Jackie Sopher, 58, founded Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn with her husband Joe, 62, in 2010. They live in Watford, Herts, and have three children: Adam, 34; Paul, 32; and Louise, 30.
Joe and I got married very young. I was 19. It was the done thing in those days. I’d just finished my A-levels and had a job in sales, which I loved. But it was frowned upon if you kept working once you had children.
Joe was an electrical wholesaler and travelled for work, so I brought the kids up mostly on my own.
As part of his job, Joe would often fly to the U.S., and he used to come back with bags of delicious popcorn as presents for us all. Once he filled a whole suitcase with it. I loved the cheddar cheese and caramel flavours.
This was in the 1980s, when flavoured popcorn was already popular in America, but you couldn’t get all the varieties here. Joe always said that when he retired he’d make his own, but better, and without all the artificial colourings and flavourings.
Fast forward to 2008, and Joe was semi-retired and driving me mad at home. We were too young to do nothing. It gave us the push to finally set up our own family popcorn business.
Joe started to experiment with recipes — much to my disgust, due to the state he’d leave the kitchen in — but the popcorn tasted amazing. We invested £15,000 at first, which was scary, but we had to take the plunge.
In September 2010, we entered the BBC Good Food consumer trade show. We had ten weeks to get our product ready. We did a food safety course, and hired a kitchen and a brand designer. At that show we met the Selfridges buyer, and Joe & Seph’s was born.
Today, we have more than 50 flavours of gourmet popcorn, plus caramel sauces and a new range of Chocolate Popcorn Bites. My favourite is the goats’ cheese and black pepper popcorn, which is perfect with white wine.
Joe develops the recipes and I deal with operations. It has been a privilege to work with my children, too. Louise is a paramedic, but Paul helped us to launch the business, and Adam also left his job at Deloitte to join us.
Needless to say, the past few months have been challenging, but we’ve been blown away by our amazing customers.
Starting a business has been an incredible rollercoaster journey, and such fun. If you’ve got a good idea, go for it.