• Yashaswi Vig

Interview with Joseph Zeppilli, Co-Founder of Bad Monkey Popcorn

By: Yashaswi Vig


Photo courtesy of Bad Monkey Popcorn Inc. All Rights reserved.


"Once it touches your lips, you are not going back to chips” is the belief of Bad Monkey Popcorn, co-founded by brothers Joseph and Fabio Zeppilli. The company has achieved enormous success for its various flavours of gourmet popcorn. Over the years, the brand has grown tremendously after transitioning from the kitchen to the supermarket. Bad Monkey Popcorn started as an idea experimented with in a Montreal kitchen—then its products gained recognition after the brand was leveraged from store to store. The popcorn is now available in over 7000 grocery stores across Canada.


What has Bad Monkey Popcorn developed into today?


It has developed into a brand, whereas before it was just a business idea. Our goal is to make sure that when one thinks of popcorn, they think of Bad Monkey.


You have a lot of skills in one house as one of your brothers is a lawyer, the other is a photographer, and you were a Finance major yourself. How has diversity of skills within your company helped you achieve success?


I believe that my brothers and our team members coming together to form a very diverse team in terms of not only culture but also age and educational background has helped our company achieve success. Working with my brother, in particular, has made me realize that it's good to have a diverse set of skills within a company, especially because he was a lawyer and helped us with all the legal work at the beginning that we couldn’t afford to fulfill otherwise. I was a Finance major and made sure that we were in an appropriate financial position to run the business. Also, my other brothers were chefs and were able to come up with different flavours. All of us working together has added value to the overall business and proven that diversity is the key to our success.

Photo courtesy of Bad Monkey Popcorn Inc. All Rights reserved.


How has owning a company affected you personally?


Owning a company has changed me forever. It changed me in many ways when it comes to taking responsibility, as before I was only worried about myself or my family, unlike now where I have the responsibility of sixty or so employees who are dependent on their jobs to take care of their families. Also, owning a business has taught me valuable lessons like better ways to deal with suppliers, buyers, managers, and owners that I wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. I have realized over the years that dealing with different stakeholders has moulded me to handle both good and bad situations and has allowed me to become very patient. It made me deal with the changes in my company better, as now we can’t rush things since we have grown bigger and it takes a month or sometimes a year to come up with flavours whereas before when it used to take us a day.


What challenges did your company face amidst the pandemic?


The pandemic posed many challenges for our company because we lost 30% of our business as we weren’t able to offer services to hotels, bars, parties, and a variety of other events due to the lockdown. However, we remained resilient and persistent during tough times and we modified our business model to offer services online. It helped improve our business and redeem the losses we incurred as it increased our sales by about 20-25%. At the same time, the pandemic provided opportunities for us because people tended to stay at home, watch movies, and order popcorn due to the lockdown, which led to a further improvement in our sales. Overall, I can’t complain because we continue to remain in business, and we have hired more people amidst the pandemic as the demand for our products has increased. I feel very blessed that we could continue to operate because many other businesses closed during these unprecedented times.


Did your time at JMSB help pave the way for your business?


For sure, I wouldn’t say that I took everything from COMM classes. I didn’t take anything specifically to use into my business because it was more of an overall strategy. Going to business school put me into a business mindset and mode, as I was surrounded by like-minded individuals. Overall, it put me in the right environment that prepared me better for the future.


What advice would you give to a JMSB graduate who wants to become an entrepreneur?


I would first tell them not to be too hard on themselves if they are unable to think of a business idea. I would suggest finding a business that is currently popular, and one they can improve upon further. It was the case for me because I didn't necessarily want to enter the popcorn industry but always knew I wanted to own a business. So, to get exposure into the business industry, I attended multiple franchise shows, business conferences, meet and greets. I took the time to put myself out which ultimately helped me gain insights into the corporate world. My advice would be to do something you are passionate about, or if you are like me who wants to become successful then find a business that you can improve. Personally, popcorn was my favourite snack, and every time I went to the grocery store I had not noticed many flavours. We came up with flavoured popcorns and implemented a marketing strategy primarily about community involvement, which helped significantly increase our brand visibility.



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