Atlanta Kid Kroy Richardson, a Local Popcorn Business Success Story
Like many Atlanta kids, Kroy Richardson was having difficulty adjusting to virtual schooling and not being with his friends. A 7-year-old student at Westside Atlanta Charter School, Kroy was diagnosed with autism in 2019. He and his mom, Minke, started Kroy Korn Gourmet Popkorn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Atlanta Parent asked Minke how the idea came about.
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How did Kroy Korn Gourmet Popkorn start?
I’m a season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons. After each game, I would bring home popcorn as his Sunday treat. With COVID, I was no longer able to get popcorn. One movie night, Kroy said he really wished we had popcorn. But everything’s closed, so I don’t know how we’ll get popcorn? And he said, “Mom, I think you can make it.”
It started off very rocky. I tried a couple of things that didn’t really work. Now, it’s exploded into all of these flavors, all from some chocolate popcorn. The first time, I melted a Hershey’s bar on popcorn, and Kroy loved it. He had all these ideas. He really liked cookies and cream, so he wanted me to try that. What about peach cobbler; could can I make that? When some girlfriends came to see us, I made some popcorn to share, and they loved it. I was fully interrogated on how I’d made it, but it was all Kroy’s ideas. It’s all the flavors that he loves and things he eats on a regular basis, but it’s a healthier treat.
What’s his favorite flavor of popcorn? What’s yours?
Karamel Korn. He loves it. His second favorite is Banana Puddin. My favorite is Strawberry Cheesecake.
How does Kroy spend time on his business?
With school, working on the business would be his reward for doing his homework. Before bed, we see the orders that need to be made, and make sure we process everything. It’s a good relaxer for him. He likes to get it right. So if the popcorn color isn’t like he likes it, he’s unhappy.
What’s it like to start and run a business with your son?
It’s been fun. COVID had us in a hard place. I’m a single mom, and I didn’t have family I could send Kroy to. He’d been having extreme meltdowns, and he missed his friends. Having something to do made it easier for him to adjust and helped us get over the hurdles of COVID. The business is growing, and I’m so proud of Kroy. I had to learn about having this business. We fumble, but we learn, and we’re still going. I wish you could see what it does to Kroy when he gets an order. I’m so big on teaching him this is what it sounds like and looks like, these are the elements of business.
When did Kroy receive a diagnosis of autism?
At the end of 2019, he was diagnosed. With the new school year in August, we were getting into the swing of things. It was a big adjustment with all the special services given at school. With COVID, we had to find another way to get access. Kroy had an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, and with so many moving parts, we had to rework everything to figure out how to accommodate his needs with virtual schooling.
He was born premature and was underweight, and I was told when he gets a little older, he may have a developmental delay. He’s growing, and he’s a big kid. He’s almost my height at 5’5”. At school, they said it could be autism, and I said it couldn’t be. They said let’s just test him and see. I didn’t know anything about autism.
What family activities do you enjoy?
It’s just the two of us, so we do everything together. We run together, we cook together, we read together. The most exciting thing for us to do is gardening or making popcorn. It feels so good to see him so happy when we make popcorn together.
Kroy’s an extreme fan of Disney. His favorite movies are “Frozen” or “Mulan.” He’s seen “Black Panther” a million times. We have about 3-4 movies in rotation. He likes “Beauty and the Beast” and likes when the animation has been turned into real-life casting.
What advice do you have for parents of kids with special needs?
Be understanding. I was so afraid to get the help that we needed. I finally got my nerves together to get the resources he needs. This is a conversation. It’s tough to find out that your baby has something you have no control over.
It takes a lot of patience. You feel like you’re to blame a little bit. I was a little bit older when I got pregnant, so I thought maybe it was my fault. But I’ve learned nothing is impossible with God. Patience is number one, and patience with yourself. I’m still learning.
Love them. Love them as they are, regardless of how they are.
As parents, we’re protective of our children with special needs, so they miss some things because we’re so guarded. I’ve learned to let him be free. That’s when he’s happiest.
Learn more about Kroy Korn Gourmet Popkorn at kroykorn.com.
– Emily Webb