CEO and JMSB student Joey Zeppilli says company still growing
Bad Monkey Popcorn all started when CEO and JMSB finance student Joey Zeppilli—who had saved up some money from a job at his father’s company—decided he wanted to invest.
“I knew I wanted to invest but did not know where,” said Zeppilli. “At first I wanted to have my own franchise. I even went to Subway and Tim Hortons meetings. I quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do—I wanted to express my creativity.”
Zeppilli said he voiced his uncertainty to his brother Fabio who asked him the question that set the wheels in motion: “Why don’t we start our own [business]?”
The Zeppilli brothers—Joey, Fabio, Matthew and Luciano—decided to work together on this new venture. “Two years ago, nothing existed but an idea. We took a chance and went straight forward,” said Zeppilli.
The first idea that came to their minds had to do with their love of popcorn growing up. “We had the crazy idea to make popcorn cool again,” Zeppilli said. The brothers noticed that there was an untapped market for flavoured popcorn in Canada. That very same day, they went to a grocery store to examine different popcorn brands.
They came up with perfectly fluffy round pieces of popcorn that do not leave any bits or pieces in your mouth.
They started off making two classic flavors: butter and salt and caramel. They found their first 400 square-foot facility where they could make their product and started reaching out to charities and various events to find places to sell the popcorn. Their very first event was the 2013 Grand Prix in Montreal. “On the first day, we sold out within an hour and a half,” Zeppilli said. “That same night all we did was cook—no sleep. It was just us brothers and the family helping out at the time.”
Two years and 22 flavours later, Bad Monkey Popcorn is being sold at 75 major festivals and events across Canada, including at the Cirque du Soleil shows, the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival and at the Bell Centre during Montreal Canadiens hockey games.They have differentiated themselves with their many new and unique flavours such as caramel and jalapeños, maple syrup, strawberry and even dark chocolate. Their popcorn can also be found in 160 stores such as IGA, Metro and also in shops like Yeh! Frozen Yogurt across Montreal and Canada.
“During our first year, Osheaga contacted us—they spotted us at an event and wanted a Bad Monkey stand [for the festival],” said Zeppilli. “That weekend alone we made a little over $16,000.”
Joey also said 800 bags of Bad Monkey Popcorn were sold at their first-ever event with Cirque du Soleil.
The company is getting more and more popular: Zeppilli said Bad Monkey Popcorn is expanding and supplying four to five more stores every week. Zeppilli and his brothers also had a chance to pitch their business on Dragons’ Den for an episode airing sometime in December. He said it was a great learning experience and showed him what a real investor expects from entrepreneurs.
“They expect a lot of diligence and they will ask you a million questions,” he said. “A word of advice: know your stuff.”
Bad Monkey’s overnight success is inspiring, but was not handed to them on a silver platter. Zeppilli always had the energy and entrepreneurial spirit despite having a lot on his plate. He had to juggle his full-time studies and a part-time job while founding his own company.
“Those were the toughest moments of my life,” he said. “If you want to be successful, you cannot have a social life. My motivation was to make a success out of my family.”
While he enjoys working with his family, he said it’s also been a challenge. “Make sure to keep family and work relationships separate,” he said. “Leave it at the door and do not take it personally.”
Since business has been booming, Zeppilli decided to hold off his studies for a semester to fully devote his time to Bad Monkey Popcorn. “If you have a passion and if you feel that you have a good idea, go for it. Gamble on yourself,” he said. “Put confidence into that idea and take risks while you are young.”
Zeppilli also said not to be afraid of making big decisions. “At first we wanted to go retail, become a popcorn mall store,” he said. “[Had we not] changed our minds towards the wholesale direction, we would not be where we are today.”
To learn more about Bad Monkey Popcorn, visit their Facebook page or website maissoufflebadmonkey.com.