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RENÉE ILLYSE ISRAEL Co-Founder and "Mama Pop" Doc Popcorn

Renée is an experienced leader with a successful track recordof building brands, marketing and sales programs. For nearly a decade, she hasbeen leveraging her expertise to build the Doc Popcorn brand, which isnow the largest franchised retailer of fresh-popped popcorn in the world and #59on the Inc. 500|5000. 

Prior to founding Doc Popcorn, Renée was a vice president of marketingat one of the top integrated brand agencies in the country, Digitas—whereshe provided leadership to category leaders including The New YorkTimes, American Express and Allstate. Previously, she also held marketing positions inglobal organizations including Electronic Data Systems and FranceTelecom. 

Renéeserves on the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) Women in FranchisingCommittee.  She received the EnterprisingWomen of the Year Award from Enterprising Women Magazine (2013). She wasalso nominated as an Outstanding Woman Leader in Business by the DenverBusiness Journal (2012).

Renée earned her B.A. from Gettysburg Collegeand her M.B.A./M.I.M., with honors in International Management and Marketingfrom Thunderbird — The Garvin School of International Management. Renée,and husband/co-founder Rob and their three young children reside in Boulder,CO. 

1. Tell us aboutthe Doc Popcorn concept. 

The inspiration for Doc Popcorn came from our experience with"mom and pop" kettle corn makers at a Boulder Farmers' Market. Weimmediately saw an opportunity to professionalize the way this tasty treat iscreated and sold.  Over the better part of a decade, we perfected a uniqueoffering of fresh-popped mouthwatering flavors and developed a variety of fun,simple and flexible business models for use at high-traffic venues such asmalls, stadiums, convention centers and entertainment venues of all kinds.After owning and operating our own units in Colorado, we startedfranchising in 2009 so we could share our vision of creating smiles all overthe world with our great tasting, freshly-popped snack.  We have sinceadded several beverage offerings and are continually innovating new andexciting flavors every day.

2.      How and when did you become involved with Doc Popcorn?  

I am the co-founder with my husband Rob.He is a serial entrepreneur with “the big ideas” and my background isbrand, marketing and business strategy for Fortune 500s and start-ups.  (We met at a 10K race while living in New YorkCity…just about the time the concept popped into his head).  He is the creative who keeps dreaming upiconic ideas, products and flavors while I ask questions about that idea’s executabilityand ensure we are staying true to the brand and the core of our business.  We make a good team.

3.      What are some of the advantages in being a Doc Popcornfranchisee?  

Doc Popcorn’s offering is right on trend for the present and the future.  Snacking is on the rise and popcorn happensto be one of the world’s most popular snacks.That said, popcorn has never been done in quite the way we are doing itin high-traffic venues.  We took acommodity product, much like McDonalds did for hamburgers and Starbucks did forcoffee, and made it into a special experience. Our product is fresh-popped,made with high quality ingredients in a variety of flavors, and is a “better-for-youoption” in the venues in which we operate. It also helps that we are now thelargest franchised retailer of fresh-popped popcorn in the world in terms ofunits and building a loyal fan base.This said we are just over 90 units in the U.S., Japan and Mexico.  So there is a plenty of room for growth and fornew franchise owners to find a niche for our concept in a variety of markets,both nationally and internationally. From an operational standpoint, it’s alsoimportant to note that we have a thorough training program and a great teamready to support our franchise partners through all the steps required to getopen and popping!

4.Who is yourideal franchisee

We award franchises tocandidates who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are seeking a simple, fun andflexible business opportunity. Many of our POPrietors (franchise owners) are couples and families operating theirDoc Popcorn business together. They get excited about supporting the DocPopcorn vision to create a smile experience for customers.  They also own or plan to operate multiple locations and areinterested in being involved in running their business, at least initially.

5.      Tell us a little about the snack industry? 

Snacking is on the rise among consumers—the average person snacks more than 2xa day.  And popcorn happens to be one ofthe world’s most popular snacks.  In factthe popcorn industry has been reported to be as much as $4.2B in the U.S. aloneby Euromonitor International.  Withconsumers always on the go, a grab and go snack like Doc Popcorn that is easyto eat, better-for-you and shareable is right on trend.    

6.What are some ofthe greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

Since we started franchising in 2009, we have grown to nearly 100 franchiseowners, or POPrietors as we call them.  Thisis remarkable growth for an emerging brand.So one of the greatest lessons we have learned is how important it is toanticipate processes and systems that we need before we actually needthem.  Then getting those systems inplace so we are ready to support our franchise family when the time comes. Inaddition, we established a Franchise Advisory Board early on to ensure ourfranchise partners could communicate their insights and have a voice on keyinitiatives that they feel would help grow their businesses at the locallevel.  It is often said that franchiseesand franchisors are in a symbiotic relationship.  But this concept is truly the cornerstone ofwhat drives how we run our business. We are learning every day how to worktogether to drive the brand and keep our POPrietors smiling!

7.Do you have amentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

This is a great industry with many leaders to look up to.  From a company standpoint, I admire AuntieAnne’s a great deal.  They have done anamazing job in our space and we plan to continue following in their footstepsto offer our great-tasting fresh-popped snack in as many high traffic venues aspossible.  As I was recently selected toserve on the Woman in Franchising Committee (WFC) for the InternationalFranchise Association (IFA), there are a lot of great women leaders whom I cancall upon when facing tough issues or just need a sounding board.  On another level, we have POPrietors withamazing stories that inspire me every day, reminding me of why my husband and Ibegan franchising in the first place.Couples like the Sanchez’s who weren’t ready to retire and wantedsomething fun to do together, the Rovettis who joined the Doc Popcorn family sothey could teach their Developmentally Challenged son how to run a business orJed Howard, a military veteran whose wife had twins the week he opened his Doc Popcornlocation.  I, along with the entire team,am motivated every day to do our best to support their businesses and goals.

8.What advice doyou have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

It’s really important to ask yourself why you want to own a franchise anddefine the goals you are hoping to achieve and the needs you desire to have metby owning one.  Everyone’s definition ofsuccess is different.  You need to knowwhat yours is in order to choose the right partner. 

9.In your opinion,why do you think that Doc Popcorn would be a great opportunity for someone? 

If someone islooking for a fun, simple and flexible way to start and build a business, DocPopcorn is a great option to consider. Doc Popcorn is also an affordable optionrelative to other food franchise concepts which is a nice plus. Someone whowould be proud to own our collective vision of making people smile would also likelyenjoy running a Doc Popcorn business.  Weare particularly suited to those who want to roll up their sleeves and initiallyget physical and be present with the business.