After spending over two decades as a chef, Stefan Coker decided to put his culinary and business skills to work in a slightly different business venture: gourmet popcorn. He did it for many reasons, but starting a business around a product his kids loved was one of the strongest influences. He wanted to show his kids, and the community, that with passion and work ethic you can succeed doing anything.
Stefan opened What’s Pop-In, a gourmet popcorn store located at 418 W Ferry street in November of 2019. Just a few months later in March 2020, COVID-19 brought the world to a halt, forcing Stefan to have to shut the doors of What’s Pop-In just as he was catching his stride. During this downtime, Stefan decided that he would pivot his business plan to ramp up online sales. Being the tenacious person that he is, Stefan began a rigorous, national advertising and social media campaign. As a result of his pivot to online, Stefan saw a large increase in clients and soon found himself shipping to over 40 states. With this increase in sales, Stefan needed working capital for the upfront cost of supplies. Unfortunately, due to how new the business was, and because of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, it was hard for Stefan to find the necessary capital.
That’s where the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center comes in. Stefan reached out to the Center to review his business plan and see if we could identify potential funding sources to strategically expand his business. Over a couple meetings, the Beverly Gray Center was able to help Stefan obtain funding through KIVA, an online, crowd-sourced funding platform offering 0% interest loans. Stefan’s loan was funded by over 75 lenders!
Using this funding, Stefan has been able to expand and grow What’s Pop-In. He was able to secure rental space at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls for the holiday season, as well as supporting his ongoing equipment purchases and marketing efforts.