Mark R. Wieder is an energy attorney turned POPrietor of Popped Culture, a homegrown social enterprise cooked up to inspire young entrepreneurs. High school students get paid to pop and sell popcorn while applying business and life skills they're taught on the job. Each POPerator works towards selling their own goods and services, continuing to higher education, or using their intra-preneurial with others.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I was at a crossroads in my life, about to lose my steady, full-time job as an energy attorney (through no fault of my own). I spent a lot of time reflecting on where I was with my life and career. I realized my trajectory was slightly askew from where I wanted it to be, so I started a business and became an entrepreneur as a hack for advancing my life - to pick up the most skills I could now in order to achieve my long term career goals sooner. I also knew that I wanted to give back through my work. That’s why I started Popped Culture, a social enterprise.
What is your vision for the future of your company?
Popped Culture Franchises. We pop and sell popcorn while mentoring youths. We have a sustainable business model and good traction with our flavors. Now we need to grow our impact to help more young entrepreneurs. To get there, we’ll expand our menu, grow our curriculum, and then quickly replicate it. We'll find more wholesale accounts to support our growth. This means thinking critically about our future as a manufacturer.
What is your vision for the future of your community?
I’d like to see Harrisburg’s culture continue to prosper with diverse art, music, food, fashion, and nightlife scenes. I’d also like to see businesses continuing to help and support other businesses. We’ve got a lot of this at the Broad Street Market. You should visit if you haven’t been there in awhile!
What has been the biggest challenge to creating a new venture?
Planning. I’m not good at planning. I’m a go with the flow, follow your instincts type of guy. I’m easily distracted by overstimulation in the digital age. This is tough when you’re a sole POPrietor. But, just like I teach my employees: you need to know yourself so that you can compensate for your weaknesses to turn them into new strengths. Operating without a set plan makes it easier to pivot when when the time is right. However, it requires having a team who can work in a flexible environment while keeping their eyes on long term goals.
What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?
Resist the temptation to follow what other businesses do. Watch the competition, but don't take the easy path by mimicking them. Innovate with the opposite. Do something you love. Learn from your failures. Persist when you want to give up. The moment struggle seems the hardest is the moment just before the biggest breakthrough.
Tell me about your biggest surprise or lesson learned as an entrepreneur?
Running a startup teaches you what it's like to eat glass while staring into the abyss.
What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
Popped Culture is the place to be for snack attacks small and large. Come visit our team at the Broad Street Market until 6pm on Thursday and Friday or 4pm on Saturday. Take a second to follow us on social media @POPrietor or online at www.poppedculture.org. Send an email to [email protected]
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