Summer vacation is in full swing and kids will kick back, relax and enjoy the warmer weather while hanging out with family and friends.
Thirteen-year old entrepreneur Alina Morse, from Wolverine Lake, will do the same, but she might be a little busy.
Because she has a business to run.
Alina started the business, Zollipops, when she was nine. The brand, which now includes the Zaffi Tafy, is all-natural, sugar-free candy that cleans teeth by raising the PH in one’s mouth while neutralizing the acid and strengthening tooth enamel.
Since its launch, six full-time jobs have been created and the product is sold domestically and is now available in Korea, China, UK, France, Malaysia, the Philippines, Morocco et. al. And as part of its One Million Smiles Initiative, 10% of profits and one million products will go to students and organizations to promote oral health education efforts targeting children and families.
Morse’s entrepreneurial and philanthropic prowess has landed her national and local interviews and the opportunity to travel across the country. In fact, when I talked to her recently, she was en route back to Detroit from NYC after conducting a national television interview.
We discussed her entrepreneurial acumen, including starting a business and growing a successful business, and a major philanthropic initiative she has undertaken focused on oral health education.
Lee: When and why did you decide to start a business? Please talk about the product idea and its brand name.
Morse: I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was very young. When I was six years old, I discovered I could help people through business and I started my business at age seven so I have been an entrepreneur for eight years age-wise, (more than) half of my life.
I launched the brand when I was nine and got into Whole Foods Markets. The idea came during a visit to the bank. The bank teller offered me a sucker, and I knew it was not good for me. I loved candy, so I asked “Why can’t we make a lollipop that is good for you?” I asked my sister Lola if she would like to try a lollipop with Xylitol, and she said a “Zollipop”, and Zollipops were born.
Lee: What makes Zollipops unique in the market and who’s your target audience? Talk about your marketing research approach.
Morse: Moms and kids, just like me, are our target audience. Our goal is to reach families all over the world. Zollipops are unique because they are functional, natural and they actually clean your teeth. They taste great compared to even sugary suckers.
I originally did all the research for the company and experimented in my kitchen. My friends help me test the flavors colors and new products and if they are not delicious, they don’t sugarcoat it.
Lee: You just completed 7th Grade. How do you balance school and your business and when do you sleep (laughs)? Also, your family is very much involved. What are their roles?
Morse: I split my time into thirds during the school year, 1/3 for business, 1/3 for dance and friends and 1/3 for homework.
My mom is my stylist. My dad is my business consultant, and manager. My sister is our official taste tester.
Lee: You currently have distribution in major retail outlets. Who are they and how have you been able to gain distribution strengths in these outlets? How are your sales?
Morse: Zolli candy are in Kroger, Walmart, Amazon and Whole Foods Markets and adding new retailers, dental offices and institutions every day. Sales with these large retailers and trusted professionals have allowed us to reach more kids and families.
Sales continue to grow. Through May this year, we surpassed all of prior year sales, and we are projecting to triple annual sales over next 12 months.
Lee: Please describe your philanthropic efforts supporting kids and families.
Morse: We give 10% of all profits to support oral health education in schools across America, and we have Zolli’s One Million Smiles Initiative and that helps us teach kids about oral health and provides educational lessons about entrepreneurship and science in the classroom.
Lee: What’s next?
Morse: We have lots of limited edition and holiday releases, incorporating social media into the experience and of course new flavors and colors.