There’s no doubt things are popping with Klondike Kettle Corn. The small business went from selling a few bags of kettle corn at the 2010 Fireweed Community Market to having the product available at local grocery stores, gas stations, fundraisers, parties and via popcorn subscription box. For Katie Young (aka Katie Popcorn), it involved moving the business ahead in sync with family time and raising two boys.
Young’s kids, Jack and Cody, were raised crawling around in the grass and watching from their playpens as their mom made kettle corn. Cody attended his first community market when he was just seven days old.
“Fitting this business in with raising two boys, I am sure it has helped their confidence and independence. They definitely understand the meaning of hard work!” she said. Young can’t help but laugh when she thinks about the greatest challenge of running the business. As she does, Jack interrupts, looking for some kettle corn to snack on.
“Work/ life balance,” she said. “When you have a business that is so close to your heart, that is so personal, it is challenging to not get totally immersed in it. But I’ve managed to grow the business around the needs of the boys. For example, this year, with the boys in school, I have put tons of work into running the business, marketing, getting a new website up.”
While Young wasn’t sure she was destined to become an entrepreneur before Klondike Kettle Corn took off, she feels she has always had the organizational skills and abilities. It was kind of a natural progression, considering she’s also a foodie and has worked as a chef at a major restaurant, as well as in catering and camp kitchens.
Young makes her kettle corn in a 160 quart, hand-spun kettle. Sugar is added to the hot kernels before they pop so they can caramelize. Once they pop, they are dumped into the sorting bin and sprinkled with salt. But there is much more to Klondike Kettle Corn than the standard recipe, or there can be anyway. Young uses magic mushroom kernels and any one of five essential flavors including dark chocolate and sea salt, caramel and cheddar, Buffalo blue cheese, sweet and salty, and white cheddar. She estimates she has around 30 specialty recipes and the number is growing all the time.
The growing list of specialty recipes feeds Young’s creativity. She experiments with different ingredients to make the product taste like what she’s aiming for. Working on different recipes also feeds an aspect of her greatest passion in running Klondike Kettle Corn.
“My biggest reward from running this business is being a part of the Whitehorse community. When I started this business at the Fireweed Community Market, I would have customers approach me with different ways to incorporate kettle corn in their events, whether it was a promotional giveaway at trade shows, or party favors for weddings or graduations. Now the business is at a point where we can give back to the community by sponsoring different events that bring people together. Being a part of the Fireweed Community Market, including being on the board, has really fostered that sense of community for me.”
Being part of the community and being a local entrepreneur also means supporting other small local businesses. In working with other local companies, Young has incorporated products or ingredients from Free Pour Jenny’s, Axe & Crocus, The Maple Rush, Elemental Farms, Cultured Fine Cheese and Bean North.
“Christmas time and summer are full-on production. After the Christmas season, I put more work into marketing and sponsorships. It’s been really fun to be part of the great events that happen in our community, like the Yukon Quest, the Aurora 360 project and the Available Light Film Festival.”
It isn’t always easy. Young recalls a time when she was participating in Rendezvous. “It was forty below and the wind was blowing so hard we had to take down our tent and try to protect the flame for the kettle, but we still kept going and Yukoners still came out.”
So where is Klondike Kettle Corn going? Ever since she started supplying Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer with kettle corn in July 2015, she has gone into year-round production.
She also offers a popcorn subscription box, which is being taken advantage of by people all over the country. By press time, Klondike Kettle Corn will have launched a new website. Young is also working on plans to coordinate with other businesses to have her products shipped to the communities in the Yukon.