad. And at this time, my dad, he was a CPA, so he was going on tons of business trips, and I really missed having my dad around.
And I wanted him to stay home, and we could hang out. And just among those, there was lots of odds and ends of fun games or a new sport. As much as they weren't cohesive ideas, they did keep me occupied, coming up with fun new business plans and pitching them to my parents. So really, from that book, I learned that I could help my mom, I could help my dad, I could help my younger sister even, by coming up with an invention to make their lives a little bit easier on a day-to-day basis. But as I grew up, you know, four, five, six, and then all the way up until seven years old, I had added to this binder. It wasn't until one just odd day, I went to the bank with my dad, and the bank teller offered me a lollipop.
And it was just the typical action, but my dad always told me, he gave me the same speech, every time we went to the bank. Candy's bad for your teeth, you'll get cavities. He goes, it's up to you, Alina, but if I were you, I'd make a smart choice. After pondering it for a moment, I decided, hey, I'll let him win.
I won't take the lollipop. But as we were walking back to the car, I asked him, hey, if I can't have candy, and if I can't have something that's bad for me, why can't I create something that's good for me, that you can't say no to? And this idea really stuck with me. I began writing a more extensive business plan than I ever had before in my idea binder, and I decided, you know, with a little bit of a push in the right direction, to go do some research. I was on Google, on YouTube, and so I started watching just videos on YouTube of how they created candy on a mass scale. And it made me question, you know, where other products came from, and it really got me interested in kind of the consumer packaged good industry as a whole, and just how things were made and all the behind the scenes steps that went into creating not just candy, but everything that we see in the grocery store. It doesn't just magically happen, you know, it has to come from somewhere. And I started researching more about the ingredient list and what actually makes candy bad for you, what causes cavities.
Tooth decay is actually the single greatest epidemic facing kids in America today, and that's according to the US Surgeon General. And so that really prompted me to explore the idea of creating something that's not only good for me in a sense where there's no sugar, but something that's actually good for your teeth, something that could help combat this epidemic. And then the pieces just kind of clicked. Reading that book at three years old, or having it read to me for that matter, and coming up with this idea and connecting the pieces of a great idea and helping people and having a cause, a mission. And so when those pieces clicked into place, I knew that this was my time. This was the time to create and, you know, put in the time, put in the energy, put in the work, and get people excited about this idea, get people passionate about Zolli candy, or what was to be Zolli candy. So it was definitely a turning point for me getting my parents involved, saying, hey, will you support me, will you support this mission, and doing kind of the first of many big business pitches to my parents to have them help support me through this journey. And then we started looking at different manufacturing facilities, or what we call plants. We began taking tours of these manufacturing facilities around the country to see, you know, who could really make a sugar-free candy that cleans your teeth. And one of my first manufacturing facility tours, we got to the end, and my dad said, hey, Alina, so what do you think?
This is pretty cool. And I was thinking, yeah, Dad, this is great, but where's the plant? He's like, what do you mean, Alina? Look around. This is the plant.
No, Dad, you don't understand. The plant, the potted plant. I mean, I'm looking all around. All I see is people, machinery, candy.
I don't see any plants. I think in that moment, he reminded himself, as mature, as smart as my daughter could be, she's still a kid. It took about two years of taste tests and trials, and during that time, our only taste testers really were my friends and I. And I always like to say, you know, my friend didn't sugarcoat it.
If something sucked, they were going to tell me that it sucked. And eventually we came up with, you know, six great tasting flavors of lollipops. And what we found through our NIH funded studies is that erythritol on its own, which is an all natural plant based sweetener from the U.S., it actually raises the pH in your mouth and it neutralizes the acid. So it takes away the bacteria that causes cavities and tooth decay. And that bacteria is fed by acid and acid is really in every food that we eat. Even bottled water has acid in it. And that's why we call it the after you eat treat, because you can still enjoy your chocolate cake and your orange juice.
But if you have a zollipop after, it helps remineralize your tooth enamel. Once we started finalizing the process of Zolli Candy, we started having the conversations around our house about what we're going to do now. I have been a dancer since the age of three.
I'm also a tennis player. So I've always had a busy schedule, even without Zolli Candy. So really, we began having those conversations about how we would run the business on a day to day basis. We are a family owned company and we really made the decision and my parents took that leap with me. You know, especially my dad quitting his job to work full time at Zolli as the business manager. A day to day really looked like me going to school and then going back to our office and working with my dad and the team to help grow and develop Zolli.
