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👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse cover
👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse cover
Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LoGrasso

👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse

👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse

48min |17/04/2024
Play
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undefined cover
👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse cover
👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse cover
Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LoGrasso

👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse

👩‍💼🍭From Child Inventor to CEO: Balancing a Candy Empire & College at MSU w/ Zolli Candy's Alina Morse

48min |17/04/2024
Play

Description

Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don’t know enough and like it’s just too daunting to even start. But it IS possible and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today’s guest is the CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy and she will share tools on how to do just that--revealing her journey of starting a company at just 7 years old, turning it into a thriving business and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. 


From this conversation you’ll learn:

-Why she chose to go to college at Michigan State, even though she was already running a multi-million dollar company 

-What goes into creating a good pitch

-How to move past self-doubt

-Ways to tend to your mental wellness

-How to maintain a positive mindset

And Much More!


More on Alina:  Alina Morse is an entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy—the clean teeth candy. Not only is she a freshman at Michigan State University, but she has continued to make history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO and the youngest person to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the US as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. She has earned over 300 million media impressions including a Ted Talk, GMA, Dr. Oz, as well as being a verified influencer.


Check out Zollicandy: https://zollipops.com/ 

Vote for Unleash in the Webby Awards HERE: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2024/podcasts/shows/creativity-marketing 


-Remember to subscribe/follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your pods. Please leave us a rating and review- it helps SO much in getting the show out there. And tell a friend about the show- podcasts are very personal and tend to be spread person to person. If this show helped you or made you smile, share the love :) 


Follow the show @unleashyourinnercreative 

 

Follow me @LaurenLoGrasso 


Hosted by Ausha. See ausha.co/privacy-policy for more information.

Transcription

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you.

  • Speaker #1

    Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often, when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don't know enough, like it's too daunting to even know where to start. But it is possible, and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today's guest will share tools on how to do just that, revealing her journey of starting a company at just seven years old, turning it into a thriving business, and how to make and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. Welcome to Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LaGrasso. I'm Lauren LaGrasso. I'm an award-winning podcast host and producer, singer-songwriter, public speaker, and creative coach. This show sits at the intersection of creativity, mental health, self-development, and spirituality, and it is meant to give you tools to love, trust, and know yourself enough to claim your right to creativity and pursue whatever it is that's on your heart. In the month of April, Unleash Your Inner Creative is collaborating with my alma mater, Michigan State University, and their student-run radio station, the Impact 89 FM. Each week this month, you'll hear from a remarkable MSU student or alumni who is doing great creative work out in the world and or on campus. These episodes will air both on the Impact 89 FM as well as on the usual Unleash Your Inner Creative podcast feed. So if you're listening on the radio right now, hi. Welcome to Unleash. I am so happy to have you in the creative community. If you like what you hear, you can go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to learn more about the show and hear more episodes. It's also great to leave a rating and review. And if you're a regular Unleash listener, you can check out the Impact at impact89fm.org for more info on the station, for their shows, and to listen live. Also, before we get into the content today and to our amazing guests. I do want to let you know that Unleash Your Inner Creative is nominated for a Webby Award. This is a huge deal for anyone, but especially for an indie podcaster because big deal people are nominated for Webbys. I mean, I'm talking like the Today Show and the Tonight Show and Unleash Your Inner Creative. It's huge. And I'm so honored to be amongst these amazing nominees in my category of creativity and marketing. And Unleash is by far the smallest company that is nominated. and so we really need our community to show up and support us. So if you're interested to learn more and want to support the show, check out the link in my bio or search Unleash Your Inner Creative on the Webby Awards website. Okay, now to the guest. Today's guest is Alina Morse. She's an entrepreneur, CEO, and the founder of Zolly Candy, the clean teeth company. She's also a freshman at Michigan State University. She made history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO. And as I mentioned, she's the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the U.S., as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. In addition, she's done a TED Talk. She's been on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, and she's a verified influencer. I wanted to have Alina on because she has a truly incredible story, and I find it... Fascinating and inspiring that despite the fact that she already had a thriving business upon entering college, she still wanted to go to Michigan State and get her degree. It really is incredible to know that if a little kid, a.k.a. Alina's younger self, believed in herself so much that she started this huge business when she was just seven, what could we do, being our full-grown adult selves? We can all gain wisdom from Alina's story. From today's chat, you'll learn what goes into creating a good pitch, how to move past self-doubt, Ways to tend to your mental wellness, Alina's best leadership tools, the fun in learning and education, and much more. Okay, now here she is, Alina Morse. Alina, thank you so much for being on Unleash Your Inner Creative. I am so thrilled to talk with you today.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited.

  • Speaker #1

    So we're going to get into your incredible story of how you started this company when you were just seven years old. But before we get to that. I want to talk about how your creativity and your entrepreneurship started. I believe creativity is deeply connected to the inner child. And I know when you were very little, you had an ideas binder, where you would write down all your ideas for inventions. So you tell me about that. Why was that important in your creative journey? And what sort of ideas did you have in there?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, so I've always been an inventor at heart. I have been coming up with ideas for crazy businesses and products since I was three and four years old. So this has been a long time coming, coming up with something crazy and inventive. And Zali originally was put and housed in the IdeaBinder. But essentially, it really started as I had all of these business ideas for silly things, some that already existed, honestly. but just this collection of ideas. And I wanted to house them in one place that was really important and kind of sacred to me, and that was my idea binder. My parents always were encouraging me to add to it and cherish this place where I housed my creative outlet. And so that was really an integral part of my growing up and my Zali story is... this binder and having the idea for Zolly Candy at age seven, but already having this binder full of products and ideas and inventions.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you still do that to this day? Keep a running list of ideas?

  • Speaker #0

    I wish I could say yes, truly. I do. I'm very busy. But I also try to keep running lists in kind of sacred places, notebooks or... Excel spreadsheets, very sacred Excel spreadsheets of ideas for Zali and ways to better my business and dream collaborations and goals and aspirations. I'm a very much so list-based, goal-based person. I love to write things out. I feel that it's the best way that I achieve and accomplish. And I definitely encourage others to do so as well, because I feel like that, that act of writing something out, writing out a plan, writing down your goals, your dreams. it makes it so much more likely that you're going to achieve it. It's very tangible. I'm all for writing things down. I do not have a 2024 version of the Idea Binder, but maybe like someday down the road, post Zali, I'll start that up again.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And it sounds like you have different little versions of it that work for your current iteration of your business. And that's such a great tip for anyone out there who's creative, who's building something. to keep a running list of ideas. And then when you're feeling creatively blocked, you can go back to that and start to implement them.

  • Speaker #0

    Absolutely.

  • Speaker #1

    Let's get into your company, Zolly Candy. You got the idea when you were just seven. So let's talk about how did it go from a seven-year-old being like, I know how to hack the system and have candy every day of my life, to a full-blown company, to where you are now?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I found the loophole for sure in eating candy. I was seven years old. I took a trip to the bank with my dad and the bank teller offered me a sugary lollipop. And I feel like this is a universal experience. Correct me if I'm wrong. But my parents always told me, no, you can't have candy. It's too much sugar. You're going to get cavities, whatever. It'll rot your teeth. Fine. And I feel like that's how the conversation always went. No, you can't have candy. Okay, fine. Moving on. But being the tenacious and stubborn kid that I was and am still today, I said, well, why not? Why can't I make something that's delicious, that's fun, but it's also healthy? It could clean my teeth, you know, it contributes to proper dental care or whatever, but the root of it was that I wanted to have candy without my parents saying no. And I asked probably a hundred times, when are we going to make these lollipops? When are we going to make this happen? How can I create this candy? My dad gave me the advice that he always did when I had a business idea. He said, write down a plan. And so I wrote out a business plan in my idea binder and then the real work started. I started to research on Google, on YouTube, on LinkedIn, finding connections of third and fourth generation candy makers, reaching out to manufacturers, food scientists.

  • Speaker #1

    Can I ask you, how old were you when you were doing all this? Were you seven? Seriously?

  • Speaker #0

    Like on LinkedIn? I was. Honest to God.

  • Speaker #1

    How did you know to do that?

