UPDATE: SMU alumna Yasmeen Tadia ’04 recently expanded her gourmet treat business with the addition of HotPoppin Gourmet Popcorn.
Yasmeen Tadia ’04 credits her four-year-old son’s sweet tooth with sparking her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Zain loves candy, like any other child,” Tadia says. “So I looked for reasonably healthy options, but most of them didn’t taste good.”
When she failed to find what she wanted in the marketplace, she created it. In 2012 the Cox School of Business alumna founded Fluffpop, producing gluten-free, vegan cotton candy. The airy confection is available in three categories: exotic, which includes fruit flavors such as guava and sparkling strawberry; sugar-free; and certified organic, which is also a kosher option.
She imports chemical-free, flavor-packed hard candy from countries around the world as the foundation for the sweet concoctions and uses a customized spinning device she designed to whip up treat-sized Fluffpops. The small, flavor-infused portions are about 90 percent air and 10 percent sugar, she says.
While consumers can place orders on her company’s website at fluffpop.com, most of her business is event related. Tadia and her team, who are known as DJs because they “spin candy,” have become fixtures at business and social functions around the country. Fluffpop has been served at events at Neiman Marcus, the New York City Library, Klyde Warren Park and SMU, among many others venues.
Tadia draws on her experience as a corporate human resources manager in the hospitality industry to personalize each event.
“Every client of mine becomes a friend,” she says. “I work with them to create a special experience, to bring a little unexpected joy into their guests’ day.”
The young alumna says she first recognized the importance of relationship building while involved in an array of SMU student organizations. She was active in Program Council, Asian Council, the Association of Black Students, the Leadership Consulting Council and the Muslim Student Association.
She acknowledges the influence of favorite professors, including Chip Besio, on her people-focused approach to business.
“He always went above and beyond to foster the relationship,” she says of Besio, who serves as director of the Center for Marketing Management Studies and a senior lecturer at Cox. “He helped me understand the value of relationships in building a business.”
Now that Fluffpop has taken off, Tadia plans to add her magic touch to popcorn with her Hot Poppin’ line.
“I’ve innovated the way people think about cotton candy and that’s what I plan to do with popcorn,” she says.
— Sarah Bennett ’11
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