And you've been listening to Zolli Candy's CEO, Alina Morris, and I happen to be holding an orange Zolli lollipop in my hand as we speak. And what a story it is. Her dad read her the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad when she was two or three.
Way to go, dad. By the way, what a great book to read any kid. Because it's not about wealth the way you're thinking about it. When you read the book, wealth is freedom and wealth could be, well, spiritual wealth, all kinds of wealth. But it also is money and what business does and that you can help people through business. And that's the thing about capitalism, folks. Free enterprise and businesses serve.
Your local restaurant serves, a car dealer serves, so on and so forth. When we come back, more with this remarkable young voice that sounds really like a complete grown up. I'm talking about Alina Morris, CEO of Zolli Candy, here on Our American Story. Mother's Day is just around the corner. And if you're wondering what to get the special mom in your life, the gift of sound is always a winner. Lucky for you, you can get a Vizio V-Series soundbar for less than two hundred dollars at Walmart right now. With Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual X technology, this system delivers room-filling sound for all her favorites. Ready for a living room dance party?
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That's LiveNation.com slash Concert Week. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Zolly Candy, CEO Alina Morris. And right now, I happen to be holding my hand as Zolly Taffy. When we last left off, she had been searching for a candy, a sugar-free one that was good for teeth.
Let's pick up where we last left off. So all throughout my schooling, I've always had very supportive teachers who have understood that I'm not leaving school to go on vacation. I'm leaving school to to learn.
I feel like, in my opinion, at least, that real world experience is even worth more than algebra. The first retailer we actually got into was Whole Foods Markets. So we luckily got a meeting and we were able to drive down to Southern California. And I was so nervous.
I had been practicing all week for the big pitch. And when I walked in the door, I remember the look on the buyer's face was just kind of puzzled of why is a kid here? And the buyer was very patient with me. I know that they could tell I was nervous, but also excited.
And they gave me some great advice and they said, OK, well, we'll let you know in a couple of months if you get in. And one day we just got an email that we had gotten in and that was our first P.O. So it was our first big sale and it was really exciting realizing and getting to celebrate all of our hard work coming to a head. And, you know, it was the first of many of many yeses that we've gotten from buyers. But, you know, there's also been a lot of no's.
But you've got to take the good with the bad with business. And so it wasn't until late 2019 that we actually got into every Whole Foods around the country, which was very, very exciting. And it was a very full circle moment. And we recently actually went back and visited one of the first Whole Foods that we had ever gotten into when we just happened to be in California. And we'd gone in and there was a whole wall and cap filled with Zolli candy. Just seeing things like that make it all the more real to us rather than just seeing numbers on a piece of paper or, you know, how many units per store per week or volume or margins.
You know, seeing people with Zolli candy in their shopping carts. It was very exciting. We really have been fortunate to receive a lot of earned media and a lot of great opportunities being a small family owned company from Michigan. But like any business, we've faced tremendous setbacks.
Luckily enough, though, one of our major setbacks happened very early on. So after we got into Whole Foods, our second big account was Amazon.com. And, you know, if you know anything about Amazon, you got to ship worldwide, nationwide, and you have to do it in a very timely manner.
And so once we launched on Amazon.com, people were super excited about Zolli and began purchasing it very quickly. Unfortunately, when it was delivered to their homes, specifically in more hot, deserty, dry climates, all the bags of lollipops were melted. And we learned later on that this had to do with the way that the candy was being made, the temperature in which the candy was being made.
But at first, we were devastated to see our Amazon ratings drop in a matter of days. And we went from five stars to like two stars because everyone was receiving melted candy. And so it ended up being that the pops would become a hydroscopic, which means that they would suck up the moisture from the air. And we realized at that moment that this is why people had never succeeded in making sugar-free candy that's good for your teeth. Because sugar-free candy tends to be hydroscopic. And nobody could figure out, or, you know, maybe they had given up too soon to figure out that you had to create the candy in a very specific condition in order to maintain its integrity.
Once we figured that out, we could begin to start either creating it in a higher temperature or a lower temperature. And eventually, we actually did figure it out. And then we began the process of apologizing and sending out fresh batches of Zolli to everyone who had ordered. And over time, we did begin to regain some of our ratings.