  • Speaker #0

    So it sounds very professional, but it was like keyword searching. Okay. It was like, oh, like candy maker. Okay. People close to me that are either like able to manufacture candy, have a background in it, have a background in food science that were like local people that I could like actually connect with. Wow. And ask them questions. And I also talked to my dentist and my dental hygienist. You know, that felt like such a natural segue to getting into the oral health care space. But throughout all of this research and, you know, finding people and just honestly looking on YouTube, like, how is candy made and watching that video of like mass production of candy, just learning and replacing, you know, the sugary ingredients in candy with like sugar free alternatives or substitutes and finding those like it was a long process. But during that, I learned that tooth decay is actually the single greatest epidemic facing kids in America. And that was according to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2014. And although it's not today, in 2024, the single greatest epidemic still. it's growing and it's ravaging both the nation and the world. And that's pretty devastating. It is a preventable disease in most cases. and the hard truth is that a lot of kids do not have access to proper dental care, and obviously America also has a huge problem with diabetes. One in three Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic, so there's a lot of connections within this realm of, like, why isn't there something better for you that's fun, that's functional, that's accessible? And so it was kind of checking all the boxes. Like, this is solving my problem, but this could also help people all over the world. And I became very passionate about it. And that's what really set Zali apart from the other ideas in my idea binder is that had this mission and this component of like philanthropy and helping people and that it felt so achievable. through all the research that took about a year or so, then I pulled all of my savings and I asked my parents to match it. And it was a very generous deed that they did for me. They took a leap of faith with my idea. So they matched my initial funding. And then I went to a manufacturing facility and I had them run some plant trials, which was so cool. And I worked with a food scientist and we tweaked and we taste tested for about another year. before we pitched to Whole Foods Markets in 2015.

  • Speaker #1

    So at that point, were you nine?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Wow. And so tell me, were you leading the pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So I was a theater kid.

  • Speaker #1

    Yes, me too, girl.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, the entrepreneur pipeline from being a theater kid is so strong.

  • Speaker #1

    So strong.

  • Speaker #0

    Somebody needs to do like a research paper about it. I was just talking about that.

  • Speaker #1

    Like in this episode that I put out today, I was saying theater people and theater kids, theater majors are the most underrated entrepreneurs and employees. Yes. Because they can do anything. They can innovate. They understand people. They understand how to take on different roles. You're so right. But like... still, I don't care, like at nine as a theater kid or not. That's very impressive. How did you go about approaching that? And what do you think goes into a good pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    You know what? Honestly, I really treated it as a script. I was curating with the help of my dad and some of our mentors. So like we had met a third generation chocolatier who is local to us. And a friend of my dad's and somebody that has now become one of our major mentors in the manufacturing space. So he obviously had some experience with pitching and just talking about an item that is very innovative and new. Going about presenting that was something that we really leaned on him, leaned on research and talking to other people that were entrepreneurs pitching buyers. You know, it was a lot about hearing people's perspectives and opinions on our product and our journey and how we could best present that. But I truly approached it as being my most authentic self. And I was so proud of what we had accomplished to this point. You know, we had created a real product from an idea that I had in the bank. So I was very excited to just have something tangible that I could show someone, anyone who would listen. But I curated this pitch with the help of my team and my family. And we went in there and I had it memorized top to bottom, backwards, forwards. And we just did it. And we had some really good feedback on packaging and the product itself. And the buyer basically said, you know, we'll let you know. in a couple months if we're interested. And I really thought like, there's no way like maybe maybe this is not gonna happen. But sure enough, in two or three months, we heard back that they were placing a PO purchase order.

  • Speaker #1

    And that was Whole Foods, right?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes, in Southern California.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. So what did you do in those two to three months? Because in those two to three months, a lot of times like people who are in a similar period of waiting. will encounter a tremendous amount of self-doubt, wondering, oh my God, did I do the pitch the right way? Oh, this could have gone better. Oh, they must not like it. You strike me as an unbelievably confident person. But tell me, what did you do in that two to three month period when self-doubt came up?

  • Speaker #0

    A big part of my story is that I didn't have a lot of fear and doubt because I hadn't faced the real world of like failure. Right. And it really wasn't even an option in my mind. It was, you know, we've poured hours of time. We've poured resources. My parents have taken this chance on me. this is going to work. I'd like to say I didn't have the baggage that a lot of entrepreneurs, that a lot of adults have when looking at entrepreneurship. It's absolutely so scary. And like, I have a hard time talking to young entrepreneurs now because I'm like, it is so hard. And it's so hard to not doubt yourself. But almost adopting that sense of like curiosity and tenacity and taking that leap of faith with the sense of childlike wonder. I think that's so important because that's the way that I looked at the world. Some people may perceive that as naive, but I think it's such an advantage.

  • Speaker #1

    Oh, yeah. It's brave. It's really brave. And it is something that's wonderful when you've had supportive parents. I also grew up with incredibly supportive and loving parents that you can go out into the world and really believe in yourself before the world has told you no a bunch of times or told you you're not good enough. I know you've experienced many different things since then because you've built a multi-million dollar company. So there's going to be ups and downs and peaks and valleys. How do you borrow that nine-year-old's mindset now?

  • Speaker #0

    I have experienced entrepreneurship whilst also being a teenager, elementary schooler to a middle schooler to a high schooler to now a college student. I think I have gone through just about every emotion that both an entrepreneur and an adolescent. has experienced, and they have been simultaneous, which is pretty insane. Oh my gosh. But I think it's put in perspective that business is not that bad compared to the mean, evil things that little middle school kids would say. So I have always sort of had to have this thick skin and tough outer shell because I was the only girl in the room in the industry. you know, I would walk in and people would think like, it's not bring your daughter to work day, like what's going on. And then I would go to school and I would feel out of place. Yeah. You know, I went to public school my entire life and there was nobody that was doing entrepreneurship or exploring it. And that was very isolating as well. and don't get me wrong, like I had a lovely childhood. I have, you know, I had a lot of friends, like, but there was of course like mean, nasty kids and mean, nasty people in the industry. So for me, like I had to really empower myself from within and surround myself with like only the best people that were going to support me. Only the friends that I felt were on my side, a hundred percent of the time, regardless if I had Zali or not, only like the family that I felt, which is like my whole family. that was like so supportive and like always lifting me up and like keeping me out of the comment sections of like YouTube videos. And it's so hard to fall into the trap of self-doubt and just the meanness of the world. Even as somebody who you would think like, you know, I run a nonprofit. I make candy that helps people smile. Like how can people find a way to hate on me?

  • Speaker #1

    Because they're jealous, to be honest. I mean, like, I think. here's the thing. A lot of people look at someone like you who is so unbelievably accomplished and so driven and so smart and really sure of herself. And instead of letting that inspire them and be like, oh my God, she did it so I could maybe do it. They project their self-doubt onto you. And I wanted to ask you about that because Barbara Corcoran said to you, how old are you? You answered 15 when you met her. And she said, you conduct yourself like you're 25. You're actually intimidating. I think that when you are just like, you are a powerhouse of a human being. people who are not healed are going to project that emptiness. That's not what Barbara was doing. I want to be clear.

  • Speaker #0

    No,

  • Speaker #1

    yeah, yeah. But like, you know, some of these middle school girls that you're talking about, like they're going to project that emptiness onto you because they're feeling bad about themselves.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    So how have you dealt with that and kept yourself of self and self-love through all those things?

  • Speaker #0

    On the note of Barbara Corcoran, I share this with anyone who asks. I think this is hysterical. After that airing of that episode, I was on the Dr. Oz show with her. it was like COVID times, we're all like masked up. We're taking the elevator down to like the streets of New York where she was like waiting for her like, you know, very fancy car. Like, she's the coolest. She said to me, she was like, oh, do you have a boyfriend? And I did. I had a boyfriend for like three, three years or something. And she was like, well, you got a date up. She goes, go a couple years up. It was hysterical.

