Economic Backbone: Millennial Economy
Giving Her Income a Pop
An Orlando entrepreneur turns to specialty popcorn to generate extra income.
Surveys suggest that more than half of Millennials have a side gig. Chauniqua Major, a 34-year-old public relations professional who goes by “Major,” says many of her contemporaries simply can’t make ends meet without one.
“It’s very much a part of our culture, but I don’t think it’s necessarily because we aspire to do more work. It’s just that a lot of Millennials just don’t get paid enough, and life is just very expensive,” Major says. “Rent is high; everything is high; and it’s hard to justify asking for what you need from a salary perspective, or even hourly wage, sometimes with the work you do. I always tell people, close the gap yourself.”
Major landed her first side gig six years ago when she was working for an Orlando PR agency and a supervisor asked her if she wanted to do some freelance work for a small ice cream shop. The extra $1,500 a month helped financially, she says, and she enjoyed the creative outlet.
Today, she works full-time as a corporate communications manager for the non-profit Lift Orlando and operates a one-woman popcorn business called Major’s Project Pop on the side.
She says she came up with the idea after a former employer gifted her an air popper and she made flavored batches for her co-workers. Later, she upgraded her equipment with a popper from Williams Sonoma and started selling bags at local markets and pop-up spaces. “I’ve just kind of been popping since then,” she says.
Major says her company offers a “cleaner” popcorn than consumers can typically find in stores. All the popcorn sold by Major’s Project Pop comes from non-GMO kernels and uses only organic and vegan ingredients for flavor. The company’s signature OG Kettle Corn, for instance, gets its flavor from organic, cane sugar, organic virgin coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt. A two-pack sells for $31.99 online. Flavors include pumpkin spice and lemonade. “One of my biggest missions with this brand is to create a delicious snack that is allergen-friendly, that’s vegan with organic ingredients” and with ingredients anyone can recognize, she says.
Earlier this year, Major landed on a Yelp’s list of Blackowned businesses to watch, and she was also selected to participate in Goldman Sachs’ Black in Business cohort, which provides mentoring and support to help Black women entrepreneurs. Major says she’s also gotten calls from cruise lines that want to offer her products. She’s focusing on “figuring out how to scale up responsibly” so she can eventually fill those sorts of large orders.
She says she doesn’t mind putting in the extra hours for something she’s passionate about. “I always feel that I’m working, but I always feel that it’s working toward something good.”