Peanut butter and jelly mixed together in a squeezable tube so that kids can make their own sandwiches when their parents are too busy. A Dad robot, complete with a full line of accessories – to be sent to work so the human dad can stay home to play with his children. A candy loved by kids and adults alike, that is not only sugar-free but actually promotes dental health.
These types of ideas are captured when, at the age of four, a girl is encouraged to write down all her ‘big ideas’. That’s exactly what happened in the case of Alina Morse. A bright and curious child, whose parents, Tom and Sue, both had marketing and sales experience, Alina amassed quite a list of interesting and unique ideas.
At the age of seven she was at the bank with her father when the teller offered her a lollipop. She refused it when her father gently reminded her of the impact sugar and candy have on teeth. Some kids might have gotten upset or merely sulked – but not Alina. Instead, she asked her dad, “Why isn’t there a healthy candy – one without sugar?” Her dad smiled and told her to add it to her idea list. That she did – and became more and more interested in the idea. After months of her asking if they could pursue the new candy concept, her father relented.
Her time management formula was simple and disciplined – after school 1/3 of her time went to studying, 1/3 of her time went to dance, and 1/3 of her time went to the business.
With that, Alina started her new product development efforts – beginning with research. That would expand to lots and lots of research. With the support of her dad, she went online to see what other products, if any, existed and to learn the basics of making hard candy. They spoke with her dentist, her hygienist – even food technologists. They learned about oral health and the impact of acidity, pH, alkalinity and how cavities form. They learned that tooth decay was the largest chronic condition affecting kids in the U.S.
The time had come to create their recipe. The initial funding was $7,500 which she had saved through the years, mostly gifts from grandparents. Experimenting at home, they tried several ingredients, including erythritol and xylitol, two key elements which promote dental health. They discovered how to make a mess, that making hard candy in a residential environment was not going to work – which meant more research. She and her team – father, mother, and sister, searched for – and found – a production facility which could make their lollipops in an allergen controlled environment.
Eventually, they found the right ingredients, a variety of flavors, the right ingredients, and – importantly – great taste. It was time for naming, packaging, marketing and selling. Still in research mode, Alina asked her sister, Lola, if she would want a Xylitol lollipops. Lola tried to say the name but it came out “zollipops” – and just like that, the product had a name.
Two years after she first thought of a healthy candy, at the age of nine-years-old, Alina’s idea came to life. The West Coast buyer for Whole Foods ordered one case for each of the stores. That led quickly to a reorder for multiple cases per store. Then came Amazon where Zollipops would eventually became the site’s best-selling sugar-free hard candy and second best-selling lollipop in general. Sales would grow exponentially following a guest appearance on The Steve Harvey Show, placement in Kroger, and distribution through local retailers in her home state of Michigan and beyond.
Today, Alina is thirteen-years-old, a successful entrepreneur, a millionaire, and CEO of a rapidly expanding, very successful company. The product line has expanded to include Zolli Drops (the lolli without the stick) and Zaffi Taffy – with more ideas simmering. Sales for 2018 are projected to easily top $5 million – perhaps reaching as high as $6 million.
Zollipops has become so successful because Alina Morse is a fearless brand – one who embraced her passion for business and ideas; discovered her purpose of creating healthy smiles; and being persistent in her goals.
Anyone who thinks that Alina Morse, now thirteen, is just a bundle of cuteness fronting a company, had better rethink their assumption. Alina is equally comfortable in business meetings, in front of the camera at press interviews, and at school. She is quick to ask insightful and meaningful questions while providing accurate and pertinent answers without hesitation. Her overt enthusiasm and depth of knowledge add to her charm, which itself is plentiful.
There’s a great deal to learn from Alina Morse – assuming you’re comfortable learning from a thirteen-year-old.
Capture your ideas – As a very young child, Alina was filled with ideas, sharing them with her parents and whomever else would listen. Imagine how quickly they would have been mere thoughts had her parents not urged her to write them down. Imagine if Alina were a typical four-year-old, not having the willingness to be consistent with capturing her ideas. We should all capture our ideas because we never know which one will be our trigger – the one that unlocks our passion, purpose, and drive.
Research, research, research – The short version? Be prepared. Alina, and her team, invested a great deal of time researching – learning, questioning, experimenting – always striving to find the right ingredients, the right production partner, the best flavors, the best way to gain access to retailers. When team Zollipop makes a decision, it’s based in large part, on a foundation of fact. Doing the ‘homework’ will likely result in a longer timeline, but will almost always create a more certain path to success.
Grow with your business – Alina, at age 7, needed all the help she could get. Fortunately, she had a supportive and knowledgeable team in place – her parents and sister. As her idea progressed, so did Alina’s knowledge and experience. She was wise enough to know what she didn’t know and driven enough to learn along the way. By example, in the early years, a lot of her interview answers sounded scripted – because they were. As she matured in years, business acumen, and media experience, Alina has become much more natural in front of the myriad of microphones that pursue her story – speaking like the seasoned professional that she is.
Seek a ‘life balance’ – Alina’s formula of 1/3 homework, 1/3 dance, and 1/3 business allowed her to accomplish a rich full life – something most people seek. Through the years her scheduling has accommodated business trips equally with friends’ birthday parties. The secret is knowing what your priorities are and pursuing them all with a balanced plan.
Alina Morse proves that age is only a limitation if we allow it to be. She proves that you’re never too young – or too old – to create your success – we need only learn from this remarkable thirteen-year-old. We need to pursue our ideas, do the research to make them viable, and be open to learning and growing as we go. By following Alina’s example, we too can create the success we desire.