  • Speaker #1

    She's so real.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, like not only did I get good business advice, but I was like getting dating advice. And I just thought it was like incredible. But on the self-doubt note, like I said, I surround myself with the right people. I think it's super important. You have to also empower yourself from within. And if there's unresolved like feelings of I'm not good enough, like at what point do you have to push those aside and give yourself that tough love? And I just realized, like, stop. Stop letting the outside hate in because it's so harmful. You're a boss. get over it. You need to be so strong for yourself if you're going to be strong for your team. If you're going to be a leader, if you're going to be somebody that you want other people to look at and think that's an inspiring story, that's what I want to be like, be that person. Wake up every day. It's an active choice to let hate in. And anybody that says otherwise, I don't think that's true. Sure, it's hard to ignore or not allow people's opinions of you to seep in and internalize that. but it is a choice. And so I actively wake up and make the choice to not surround myself with people that are not, you know, supporting me, that I'm not obviously supporting back as well. the vibes have to be good or else like I'm not going to be my most productive self, my most efficient self. And I have to be that for my team because I have people relying on me. And I wake up every day with this mission in mind, like I want to help people smile. But if I'm not smiling and if it's not coming from a real place, then like that's not real. And then that's not an inspiration.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And it's like, no, I'm not like smiley bubbly all the time. No one is. But it's very real. it's an active choice to be that way.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. I mean, you mentioned the pandemic. There's been so many difficult things on top of you building this business and being a kid and being in a relationship and like having your family, having your team. how do you tend to your mental health through all this and make sure to take care of yourself?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I play tennis. Like staying active, I feel is so important to overall mental health, physical health, your immune system, like everything. I travel so much that I'm like sick all the time. So I feel like having something that encapsulates just like wellness and mental wellness as well has been really crucial. I've met some of my best friends playing the sport, played it through high school, and I actually started because of the pandemic. Both of my parents have always played, you know, recreationally and on leagues, but I was a competition dancer for over 10 years, and I couldn't go into the studio. I couldn't, you know, participate, and so I had to find something else, and a couple of my friends were trying out for the high school tennis team, and I was like, I can do that outside. And I just went all in, and that is... one of my passions. I play on the MSU club tennis team. So incredible. And just another group of incredible people that I've met through something that I love. So that's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    That is so beautiful. Yeah. Being part of the extracurriculars at Michigan State, I'm a Michigan State alum. And being part of the extracurriculars there, I feel like is what makes the college so special. It's really, to me, like, the community of MSU, because that's what started my career. I moved out to LA for an internship on the Ellen Show because of somebody I met in Michigan State, because I was going around my junior year of college in the theater department being like, I really want to intern on the Ellen Show someday. I didn't know anyone who was on the Ellen Show, but my friend Brandon Piper, who was a theater, actually graduate student at the time, was like, I actually have a friend who's a PA there. Let me introduce you. and that's what is different, I think, about Spartans as opposed to anyone else, is the heart, the care, and the genuine desire to help each other.

  • Speaker #0

    My dad said this to me. My dad's a Spartan. He said, there's two major schools that you think about when you think about Michigan, the state of Michigan, and one school, it's the students against the school, per se. in one school it's the students against each other. And I said, I want to go to the school where it's the students together.

  • Speaker #1

    That makes me want to cry. It's so true.

  • Speaker #0

    It is so true. I hate that Michigan State gets demoted to like a party school.

  • Speaker #1

    It's so not true, right, Alina?

  • Speaker #0

    It is so not true, first of all. And it is so much more.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    It is this community of people that anywhere you go, you see someone wearing a Spartan shirt, you say go green, they say go white, and it's like. Immediate connection, instant. There's alumni networks in almost every state. It is so incredible to be a part of this community that is so humble and willing to support one another and empower one another. And I feel very grateful and super excited that even as a freshman, I have been reached out to numerous times throughout this year to act in that sort of mentorship role as well. Within the Entrepreneurship Institute, which I also can't say enough good things about. yes shout out to Aaron he put us in touch obsessed love Aaron um and Brode as well yeah just the connections oh, I think this person could help you out. Oh, you know, we could learn from each other. Let's collaborate. Let's make this happen. It's just not even a question in my mind that if I ask someone for help, they're going to be there. And I think that that's really special.

  • Speaker #1

    It is. And it's different than other places. It's certainly different than the other school, which we won't be naming. But I totally agree. And I've seen it so many times throughout my career and my life. and I'm curious because, I mean, I guess we didn't really finish, because you went from Whole Foods to now, like, you're in tons of retailers.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes.

  • Speaker #1

    So I want to finish that story, but I also, like, a little precursor, I want to ask you why you decided to go to college, because I think that's probably pretty interesting, and I'm curious to know about it. But first, let's talk about what happened after that Whole Foods meeting.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So, you know, I waited, and we worked on the... product. We worked on the critiques that we were given, and that was really good feedback. And then we faced a really big roadblock. We got on Amazon.com, and that was super exciting. Naturally, it was really exciting. And also, Amazon has evolved and grown a ton since 2015. Seeing that evolution has been really interesting. So when we got on, I mean, think back 10 years ago, essentially, we were shipping product directly from our home. and it was melting in transit. And people would get their Zollipops, and they would get Zolliblops, essentially. And it was terrible, and we were devastated. But it was a very important roadblock that we had before we shipped product to Whole Foods. We went back to our manufacturing partners, and we figured it out. And that was a point of realization that was really unique to me, because throughout this entire journey up to that point, I thought, this was a good idea. This was a simple idea. Why has nobody done this before? Like, why are like, I hate to say it, like Werther's and Russell Stover, like the grandma's purse candies of the world, why are they the only sugar-free items in the store? Because they're not fun, they're not family-friendly, and they're not functional. So why hasn't somebody done this yet? Or done the clean teeth aspect? It just didn't make sense to me. And this was why. Nobody had gotten past this roadblock. And it was so, so stressful dealing with all of like the different formulation challenges. But once we finally figured it out, we were set. And now our product can ship on vessels in the heat of summer to China, Korea, like it's like bulletproof. So that was a really important roadblock that we faced early on. We got on Amazon, we shipped our product to Whole Foods, and then we just started expanding. We received... some of our first major media, I was on Good Morning America for like a kids Shark Tank episode, which was so fun. A couple years later, I was on like actual Shark Tank. I've done all sorts of crazy stuff since then. But now we're in about 20,000 stores. We're in about a dozen countries. And we have over 100 SKUs, different products.

  • Speaker #1

    So SKUs are different products?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah. And so like they're different like configurations. So like this could be like a smaller version of this bag. And like we have about 15 items.

  • Speaker #1

    Amazing. So, okay, this brings me to my next question. You are so accomplished as a business person. And I feel like especially in your generation, people are seeing that there are more options than just going to college. Like you can go to college, but you can also do trade school. You can go straight to entrepreneurship. You can take a gap year. I feel like there's a little bit more flexibility within the Gen Z beautiful people. Why was going to college still important to you?

  • Speaker #0

    I've gotten this question so much and I know why, but I don't know if it's like a fun answer. I love to learn. I really do. And I'm very self-aware and I realize that I have a lot to learn because despite doing this and being in this world for over half my life, I still rely on my team very heavily for integral roles like the financials and accounting. I understand it, but I couldn't do it. Day in and day out, that couldn't be my role. And as a CEO, you have to be a delegator and a leader, and you can't do everything yourself. So it's very important to have really smart people on your team. But just the type of person I am, I want to understand it more. And I want to be a better entrepreneur, a better functional CEO. And I just want to expand my mind. and it's kind of a twofold answer. I also really wanted to find my people. I actually wasn't even going to come to MSU. I've been a Spartan my whole life. My dad went here. I really wasn't going to come to school here, and I was going to go out of state, but I was introduced to Dave Hawthorne, who runs FMI here, the Financial Markets Institute in Broad. And he was telling me about... the Burgess Institute. And that was like game changer. There are very few universities that have an entrepreneurship program so built out. It is exceptional, the resources that they have here. And no one was talking about it. There was no like marketing, like I'm in the entrepreneurship circles, like I would have known. And I had no idea. So I came and I took a tour and it was like mind blowing. It was like, oh, like I could see myself going to school here. I met like the MSU club tennis people. I met like the Burgess Institute people. And I was like, yeah, this clicks. and I knew that I could find an entrepreneurial support system and ecosystem, and that was really important and something that I was lacking in my personal life. I didn't know entrepreneurs my own age that lived in Michigan, at least. I had a couple friends overseas and then scattered around the United States, but I didn't have people that I could look at that were my own age and trying to do similar things. So that changed the game for me, knowing that I could forge relationships with people that were passionate about the same thing as I was, being entrepreneurship, and having that level of like relationship was super, super cool. So, and that's what it's been. Yeah. It's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    No, I think it's also so smart because, you know, as a media professional, somebody who produces and hosts podcasts and helps people tell their story, it's also a really great plot point in your story. that endears people to you. Because when you hear, oh my gosh, she's a freshman in college. it's so compelling and you want to know more, more so than if it was like she was a youngest kid entrepreneur and then she went off on her own. Like, cause it kind of feels like it's more of the same that way. Like you're doing something to disrupt yourself and that's interesting and compelling. And I just think it was actually beyond like the fact that you're getting tactical grade information, building community. It was a smart storytelling and business move. And I see you girl. That was brilliant.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you. It wasn't intentional. I actually announced my college decision on live QVC. Wow. When I decided that I was going to come to MSU and I like more like a green blouse. It was fun.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you know Kim Gravel?

  • Speaker #0

    I actually don't. I've seen her at the studio, but I just don't know her.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. I had her on my podcast recently. We've become friends. I feel like you two should be buddies. She's just also like a wonderful, generous human being. And I think you two would vibe. So leadership, we've talked about that a few times. You run a team. How has being a Spartan and being involved in like what we talked about, like the Spartan community, seeing how we help each other, affected the way you lead? And what is your leadership style?

