The Pop Porium owner Rosa Dalomba is excited that her dream of owning a business has sustained itself for two years now.
When nothing was destined to be in her favor, Dalomba stepped out on faith March 4, 2017 and opened The Pop Porium in a 3,000 square foot building on Main Street.
It is a sweet shop that specializes in small batches of handmade, gourmet popcorn. 90 percent of Dalomba's popcorn is air popped, and approximately nine percent is popped in 100 percent organic coconut oil.
"We have developed over 90 flavors because we do make them in small batches and there are no added preservatives we usually on a normal week will have between 15 to 30 flavors depending on how project the week will be," she said.
During big events in Mississippi's college town like SEC ballgames, The Pop Porium will whip up 50-60 different flavors. Flavors are always shuffling on her flavor wall from customer favorites to new flavors.
Main Street isn't the only place The Pop Porium is present, the community can find her as a vendor at the Farmer's Market, Cotton District Arts Festival, and her biggest accomplishment yet is becoming the popcorn vendor at Mississippi State University's baseball games.
"We do a lot around the community in general and so we do things with the city and for the city as well as with the university and for the university," Dalomba said.
The "Maroon Velvet" is a favorite flavor of MSU. Her classic caramel and cheese popcorn called "Windy City" is another favorite, but she is constantly running out of "Butter Caramel."
"Every popcorn shop that you go into has their own significant caramel recipe and it took us I want to say a little bit under two years for us to perfect ours," she said. "Now that we have perfected it and released it, it's so popular and very buttery. The 'Wedding Cake' is another popular flavor."
Dalomba breaks her flavors down into categories: dessert and chocolate, savory, caramel, kettle corn, and The Pop Porium originals. During this season customers crave the "Cajun Crawfish" popcorn.
Entrepreneurship can be found in one’s spirit, according to Dalomba. It's been within her since she was a little girl growing up in Cabo Verde, Africa.
As a child she would stop by a store on her way to school to buy lollipops for five cents and sell them for 25 cents.
"My mom caught me and said the IRS was going to shut me down and so I wasn't allowed to do that anymore because she did not want me stopping at the store to get lollipops," Dalomba said.
Dalomba describes Cabo Verde as a third world island off the west coast of Africa.
"Beautiful place but very scarce in resources and opportunity, which is why a lot of natives migrate for that particular reason," she said.
She moved to the United States in 1996 when she was seven years old to East Providence, Rhode Island.
"I came from a little island to the smallest state in the United States called Rhode Island. I tell people all the time that I was tricked into coming because I thought Rhode Island was another island and it was freezing when I came over in October," she laughed and said.
She lived there for most of her life but within the last five years she moved around the south from Tennessee, Louisiana and now to Starkville.
Dalomba said she had no choice but to become a chameleon and adjust quickly. All she had known was Cabo Verde from its mother tongue, weather, and families.
She stands on the belief that her life experiences prepared her to go into business.
"Going into business is very risky and investing your life savings into it is even riskier so when someone goes into business you have to have very strong faith in many things and especially within yourself, in your ability to lead others, and to see your dream," Dalomba said.
Two years later, The Pop Porium is still a dream she's working on.
"I tell people that I don't think entrepreneurship is something that can be taught. I think that you can learn skills that can help you in entrepreneurship but I don't think entrepreneurship is something you can teach," she said.
Her motivation behind The Pop Porium was to open a business to profit her non-profit business, Lucia's House. Lucia's House is named after her mother and it will be a combination of an orphanage and a battered women's shelter in Cabo Verde.
"Where I come from women still don't have many rights and people are still very poor, they're very kind people. It's not a war-driven country," she said.
When she opened The Pop Porium to fulfill her wish, it was only Dalomba, a cash register, her brother and fiancé and 20 flavors of popcorn on the wall.
"People would walk in and walk to the back to look for the business. It was almost like I was a secretary," Dalomba said. "I remember being there with the little handmade counters that we made and me and my brother explaining to them how we're going to have a play area, a sitting area and we're going to have candy around the shop, display art and we're going to have gourmet sodas and do ice cream, snow cones. People just really looked at me like I was insane."
Now The Pop Porium has all of those things and more. The business has become a spot for birthday parties, art showcases, and even Salsa Latin Dance Night.
Dalomba knows that one way or another she is bound to succeed. A lot of people ask her how long she will be in business.
"There is no number for me to give you. Maybe there is a number of how long I will be in business in Starkville, because you never know the economy but I will forever be in business," she said.
Those who doubted her gourmet popcorn business believed she would only be in business for two months, not two years. However, Dalomba came to Starkville with no support system and no established customer base. The way she brings in customers is providing a modern sweet shop with a charming, old-school human interaction.
"I have customers who come in and talk to me for hours. They will purchase a bag of popcorn because they are there but not all the time is that why they're there," Dalomba said.
"As humans we need those interactions with complete strangers because that is how we truly learn empathy. That is how we learn sympathy, that is how we find common ground and relate to people who are from totally different worlds."
She has conversations with customers who are genuinely intrigued by her life story and the fact that her biggest shock was electricity.
"I was seven years old the first time I saw electricity and so I think the fact that I've had from a child be uncomfortable in order to get comfortable prepared me for this," Dalomba said.
Dalomba's ultimate goal is to be able to say "The Pop Porium headquarters is in Starkville, Mississippi." She wants a franchise of popcorn shops including beyond America's soil.
"I have never stopped to see how far to recognize how far it has come because I'm always on to the next goal," she said.