Lots of kids have a sweet tooth, and not many of them would turn down their favorite candy out of concern for their oral health.
But Alina Morse of West Bloomfield is not most kids.
Zollipops is the creation of 10-year-old Alina along with her dad, Tom Morse. She wanted to create a candy that promoted good dental hygiene and oral health, but also tastes good and is fun to eat. Zollipops is that candy, the "After You Eat Treat."
Zollipops are natural lollipops, which contain erythritol, xylitol, and stevia – healthy sugar alternatives. Zollipops help raise the pH in the mouth, neutralizing acid and reducing the risk of tooth decay and the development of cavities. The candies are non-GMO, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, made with natural flavors and colors. Zollipops come in six popular flavors like cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and grape, while the new peppermint Zolli Drops are the perfect breath-freshening mint.
Zollipops are currently available at Meijer, Whole Foods Market, Amazon, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot.com, HomeGoods, SuperValu, and many more. 10% of all Zollipops profits goes to support oral health education in schools. This year the healthy treat-maker launched a “250,000 Smiles” campaign, and will give away 250,000 of these all-natural suckers to schools and dentists promoting oral health education.
Alina has been named #4 among CNBC’s "8 Young Entrepreneurs Making Serious Money;" #3 on Forbes Magazine’s list of “Top 10 Emerging Food Trends”); and was named a “Girl of the Week” by accessories retail giant Claire’s. Zollipops was the only candy company partner of the 2015 White House Easter Egg Roll as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative.
Prosper recently checked in with Alina while she was in Germany at the annual ISM trade fair, the world’s largest trade show for sweets and snacks, to find out more about the life of this exceptionally young and energetic entrepreneur.
So how does a 10-year-old become an entrepreneur?
By asking lots questions, never quit asking and not giving up!
When I was about four years old, my dad read me Rich Dad Poor Dad. He also taught me to write my ideas down, do research and come up with a plan. We built robots, made PB&J tubes, and made balloon volleyball games, but healthy candy we decided to really focus on.
What made you interested in creating a line of healthy suckers?
Well, I love candy, and was tired of hearing “NO!” One day when I went to the bank with my Dad, the teller offered me a sucker, I knew I shouldn’t eat it because it was all sugar, so I asked my dad, “Why can’t we make a sucker that’s good for you?” I asked him over a hundred more times, until finally he said, "Okay, let’s do some research." While researching we found the ingredients, and discovered that tooth decay is one of the greatest epidemics facing kids in America today, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
How did you create the formula for these healthy candies?
I did research with my dad, online, at stores, and with dentists and hygienists and discovered the magic teeth cleaning ingredients. We also discovered that many xylitol products contained more xylitol than most people liked, and hard candies last longer. We made samples that we shared with friends and family.
After a $7,500 startup investment, Zollipops sold over $115,000 in the first 5 months of operation in 2014. How much have sales grown since then?
We are growing and sales in 2015 were up 385% over the prior year, and with several new large retailers starting to sell soon, 2016 will be even better.
Is it hard for you to be both a student and an entrepreneur? How does she balance work and school?
It’s not easy, that’s for sure. We are super busy sometimes especially with trade shows. We have a great team: my mom, my dad, and so many others all help us make it happen. I also have a publicist who helps get the word out. School and homework always come first. After that, I break it up: one-third for business; one-third for extras, like dance; and one-third for play with my sister Lola and friends. We work on some weekends when we need to. It certainly takes a team.
How do you feel about the success of Zollipops so far and what are your future plans for the company?
I am a regular kid and like it that way. We just launched new Zolli Drops. We are also very lucky that Meijer stores are going to start selling Zollipops. There are a lot of places that we can sell Zollipops, and it takes time and effort to build distribution.
What are your plans for the future? Where does a successful 10-year-old entrepreneur go from here?
I am definitely planning to go to college and I like Sparty. I believe that anyone, even kids, can do anything, if they work hard, try, believe, and never give up! Right now, helping more moms and kids smile is really fun and challenging! Share a Zollipops…and share a smile!