  • Speaker #0

    My leadership style is imperfect. I am learning and growing alongside my team. I don't know everything. And so my leadership strategy is just very honest and humble and appreciative that I have people that are, you know, willing to work with me because it, you know, team, it's a team. and that's so important to emphasize. I couldn't do it without the people that have been there and continue to show up, and so I have implemented some processes that I feel make it really easy to be a good leader and to keep everyone's goals aligned, but what makes it really easy to be a good leader is finding good team members. That's the most challenging part of honestly building a team. and running a team is like just finding those building blocks and making sure that they're in the right seat they have the right hat and how those roles evolve over time as the business grows so for me like i've implemented eos which is entrepreneur operating system and it's outlined in the book traction by gina wickman so that's a great process you I really am like a firm believer on like weekly meetings and making sure that everyone's on the same page and that priorities are set and that rocks are like kind of what they refer to as like big goals. Making sure that everybody understands what those are. And that we're actually driving towards tangible accomplishments. So that's obviously like huge in my book because that's what I've centered around this leadership strategy. But also just like connecting with people and meeting people where they're at and communicating effectively and authentically is like the best strategy of leadership because it's a collaboration. It's a team effort. And I think it's really important to just like connect with those people first. We're learning and growing together. As our team grows, that's also been... something that I'm always working on and trying my very best to be the best leader I can for my people. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And I think something you outlined that I really would like to highlight is you said it's imperfect. And I think the best leaders I've ever had have been honest with me about what they don't know, about what they do know, about what the vision is, about what their fears are without scaring people. You know, it's a fine line. Yeah. Well,

  • Speaker #0

    people want to feel appreciated. Yeah. each one of my team members brings something so valuable to the table. And I want them to know that. Because not only does it empower them to continue to work hard, especially if their mission is aligned with ours, like helping people and being philanthropic. Like, that's what I mean by finding the right people, finding people that are aligned. Right. Not just good at their skill set. Not just smart or capable, but caring and aligned with our mission. So that's really... what sets people apart for me, those are the team members that I go towards. Like, yeah, maybe they don't have the skill set right now, but the skill set is easy. That's the easy part. If they have the passion and the work ethic, like they can learn Excel in two days. Like, you know, like as a stupid example, like you have to find the right people at the core and then you can work on the role. You can work on the skill set. So I'm also a firm believer in that. Yeah. And just like, you know, appreciating the value that people are bringing. and allowing people to grow in those roles because I'm always growing. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    One of my mentors once said, hire for heart, train for skill. Yes. I try to do that because you can't teach someone how to have a good heart, how to work hard, how to have the same values as you. Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    Be loyal and work hard and always show up. It can't be taught. Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Some people don't want to do that.

  • Speaker #0

    And in a small business, you need people that are going to want to be there. and want to work a couple extra hours because we have to this week because we don't have another option.

  • Speaker #1

    Because we help people smile.

  • Speaker #0

    That's why we work hard.

  • Speaker #1

    And speaking of your team, I know Zali is a family-run company. I know your dad in particular has been integral in starting and building the company. I listened to an interview. He said he's the business manager. Is that still true? Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    So

  • Speaker #1

    I'm curious because I think it's really beautiful when children inspire their parents to dream. and I'm curious because your dad quit his accounting job to go with you. Yeah. How has it been to like watch your parents dream and co-create with you and get to see a different vision for their lives? You know,

  • Speaker #0

    this is not something I talk about all the time, but I think it's really important to our story. My family is very, very Polish. And my great grandparents immigrated to the United States on both sides of my family. And, you know, my grandparents grew up speaking Polish. And I talk about my grandmother in particular, growing up and being, you know, this working woman and her and her sisters like navigating this world together. and you know we didn't come from a lot at all actually my great-grandfather came to the United States with a pierogi board that's it and my maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur and started an advertising agency and my grandfather on the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather, had an auto parts shop about five minutes from where I grew up, which I didn't even know about until a couple years ago, which I think is insane. So I come from hustlers and entrepreneurs and people that have worked their butts off and still been at the bottom, and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity. to be supported by my parents and get to wake up every day and live out literally the American dream. It hasn't been handed to me, but the opportunity that I can actually change the trajectory of my parents'lives, both economically, socially, they've worked so hard for my sister and I, so incredibly hard. And the fact that I get to work hard. And then, you know, hopefully one day get to take care of them beyond what they could maybe imagine is so incredible. They've taken this journey with me and seen my crazy ambitious ideas through. It's not possible without them. They saw that little girl that like loved like to act and be theatrical and express herself. and have crazy ideas, but be so stubborn and tenacious that it was going to happen, and they let me fly. That doesn't happen. That takes really special people. I just feel very, very grateful that I get to take them on this journey. and show them that like, we can change the world. It doesn't matter where we come from. And that I can almost see this line of entrepreneurship through in my family as well. I think that's so special. So I hope like all my entrepreneurial ancestors are proud of me and You're touching on something so important,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina, because that is a thing. You're completing a karmic cycle. You're taking what they started. They were the original investors. Yeah. And you're taking that investment that they made in their future generations and you're making good on it. Yeah,

  • Speaker #0

    it's so special. I do look at the lineage and especially both of my grandfathers on both sides or my great grandfather and my grandfather. their entrepreneurial ventures like are so like so inspiring to me because like they had it so much harder there was no social media like promoting like advertising in like the 70s like what like that's crazy but like here I am given this opportunity to like make something happen you and everybody has this opportunity, like truly, and it's a very common misconception that I come from money or that I'm like this like hoity-toity, richy gal. I'm not. and I've hustled and bootstrapped to make this happen, and it's because I'm passionate about something bigger than money, and it's helping people smile and helping to hopefully change the world and inspire young girls that they can be entrepreneurs too. There is so much heart and depth to... what appears to just be like a bag on the shelf, it's not. It's so much deeper than that. So I feel very, very fortunate that I get to, you know, do something that I'm actually passionate about every single day. So beautiful. Hi, creative.

  • Speaker #1

    If you love the show and it has meant a lot to you, think about sharing it with your friends, family, and anyone you think would love to hear it. Podcasts are spread person to person, and I know the number one influencers in my life are my friends and family. So if you know someone who would love it, you can think about passing it along. Unleash Your Inner Creative can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Wednesday in the Unleash podcast feed. Remember, during the month of April, you can also listen to Unleash on the Impact 89 FM on Wednesdays live from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Okay, now back to the podcast. And what would be your advice to either a student listening who wants to become an entrepreneur or a young girl listening who's like, wow, I love what Alina did. How can I do something like that? What's your best advice for them? go for it and find that

  • Speaker #0

    peace of heart and that mission that'll drive you to achievement. It's really easy to be motivated by shallow things, but that doesn't always get you so far. And I truly believe that I am where I am today because of the prospect of helping people and this mission that's deeper than just myself. Stay tenacious and stay curious and stay fun and always ask questions. just maintain a childlike sense of wonder and excitement about this opportunity that you have to take control of your own life and change the world. Because it's right there. Especially if you're a student, there's so many resources. Put the work in, put the time in, find what you're truly passionate about, and just go for it. Beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    And I know you have a new product. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    Can we talk a little bit about that?

  • Speaker #1

    Tell me what it is. I'm super excited about it. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    So we have made history, which is such a cool thing to say, and I keep saying it. We have made the first ever in the world zero sugar gum filled lollipop. So think blow pop, but better. so there's ollie gum pops the little blowing bubble if that's indicative but we're super excited it's zero sugar it's allergen free all of our products follow this the same great attributes and benefits because we want it to be inclusive and we want everyone to be able to enjoy candy again and fun and have that nostalgic feeling without the guilt without the stress so you we're basically free of anything. Like, unless you're allergic to, like, air and fun, like, you can have Zahle. Like, I'm kidding, of course, but, like... You're going to be okay.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah, yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And so this has been four or five years in the making, this product. It was, like, a crazy idea, and it has been exceptionally difficult to make. So we're so proud of the way that it's turned out. Oh, my gosh. Well,

  • Speaker #1

    we'll definitely share how people can go find those because they sound delicious. So final question or questions. It's a two parter for you, Alina. I want to go back to our sweet little seven year old Alina self. And since we talked about creativity being with the inner child, your story is just like a beautiful example of that and of following your intuition and your your heart. if you and this younger version of yourself, the seven-year-old version, were standing in the same room looking at each other, what would you say to her and why?

