A $100.00 take for eight hours’ work was not much of a payoff when Jeff Phillips first fired up his propane-powered corn popper at a Volvo car-lover’s show in Davis in 2002. His low-energy- consumption popper was the result of three years of engineering efforts, and allowed him to set up virtually anywhere on the planet. With solar-powered lights and fans, and the portability of propane, the tiny footprint of his cart proved exceedingly versatile. “We have no tethers and can set up in the middle of the desert.”
That Volvo show led to a regular gig at the Cotati farmer’s market and Comet Corn was officially launched. A profound love for camping, music, his fellow man AND popcorn had led Phillips to consider how he might blend these interests into a new career after an injury had forced him out of his carpentry field. A self-described “corn hound,” Phillips began to take his popcorn cart to music festivals throughout northern California to spread the gospel of his uniquely-flavored organic popcorn.
With help from other music and popcorn-loving friends, the Comet Corn brand began to grow and fans clamored to buy the product not just at farm markets and festivals. In 2008, Sherry Soleski, Phillips’ partner in life and now business, sold her half of A La Heart Catering and joined Comet Corn. With her food background and their love of travel, new, intriguing flavors of popcorn emerged and they decided to launch a line of bagged popcorn.
Hippie Dust, Coconut Curry, Maple Syrup and Bloody Mary are among their most popular flavors, created from certified organic yellow butterfly corn bought from a farm less than 100 miles away. Soleski and Phillips have recently sourced organic high-oleic sunflower and safflower oils to begin popping their corn with and along with the organic ingredients in their line of flavorings, hope to become certified organic with their impending move into their new dedicated facility.
Seeking financial assistance to help with costs related to their growth, Comet Corn will be launching a Kickstarter Fund starting June 9th. “We don’t want to be the biggest. We want to be the best. Folks in northern CA have educated palates and appreciate our product. We don’t need to become rich – we’d like to have enough to share. Lagunitas is our business model. They donate to anyone who asks and we want to emulate their generosity.”
While they are looking for a distributor to help ship their product to a wider audience, Soleski plans to keep her Sonoma County accounts. “I love my local relationships and intend to continue delivering direct. Our market is people who seriously love food.” They also intend to continue working their favorite festivals. “It’s where we started. It gives us a marketing perspective and a chance to let our fans know where they can find our product the rest of the time. We showcase local stores at our booth with a sign listing our accounts.”
So, if you’re ready to taste some seriously delicious, healthy organic popcorn, check out Comet Corn’s delectable choices on the shelf at Oliver’s. And if you want to support the growth of local and organic small business right here in Sonoma County, consider their Kickstarter Fund. Help Jeff Phillips and Sherry Soleski continue “creating the infrastructure for magic.” www.cometcorn.com