But for a long time, even though we had fixed the candy, our ratings were really low. And I don't know about you, but whenever I'm purchasing something specifically on Amazon, I check the ratings first. You know, it's important to see what other users are thinking about the product before I order. And so it was a very important learning experience. Eventually, we came out with a really fantastic product that was stronger than ever, and even though phones and electronics can't get shipped in vessels to China, Korea in the heat of summer, Zolli candy can. It's basically bulletproof.
You cannot melt this candy. So, you know, we're better off for it, for sure. But yeah, it was definitely a tricky roadblock. So in our five years of selling, we have grown tremendously. We have a 300 percent growth rate year over year. And we really have found a niche community of people, whether you're diabetic, whether you have food allergies, whether you're on a keto diet. Those are the people that we've been able to impact with our product. And we also started a nonprofit alongside Zolli Candy, where we give free Zolli candy to schools across America to teach kids about the importance of oral health care and entrepreneurship.
And it's called the Million Smiles Initiative. So teachers, principals can sign up on our website, Zollicandy.com, to get free Zolli candy for their entire school, which is just another way that I've tried to carry through with our initial mission of keeping kids smiling and helping reduce childhood tooth decay. To date, we're in about 2,400 retailers in the U.S. We're in CVS, Rite Aid, Whole Foods Markets, Amazon.com. We recently got into Costco in Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado.
We're also available on Walmart.com, Target.com and Kroger's. And, you know, we've continued to grow our presence internationally as well in China, Korea, France, the Philippines, Morocco. So in about 12 other countries, including the U.S., we have been able to share Zolli candy across the world. And we still are looking for new ways to expand and new ways to grow.
But one of those ways has been through expanding our product line. So we don't just have Zolli Pops anymore. We have Zaffy Taffy, which is the clean teeth taffy. We have Zolli Caramels.
We have Zolli Drops. We have Zolli Peanut Butter Cups, which were a newer invention that we're so, so excited about. And I snack on them all day long. They're delicious. But all of our products still have the same great teeth cleaning and allergen friendly, other than the peanut butter cups. Those have peanut butter, obviously. But we are still a very transparent and clean company in terms of ingredients.
And the teeth cleaning aspect, as well as being allergen friendly and diabetic friendly and keto. So all of those amazing products, you can check them out on our website, Zollicandy.com or shop them at Zollicandy.myshopify.com. And if you're interested in learning more about my story, you can check me out at Alina Star Morse on Instagram or at Zollicandy on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. And so we want to continue to grow Zolli and increase distribution nationally and internationally, as well as, you know, continue to be a beacon for other young girls and kids who are interested in business and share with them that, you know, entrepreneurship is a real career and a real opportunity.
And you don't have to have a lot of money and you don't have to have a lot of business experience, certainly not a degree to start your very own company and become an entrepreneur. So we want to continue to share that message, especially through our nonprofit. But as for me, you know, college is coming up soon and those decisions are really key. But I think, you know, wherever I choose to go, I'd like to study business and, you know, hopefully get to dance or play tennis or, you know, still enjoy the things that I've loved growing up and look for other opportunities to help people.
Look for other niche communities that, you know, could benefit from a functional product. And whether it's Zolli or whether it's something else that I create down the line, helping people is really the most important thing to me. And a great job, as always, by Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Zolli Candy, CEO of Alina Morris. And we love telling stories about entrepreneurship and small business owners.
And my goodness, what she said is so powerful. Real world experience is better than algebra. And she's thinking about college right now, but she's right. Entrepreneurship is a real career. You don't need money.
You certainly don't need a degree. And she is living proof. Her first orders, Whole Foods and Amazon. And then she experiences the setback. Every entrepreneur does it. The screw up. Do they bounce back?
Do they fight back and learn from it? And she did, which makes her an entrepreneur. The story of Teen Candy Queen CEO Alina Morris here on Our American Stories. Ah, summer's here and you know what that means. It's time to heat up your wardrobe at Lulu's. The only stop you need for affordable, high quality, on trend items that look as good as they feel. There are so many styles to choose from. Swimsuits and shorts for beach days. Dresses to make heads turn. And the perfect outfit for a music festival, date night or any occasion. Create an account at lulus.com and use code LulusFan20 to save 20% off your first order. That's LulusFan20. Terms and conditions apply.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-11 04:25:07 / 2023-05-11 04:34:56 / 10