  • Speaker #0

    Do not even spend another moment comparing yourself to anyone else or giving thought or time to anything less than you deserve. I am a teenage girl. And I, of course, have spent time thinking about stupid boys, stupid girls that have hurt my feelings. I want to give her a hug, first of all, and say, girl, you don't know what's coming. But you are just going to love it. Soak it all in and don't even let any of that negativeness into your sunshine.

  • Speaker #1

    And what do you think our sweet little seven-year-old Alina would say to you and why? I think she'd say, oh, Lena, like,

  • Speaker #0

    you look great. Like, I mean... Killing it.

  • Speaker #1

    We weren't sure how that was going to happen, but,

  • Speaker #0

    like, I guess we got from point A to point B. No, genuinely, I think she would be speechless. That... we did it. Like this is success in my mind that we have built something that has a legacy and an opportunity to really help people for years to come. That was the goal, to make a mark. And it's only sweetness from here on out. Like I really like. obviously there's always going to be challenges and we face daily challenges, but I think she would look at me and just see like, we did it. That's success. Well, I'm proud of both of you.

  • Speaker #1

    And I just think you're an amazing example of following your intuition, following your heart, being mission driven, and saying why not, and then going for it. So thank you for inspiring me, for inspiring everyone listening today. and for continuing to listen to that sweet little seven-year-old self who has just the best ideas. Thank you, Alina.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much. Thank you for listening and thanks to my guest,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina Morse. For more info on Alina, she can be found on social media at Alina Star Morse and her business, Zolly Candy, can be found at ZollyPops.com. And again, thank you. If you like what you heard and want to support the show, Unleash Your Inner Creative can be rated, reviewed, and found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. It's also great to share the show with a friend and post about it on social media. You can find me at Lauren LaGrasso and at Unleash Your Inner Creative on all social platforms. Thanks to Rachel Fulton for editing and associate producing this episode. You can find her at Rachel M. Fulton. Thank you, Liz Full, for the show's theme music. She can be found at Liz Full. My wish for you this week is that you find the courage to embrace your inner child's wonder, ignite your spark, and pursue whatever dreams you have with the tenacity and heart of a true creative. I love you and I believe in you. Talk with you next week.

Description

Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don’t know enough and like it’s just too daunting to even start. But it IS possible and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today’s guest is the CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy and she will share tools on how to do just that--revealing her journey of starting a company at just 7 years old, turning it into a thriving business and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. 


From this conversation you’ll learn:

-Why she chose to go to college at Michigan State, even though she was already running a multi-million dollar company 

-What goes into creating a good pitch

-How to move past self-doubt

-Ways to tend to your mental wellness

-How to maintain a positive mindset

And Much More!


More on Alina:  Alina Morse is an entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy—the clean teeth candy. Not only is she a freshman at Michigan State University, but she has continued to make history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO and the youngest person to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the US as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. She has earned over 300 million media impressions including a Ted Talk, GMA, Dr. Oz, as well as being a verified influencer.


Check out Zollicandy: https://zollipops.com/ 

Vote for Unleash in the Webby Awards HERE: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2024/podcasts/shows/creativity-marketing 


-Remember to subscribe/follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your pods. Please leave us a rating and review- it helps SO much in getting the show out there. And tell a friend about the show- podcasts are very personal and tend to be spread person to person. If this show helped you or made you smile, share the love :) 


Follow the show @unleashyourinnercreative 

 

Follow me @LaurenLoGrasso 


Hosted by Ausha. See ausha.co/privacy-policy for more information.

Transcription

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you.

  • Speaker #1

    Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often, when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don't know enough, like it's too daunting to even know where to start. But it is possible, and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today's guest will share tools on how to do just that, revealing her journey of starting a company at just seven years old, turning it into a thriving business, and how to make and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. Welcome to Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LaGrasso. I'm Lauren LaGrasso. I'm an award-winning podcast host and producer, singer-songwriter, public speaker, and creative coach. This show sits at the intersection of creativity, mental health, self-development, and spirituality, and it is meant to give you tools to love, trust, and know yourself enough to claim your right to creativity and pursue whatever it is that's on your heart. In the month of April, Unleash Your Inner Creative is collaborating with my alma mater, Michigan State University, and their student-run radio station, the Impact 89 FM. Each week this month, you'll hear from a remarkable MSU student or alumni who is doing great creative work out in the world and or on campus. These episodes will air both on the Impact 89 FM as well as on the usual Unleash Your Inner Creative podcast feed. So if you're listening on the radio right now, hi. Welcome to Unleash. I am so happy to have you in the creative community. If you like what you hear, you can go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to learn more about the show and hear more episodes. It's also great to leave a rating and review. And if you're a regular Unleash listener, you can check out the Impact at impact89fm.org for more info on the station, for their shows, and to listen live. Also, before we get into the content today and to our amazing guests. I do want to let you know that Unleash Your Inner Creative is nominated for a Webby Award. This is a huge deal for anyone, but especially for an indie podcaster because big deal people are nominated for Webbys. I mean, I'm talking like the Today Show and the Tonight Show and Unleash Your Inner Creative. It's huge. And I'm so honored to be amongst these amazing nominees in my category of creativity and marketing. And Unleash is by far the smallest company that is nominated. and so we really need our community to show up and support us. So if you're interested to learn more and want to support the show, check out the link in my bio or search Unleash Your Inner Creative on the Webby Awards website. Okay, now to the guest. Today's guest is Alina Morse. She's an entrepreneur, CEO, and the founder of Zolly Candy, the clean teeth company. She's also a freshman at Michigan State University. She made history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO. And as I mentioned, she's the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the U.S., as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. In addition, she's done a TED Talk. She's been on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, and she's a verified influencer. I wanted to have Alina on because she has a truly incredible story, and I find it... Fascinating and inspiring that despite the fact that she already had a thriving business upon entering college, she still wanted to go to Michigan State and get her degree. It really is incredible to know that if a little kid, a.k.a. Alina's younger self, believed in herself so much that she started this huge business when she was just seven, what could we do, being our full-grown adult selves? We can all gain wisdom from Alina's story. From today's chat, you'll learn what goes into creating a good pitch, how to move past self-doubt, Ways to tend to your mental wellness, Alina's best leadership tools, the fun in learning and education, and much more. Okay, now here she is, Alina Morse. Alina, thank you so much for being on Unleash Your Inner Creative. I am so thrilled to talk with you today.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited.

  • Speaker #1

    So we're going to get into your incredible story of how you started this company when you were just seven years old. But before we get to that. I want to talk about how your creativity and your entrepreneurship started. I believe creativity is deeply connected to the inner child. And I know when you were very little, you had an ideas binder, where you would write down all your ideas for inventions. So you tell me about that. Why was that important in your creative journey? And what sort of ideas did you have in there?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, so I've always been an inventor at heart. I have been coming up with ideas for crazy businesses and products since I was three and four years old. So this has been a long time coming, coming up with something crazy and inventive. And Zali originally was put and housed in the IdeaBinder. But essentially, it really started as I had all of these business ideas for silly things, some that already existed, honestly. but just this collection of ideas. And I wanted to house them in one place that was really important and kind of sacred to me, and that was my idea binder. My parents always were encouraging me to add to it and cherish this place where I housed my creative outlet. And so that was really an integral part of my growing up and my Zali story is... this binder and having the idea for Zolly Candy at age seven, but already having this binder full of products and ideas and inventions.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you still do that to this day? Keep a running list of ideas?

  • Speaker #0

    I wish I could say yes, truly. I do. I'm very busy. But I also try to keep running lists in kind of sacred places, notebooks or... Excel spreadsheets, very sacred Excel spreadsheets of ideas for Zali and ways to better my business and dream collaborations and goals and aspirations. I'm a very much so list-based, goal-based person. I love to write things out. I feel that it's the best way that I achieve and accomplish. And I definitely encourage others to do so as well, because I feel like that, that act of writing something out, writing out a plan, writing down your goals, your dreams. it makes it so much more likely that you're going to achieve it. It's very tangible. I'm all for writing things down. I do not have a 2024 version of the Idea Binder, but maybe like someday down the road, post Zali, I'll start that up again.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And it sounds like you have different little versions of it that work for your current iteration of your business. And that's such a great tip for anyone out there who's creative, who's building something. to keep a running list of ideas. And then when you're feeling creatively blocked, you can go back to that and start to implement them.

  • Speaker #0

    Absolutely.

