She's now 15 and raking it in the millions
A warehouse lies just 30 miles northeast of Detroit, housing the multi-million dollar candy business’s headquarters.
Although it may look deceptively straightforward, it holds thousands of sugar-free lollipops, hard candy, and taffys. This candy is sold in thousands of stores nationwide and internationally, such as in China, Korea, France, and the United Kingdom.
Going deeper into this warehouse, you’d stumble upon Alina Morse’s office, the co-founder of Zollipop. Launched in 2014 with her sister at the age of nine, it has grown tremendously, with Zollipops (their flagship product) being Amazon’s best selling sugar-free hard candy and lollipops since 2018.
It’s already insane to hear such a successful company started by a nine-year-old, but this resulted from several years of experimenting that began when she was seven.
The Origins of Zollipops
Although Alina started Zollipops at the age of nine, she started working on the idea a few years back.
On a trip to the bank with her dad, Alina was offered a lollipop, but before she could enjoy it, her dad warned her that it would rot her teeth.
This prompted a bright light within her as she started to think about how she could create a version that was friendly to her teeth.
For the next two years, she started watching Youtube videos on making candy and began hundreds of experiments in her own kitchen at home. To pick out the correct ingredients, she collaborated with a food scientist and her dentist to develop a formula.
When she finally figured out the formula she wanted to create her lollipops, she pooled her life savings of $3750 (from birthday and holiday gifts) and got her father to match it.
They then both set out to find manufacturing plants that could help create the lollipops. The focus after was to pitch for their first retail placement.
The first meeting was a success and was with one of the largest food retail stores in the US, Whole Foods Market.
“They loved our product. They loved the idea, and they loved our mission,” Alina says.
The Growth of Zollipops
With their first placement a success, it only took Zollipops one and a half years to become profitable.
In their first year, the company sold 70,000 lollipops and doubled its sales year on year.
By 2016, they were picked up by Kroger and soon via Amazon online.
“We were on the bottom shelf, but it was still really exciting because Kroger is the biggest grocer…And recently, we were brought up to the second-to-last shelf,” In an interview with Mintz in 2016
Since its listing on Amazon, Zollipops has become Amazon’s best selling sugar-free hard candy and lollipops.
Why was Zollipops so successful?
You might be thinking how could such a saturated market be dominated by a kid.
One of the biggest reasons is the fact she marketed herself so well as a kid.
She even stated that “there are no kids in the candy business” and that this is one of her most valuable assets. By understanding the market directly as a consumer, she can create the right products, especially with healthy intent.
Alina is focused on keeping the ingredients gluten and peanut-free to avoid any allergies (because she has a friend who is allergic) and, of course, sugar-free.
Her vision for kids to enjoy candy without damaging their teeth drives her ambition to reduce America’s tooth decay epidemic. She even started a non-for-profit called One Million Smiles, where she donates 10% of Zollipop’s profits to help fund oral health classes.
The second reason is her business acumen and her fearlessness.
Not only is she able to recognize how to market her product by positioning it with other healthy foods, but she even understands to maintain relationships with her retailers.
“Let’s position the Zollipops in a lunch bag along with a few other healthy items like carrots, snap peas, maybe strawberries, so people understand that they’re good for you… I agree; it’s good for our relationship with Kroger to use their products.” — Alina Morse
Her drive and fearlessness would put many to shame (including myself) and actually makes her a genius salesperson. After all, she can convince huge retailers to stock her product and maintain her image across various media outlets such as Fox Business and CNN.
This combination of kid charm with kid entrepreneur creates an unstoppable force that has helped catapult the company to one of the leading brands in the confectionery space.
Alina was also a natural-born entrepreneur and marketer
It’s often said that entrepreneurs often start young, usually experimenting or making money early as a kid.
Alina Morse knew she wanted to be a CEO by the age of three and started collecting business inventions in a folder.
Some of these ideas included peanut butter and jelly that could be squeezed from a tube so kids could prepare their own sandwiches and a robot dad that could substitute for her dad at work so she could play with her actual dad at home.
Of course, her parents encouraged these ideas with Alina’s dad even purchasing the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad (by Robert K. and Sharon L. Lechter) for her when she was younger.
It doesn’t matter what age you are
There are many excuses that everyone throws at themselves for not wanting to start a business.
From being too old or too young, we often find ourselves in a ditch where we feel comfortable with where we are at.
For Alina, she wants to encourage other kids in her community to find their own passion and start their own businesses.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you’re from, what you’re doing,” she says. “All that matters is that you want to do it and that you are passionate about it, and that you are going to do everything in your power to help make the world a better place.” — Alina Morse
She teaches a valuable lesson that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. She also teaches us that being fearless can help drive ambition, especially with many having imposter syndrome these days.
We often fear what others think, but sometimes we have to remember what it was like to be a kid; without caring what any adult thinks.