  • Speaker #1

    Let's get into your company, Zolly Candy. You got the idea when you were just seven. So let's talk about how did it go from a seven-year-old being like, I know how to hack the system and have candy every day of my life, to a full-blown company, to where you are now?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I found the loophole for sure in eating candy. I was seven years old. I took a trip to the bank with my dad and the bank teller offered me a sugary lollipop. And I feel like this is a universal experience. Correct me if I'm wrong. But my parents always told me, no, you can't have candy. It's too much sugar. You're going to get cavities, whatever. It'll rot your teeth. Fine. And I feel like that's how the conversation always went. No, you can't have candy. Okay, fine. Moving on. But being the tenacious and stubborn kid that I was and am still today, I said, well, why not? Why can't I make something that's delicious, that's fun, but it's also healthy? It could clean my teeth, you know, it contributes to proper dental care or whatever, but the root of it was that I wanted to have candy without my parents saying no. And I asked probably a hundred times, when are we going to make these lollipops? When are we going to make this happen? How can I create this candy? My dad gave me the advice that he always did when I had a business idea. He said, write down a plan. And so I wrote out a business plan in my idea binder and then the real work started. I started to research on Google, on YouTube, on LinkedIn, finding connections of third and fourth generation candy makers, reaching out to manufacturers, food scientists.

  • Speaker #1

    Can I ask you, how old were you when you were doing all this? Were you seven? Seriously?

  • Speaker #0

    Like on LinkedIn? I was. Honest to God.

  • Speaker #1

    How did you know to do that?

  • Speaker #0

    So it sounds very professional, but it was like keyword searching. Okay. It was like, oh, like candy maker. Okay. People close to me that are either like able to manufacture candy, have a background in it, have a background in food science that were like local people that I could like actually connect with. Wow. And ask them questions. And I also talked to my dentist and my dental hygienist. You know, that felt like such a natural segue to getting into the oral health care space. But throughout all of this research and, you know, finding people and just honestly looking on YouTube, like, how is candy made and watching that video of like mass production of candy, just learning and replacing, you know, the sugary ingredients in candy with like sugar free alternatives or substitutes and finding those like it was a long process. But during that, I learned that tooth decay is actually the single greatest epidemic facing kids in America. And that was according to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2014. And although it's not today, in 2024, the single greatest epidemic still. it's growing and it's ravaging both the nation and the world. And that's pretty devastating. It is a preventable disease in most cases. and the hard truth is that a lot of kids do not have access to proper dental care, and obviously America also has a huge problem with diabetes. One in three Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic, so there's a lot of connections within this realm of, like, why isn't there something better for you that's fun, that's functional, that's accessible? And so it was kind of checking all the boxes. Like, this is solving my problem, but this could also help people all over the world. And I became very passionate about it. And that's what really set Zali apart from the other ideas in my idea binder is that had this mission and this component of like philanthropy and helping people and that it felt so achievable. through all the research that took about a year or so, then I pulled all of my savings and I asked my parents to match it. And it was a very generous deed that they did for me. They took a leap of faith with my idea. So they matched my initial funding. And then I went to a manufacturing facility and I had them run some plant trials, which was so cool. And I worked with a food scientist and we tweaked and we taste tested for about another year. before we pitched to Whole Foods Markets in 2015.

  • Speaker #1

    So at that point, were you nine?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Wow. And so tell me, were you leading the pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So I was a theater kid.

  • Speaker #1

    Yes, me too, girl.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, the entrepreneur pipeline from being a theater kid is so strong.

  • Speaker #1

    So strong.

  • Speaker #0

    Somebody needs to do like a research paper about it. I was just talking about that.

  • Speaker #1

    Like in this episode that I put out today, I was saying theater people and theater kids, theater majors are the most underrated entrepreneurs and employees. Yes. Because they can do anything. They can innovate. They understand people. They understand how to take on different roles. You're so right. But like... still, I don't care, like at nine as a theater kid or not. That's very impressive. How did you go about approaching that? And what do you think goes into a good pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    You know what? Honestly, I really treated it as a script. I was curating with the help of my dad and some of our mentors. So like we had met a third generation chocolatier who is local to us. And a friend of my dad's and somebody that has now become one of our major mentors in the manufacturing space. So he obviously had some experience with pitching and just talking about an item that is very innovative and new. Going about presenting that was something that we really leaned on him, leaned on research and talking to other people that were entrepreneurs pitching buyers. You know, it was a lot about hearing people's perspectives and opinions on our product and our journey and how we could best present that. But I truly approached it as being my most authentic self. And I was so proud of what we had accomplished to this point. You know, we had created a real product from an idea that I had in the bank. So I was very excited to just have something tangible that I could show someone, anyone who would listen. But I curated this pitch with the help of my team and my family. And we went in there and I had it memorized top to bottom, backwards, forwards. And we just did it. And we had some really good feedback on packaging and the product itself. And the buyer basically said, you know, we'll let you know. in a couple months if we're interested. And I really thought like, there's no way like maybe maybe this is not gonna happen. But sure enough, in two or three months, we heard back that they were placing a PO purchase order.

  • Speaker #1

    And that was Whole Foods, right?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes, in Southern California.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. So what did you do in those two to three months? Because in those two to three months, a lot of times like people who are in a similar period of waiting. will encounter a tremendous amount of self-doubt, wondering, oh my God, did I do the pitch the right way? Oh, this could have gone better. Oh, they must not like it. You strike me as an unbelievably confident person. But tell me, what did you do in that two to three month period when self-doubt came up?

  • Speaker #0

    A big part of my story is that I didn't have a lot of fear and doubt because I hadn't faced the real world of like failure. Right. And it really wasn't even an option in my mind. It was, you know, we've poured hours of time. We've poured resources. My parents have taken this chance on me. this is going to work. I'd like to say I didn't have the baggage that a lot of entrepreneurs, that a lot of adults have when looking at entrepreneurship. It's absolutely so scary. And like, I have a hard time talking to young entrepreneurs now because I'm like, it is so hard. And it's so hard to not doubt yourself. But almost adopting that sense of like curiosity and tenacity and taking that leap of faith with the sense of childlike wonder. I think that's so important because that's the way that I looked at the world. Some people may perceive that as naive, but I think it's such an advantage.

  • Speaker #1

    Oh, yeah. It's brave. It's really brave. And it is something that's wonderful when you've had supportive parents. I also grew up with incredibly supportive and loving parents that you can go out into the world and really believe in yourself before the world has told you no a bunch of times or told you you're not good enough. I know you've experienced many different things since then because you've built a multi-million dollar company. So there's going to be ups and downs and peaks and valleys. How do you borrow that nine-year-old's mindset now?

  • Speaker #0

    I have experienced entrepreneurship whilst also being a teenager, elementary schooler to a middle schooler to a high schooler to now a college student. I think I have gone through just about every emotion that both an entrepreneur and an adolescent. has experienced, and they have been simultaneous, which is pretty insane. Oh my gosh. But I think it's put in perspective that business is not that bad compared to the mean, evil things that little middle school kids would say. So I have always sort of had to have this thick skin and tough outer shell because I was the only girl in the room in the industry. you know, I would walk in and people would think like, it's not bring your daughter to work day, like what's going on. And then I would go to school and I would feel out of place. Yeah. You know, I went to public school my entire life and there was nobody that was doing entrepreneurship or exploring it. And that was very isolating as well. and don't get me wrong, like I had a lovely childhood. I have, you know, I had a lot of friends, like, but there was of course like mean, nasty kids and mean, nasty people in the industry. So for me, like I had to really empower myself from within and surround myself with like only the best people that were going to support me. Only the friends that I felt were on my side, a hundred percent of the time, regardless if I had Zali or not, only like the family that I felt, which is like my whole family. that was like so supportive and like always lifting me up and like keeping me out of the comment sections of like YouTube videos. And it's so hard to fall into the trap of self-doubt and just the meanness of the world. Even as somebody who you would think like, you know, I run a nonprofit. I make candy that helps people smile. Like how can people find a way to hate on me?

  • Speaker #1

    Because they're jealous, to be honest. I mean, like, I think. here's the thing. A lot of people look at someone like you who is so unbelievably accomplished and so driven and so smart and really sure of herself. And instead of letting that inspire them and be like, oh my God, she did it so I could maybe do it. They project their self-doubt onto you. And I wanted to ask you about that because Barbara Corcoran said to you, how old are you? You answered 15 when you met her. And she said, you conduct yourself like you're 25. You're actually intimidating. I think that when you are just like, you are a powerhouse of a human being. people who are not healed are going to project that emptiness. That's not what Barbara was doing. I want to be clear.

  • Speaker #0

    No,

  • Speaker #1

    yeah, yeah. But like, you know, some of these middle school girls that you're talking about, like they're going to project that emptiness onto you because they're feeling bad about themselves.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    So how have you dealt with that and kept yourself of self and self-love through all those things?

  • Speaker #0

    On the note of Barbara Corcoran, I share this with anyone who asks. I think this is hysterical. After that airing of that episode, I was on the Dr. Oz show with her. it was like COVID times, we're all like masked up. We're taking the elevator down to like the streets of New York where she was like waiting for her like, you know, very fancy car. Like, she's the coolest. She said to me, she was like, oh, do you have a boyfriend? And I did. I had a boyfriend for like three, three years or something. And she was like, well, you got a date up. She goes, go a couple years up. It was hysterical.

  • Speaker #1

    She's so real.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, like not only did I get good business advice, but I was like getting dating advice. And I just thought it was like incredible. But on the self-doubt note, like I said, I surround myself with the right people. I think it's super important. You have to also empower yourself from within. And if there's unresolved like feelings of I'm not good enough, like at what point do you have to push those aside and give yourself that tough love? And I just realized, like, stop. Stop letting the outside hate in because it's so harmful. You're a boss. get over it. You need to be so strong for yourself if you're going to be strong for your team. If you're going to be a leader, if you're going to be somebody that you want other people to look at and think that's an inspiring story, that's what I want to be like, be that person. Wake up every day. It's an active choice to let hate in. And anybody that says otherwise, I don't think that's true. Sure, it's hard to ignore or not allow people's opinions of you to seep in and internalize that. but it is a choice. And so I actively wake up and make the choice to not surround myself with people that are not, you know, supporting me, that I'm not obviously supporting back as well. the vibes have to be good or else like I'm not going to be my most productive self, my most efficient self. And I have to be that for my team because I have people relying on me. And I wake up every day with this mission in mind, like I want to help people smile. But if I'm not smiling and if it's not coming from a real place, then like that's not real. And then that's not an inspiration.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And it's like, no, I'm not like smiley bubbly all the time. No one is. But it's very real. it's an active choice to be that way.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. I mean, you mentioned the pandemic. There's been so many difficult things on top of you building this business and being a kid and being in a relationship and like having your family, having your team. how do you tend to your mental health through all this and make sure to take care of yourself?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I play tennis. Like staying active, I feel is so important to overall mental health, physical health, your immune system, like everything. I travel so much that I'm like sick all the time. So I feel like having something that encapsulates just like wellness and mental wellness as well has been really crucial. I've met some of my best friends playing the sport, played it through high school, and I actually started because of the pandemic. Both of my parents have always played, you know, recreationally and on leagues, but I was a competition dancer for over 10 years, and I couldn't go into the studio. I couldn't, you know, participate, and so I had to find something else, and a couple of my friends were trying out for the high school tennis team, and I was like, I can do that outside. And I just went all in, and that is... one of my passions. I play on the MSU club tennis team. So incredible. And just another group of incredible people that I've met through something that I love. So that's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    That is so beautiful. Yeah. Being part of the extracurriculars at Michigan State, I'm a Michigan State alum. And being part of the extracurriculars there, I feel like is what makes the college so special. It's really, to me, like, the community of MSU, because that's what started my career. I moved out to LA for an internship on the Ellen Show because of somebody I met in Michigan State, because I was going around my junior year of college in the theater department being like, I really want to intern on the Ellen Show someday. I didn't know anyone who was on the Ellen Show, but my friend Brandon Piper, who was a theater, actually graduate student at the time, was like, I actually have a friend who's a PA there. Let me introduce you. and that's what is different, I think, about Spartans as opposed to anyone else, is the heart, the care, and the genuine desire to help each other.

  • Speaker #0

    My dad said this to me. My dad's a Spartan. He said, there's two major schools that you think about when you think about Michigan, the state of Michigan, and one school, it's the students against the school, per se. in one school it's the students against each other. And I said, I want to go to the school where it's the students together.

  • Speaker #1

    That makes me want to cry. It's so true.

  • Speaker #0

    It is so true. I hate that Michigan State gets demoted to like a party school.

  • Speaker #1

    It's so not true, right, Alina?

  • Speaker #0

    It is so not true, first of all. And it is so much more.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    It is this community of people that anywhere you go, you see someone wearing a Spartan shirt, you say go green, they say go white, and it's like. Immediate connection, instant. There's alumni networks in almost every state. It is so incredible to be a part of this community that is so humble and willing to support one another and empower one another. And I feel very grateful and super excited that even as a freshman, I have been reached out to numerous times throughout this year to act in that sort of mentorship role as well. Within the Entrepreneurship Institute, which I also can't say enough good things about. yes shout out to Aaron he put us in touch obsessed love Aaron um and Brode as well yeah just the connections oh, I think this person could help you out. Oh, you know, we could learn from each other. Let's collaborate. Let's make this happen. It's just not even a question in my mind that if I ask someone for help, they're going to be there. And I think that that's really special.

  • Speaker #1

    It is. And it's different than other places. It's certainly different than the other school, which we won't be naming. But I totally agree. And I've seen it so many times throughout my career and my life. and I'm curious because, I mean, I guess we didn't really finish, because you went from Whole Foods to now, like, you're in tons of retailers.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes.

  • Speaker #1

    So I want to finish that story, but I also, like, a little precursor, I want to ask you why you decided to go to college, because I think that's probably pretty interesting, and I'm curious to know about it. But first, let's talk about what happened after that Whole Foods meeting.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So, you know, I waited, and we worked on the... product. We worked on the critiques that we were given, and that was really good feedback. And then we faced a really big roadblock. We got on Amazon.com, and that was super exciting. Naturally, it was really exciting. And also, Amazon has evolved and grown a ton since 2015. Seeing that evolution has been really interesting. So when we got on, I mean, think back 10 years ago, essentially, we were shipping product directly from our home. and it was melting in transit. And people would get their Zollipops, and they would get Zolliblops, essentially. And it was terrible, and we were devastated. But it was a very important roadblock that we had before we shipped product to Whole Foods. We went back to our manufacturing partners, and we figured it out. And that was a point of realization that was really unique to me, because throughout this entire journey up to that point, I thought, this was a good idea. This was a simple idea. Why has nobody done this before? Like, why are like, I hate to say it, like Werther's and Russell Stover, like the grandma's purse candies of the world, why are they the only sugar-free items in the store? Because they're not fun, they're not family-friendly, and they're not functional. So why hasn't somebody done this yet? Or done the clean teeth aspect? It just didn't make sense to me. And this was why. Nobody had gotten past this roadblock. And it was so, so stressful dealing with all of like the different formulation challenges. But once we finally figured it out, we were set. And now our product can ship on vessels in the heat of summer to China, Korea, like it's like bulletproof. So that was a really important roadblock that we faced early on. We got on Amazon, we shipped our product to Whole Foods, and then we just started expanding. We received... some of our first major media, I was on Good Morning America for like a kids Shark Tank episode, which was so fun. A couple years later, I was on like actual Shark Tank. I've done all sorts of crazy stuff since then. But now we're in about 20,000 stores. We're in about a dozen countries. And we have over 100 SKUs, different products.

  • Speaker #1

    So SKUs are different products?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah. And so like they're different like configurations. So like this could be like a smaller version of this bag. And like we have about 15 items.

  • Speaker #1

    Amazing. So, okay, this brings me to my next question. You are so accomplished as a business person. And I feel like especially in your generation, people are seeing that there are more options than just going to college. Like you can go to college, but you can also do trade school. You can go straight to entrepreneurship. You can take a gap year. I feel like there's a little bit more flexibility within the Gen Z beautiful people. Why was going to college still important to you?

  • Speaker #0

    I've gotten this question so much and I know why, but I don't know if it's like a fun answer. I love to learn. I really do. And I'm very self-aware and I realize that I have a lot to learn because despite doing this and being in this world for over half my life, I still rely on my team very heavily for integral roles like the financials and accounting. I understand it, but I couldn't do it. Day in and day out, that couldn't be my role. And as a CEO, you have to be a delegator and a leader, and you can't do everything yourself. So it's very important to have really smart people on your team. But just the type of person I am, I want to understand it more. And I want to be a better entrepreneur, a better functional CEO. And I just want to expand my mind. and it's kind of a twofold answer. I also really wanted to find my people. I actually wasn't even going to come to MSU. I've been a Spartan my whole life. My dad went here. I really wasn't going to come to school here, and I was going to go out of state, but I was introduced to Dave Hawthorne, who runs FMI here, the Financial Markets Institute in Broad. And he was telling me about... the Burgess Institute. And that was like game changer. There are very few universities that have an entrepreneurship program so built out. It is exceptional, the resources that they have here. And no one was talking about it. There was no like marketing, like I'm in the entrepreneurship circles, like I would have known. And I had no idea. So I came and I took a tour and it was like mind blowing. It was like, oh, like I could see myself going to school here. I met like the MSU club tennis people. I met like the Burgess Institute people. And I was like, yeah, this clicks. and I knew that I could find an entrepreneurial support system and ecosystem, and that was really important and something that I was lacking in my personal life. I didn't know entrepreneurs my own age that lived in Michigan, at least. I had a couple friends overseas and then scattered around the United States, but I didn't have people that I could look at that were my own age and trying to do similar things. So that changed the game for me, knowing that I could forge relationships with people that were passionate about the same thing as I was, being entrepreneurship, and having that level of like relationship was super, super cool. So, and that's what it's been. Yeah. It's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    No, I think it's also so smart because, you know, as a media professional, somebody who produces and hosts podcasts and helps people tell their story, it's also a really great plot point in your story. that endears people to you. Because when you hear, oh my gosh, she's a freshman in college. it's so compelling and you want to know more, more so than if it was like she was a youngest kid entrepreneur and then she went off on her own. Like, cause it kind of feels like it's more of the same that way. Like you're doing something to disrupt yourself and that's interesting and compelling. And I just think it was actually beyond like the fact that you're getting tactical grade information, building community. It was a smart storytelling and business move. And I see you girl. That was brilliant.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you. It wasn't intentional. I actually announced my college decision on live QVC. Wow. When I decided that I was going to come to MSU and I like more like a green blouse. It was fun.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you know Kim Gravel?

  • Speaker #0

    I actually don't. I've seen her at the studio, but I just don't know her.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. I had her on my podcast recently. We've become friends. I feel like you two should be buddies. She's just also like a wonderful, generous human being. And I think you two would vibe. So leadership, we've talked about that a few times. You run a team. How has being a Spartan and being involved in like what we talked about, like the Spartan community, seeing how we help each other, affected the way you lead? And what is your leadership style?

  • Speaker #0

    My leadership style is imperfect. I am learning and growing alongside my team. I don't know everything. And so my leadership strategy is just very honest and humble and appreciative that I have people that are, you know, willing to work with me because it, you know, team, it's a team. and that's so important to emphasize. I couldn't do it without the people that have been there and continue to show up, and so I have implemented some processes that I feel make it really easy to be a good leader and to keep everyone's goals aligned, but what makes it really easy to be a good leader is finding good team members. That's the most challenging part of honestly building a team. and running a team is like just finding those building blocks and making sure that they're in the right seat they have the right hat and how those roles evolve over time as the business grows so for me like i've implemented eos which is entrepreneur operating system and it's outlined in the book traction by gina wickman so that's a great process you I really am like a firm believer on like weekly meetings and making sure that everyone's on the same page and that priorities are set and that rocks are like kind of what they refer to as like big goals. Making sure that everybody understands what those are. And that we're actually driving towards tangible accomplishments. So that's obviously like huge in my book because that's what I've centered around this leadership strategy. But also just like connecting with people and meeting people where they're at and communicating effectively and authentically is like the best strategy of leadership because it's a collaboration. It's a team effort. And I think it's really important to just like connect with those people first. We're learning and growing together. As our team grows, that's also been... something that I'm always working on and trying my very best to be the best leader I can for my people. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And I think something you outlined that I really would like to highlight is you said it's imperfect. And I think the best leaders I've ever had have been honest with me about what they don't know, about what they do know, about what the vision is, about what their fears are without scaring people. You know, it's a fine line. Yeah. Well,

  • Speaker #0

    people want to feel appreciated. Yeah. each one of my team members brings something so valuable to the table. And I want them to know that. Because not only does it empower them to continue to work hard, especially if their mission is aligned with ours, like helping people and being philanthropic. Like, that's what I mean by finding the right people, finding people that are aligned. Right. Not just good at their skill set. Not just smart or capable, but caring and aligned with our mission. So that's really... what sets people apart for me, those are the team members that I go towards. Like, yeah, maybe they don't have the skill set right now, but the skill set is easy. That's the easy part. If they have the passion and the work ethic, like they can learn Excel in two days. Like, you know, like as a stupid example, like you have to find the right people at the core and then you can work on the role. You can work on the skill set. So I'm also a firm believer in that. Yeah. And just like, you know, appreciating the value that people are bringing. and allowing people to grow in those roles because I'm always growing. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    One of my mentors once said, hire for heart, train for skill. Yes. I try to do that because you can't teach someone how to have a good heart, how to work hard, how to have the same values as you. Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    Be loyal and work hard and always show up. It can't be taught. Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Some people don't want to do that.

  • Speaker #0

    And in a small business, you need people that are going to want to be there. and want to work a couple extra hours because we have to this week because we don't have another option.

  • Speaker #1

    Because we help people smile.

  • Speaker #0

    That's why we work hard.

  • Speaker #1

    And speaking of your team, I know Zali is a family-run company. I know your dad in particular has been integral in starting and building the company. I listened to an interview. He said he's the business manager. Is that still true? Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    So

  • Speaker #1

    I'm curious because I think it's really beautiful when children inspire their parents to dream. and I'm curious because your dad quit his accounting job to go with you. Yeah. How has it been to like watch your parents dream and co-create with you and get to see a different vision for their lives? You know,

  • Speaker #0

    this is not something I talk about all the time, but I think it's really important to our story. My family is very, very Polish. And my great grandparents immigrated to the United States on both sides of my family. And, you know, my grandparents grew up speaking Polish. And I talk about my grandmother in particular, growing up and being, you know, this working woman and her and her sisters like navigating this world together. and you know we didn't come from a lot at all actually my great-grandfather came to the United States with a pierogi board that's it and my maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur and started an advertising agency and my grandfather on the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather, had an auto parts shop about five minutes from where I grew up, which I didn't even know about until a couple years ago, which I think is insane. So I come from hustlers and entrepreneurs and people that have worked their butts off and still been at the bottom, and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity. to be supported by my parents and get to wake up every day and live out literally the American dream. It hasn't been handed to me, but the opportunity that I can actually change the trajectory of my parents'lives, both economically, socially, they've worked so hard for my sister and I, so incredibly hard. And the fact that I get to work hard. And then, you know, hopefully one day get to take care of them beyond what they could maybe imagine is so incredible. They've taken this journey with me and seen my crazy ambitious ideas through. It's not possible without them. They saw that little girl that like loved like to act and be theatrical and express herself. and have crazy ideas, but be so stubborn and tenacious that it was going to happen, and they let me fly. That doesn't happen. That takes really special people. I just feel very, very grateful that I get to take them on this journey. and show them that like, we can change the world. It doesn't matter where we come from. And that I can almost see this line of entrepreneurship through in my family as well. I think that's so special. So I hope like all my entrepreneurial ancestors are proud of me and You're touching on something so important,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina, because that is a thing. You're completing a karmic cycle. You're taking what they started. They were the original investors. Yeah. And you're taking that investment that they made in their future generations and you're making good on it. Yeah,

  • Speaker #0

    it's so special. I do look at the lineage and especially both of my grandfathers on both sides or my great grandfather and my grandfather. their entrepreneurial ventures like are so like so inspiring to me because like they had it so much harder there was no social media like promoting like advertising in like the 70s like what like that's crazy but like here I am given this opportunity to like make something happen you and everybody has this opportunity, like truly, and it's a very common misconception that I come from money or that I'm like this like hoity-toity, richy gal. I'm not. and I've hustled and bootstrapped to make this happen, and it's because I'm passionate about something bigger than money, and it's helping people smile and helping to hopefully change the world and inspire young girls that they can be entrepreneurs too. There is so much heart and depth to... what appears to just be like a bag on the shelf, it's not. It's so much deeper than that. So I feel very, very fortunate that I get to, you know, do something that I'm actually passionate about every single day. So beautiful. Hi, creative.

  • Speaker #1

    If you love the show and it has meant a lot to you, think about sharing it with your friends, family, and anyone you think would love to hear it. Podcasts are spread person to person, and I know the number one influencers in my life are my friends and family. So if you know someone who would love it, you can think about passing it along. Unleash Your Inner Creative can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Wednesday in the Unleash podcast feed. Remember, during the month of April, you can also listen to Unleash on the Impact 89 FM on Wednesdays live from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Okay, now back to the podcast. And what would be your advice to either a student listening who wants to become an entrepreneur or a young girl listening who's like, wow, I love what Alina did. How can I do something like that? What's your best advice for them? go for it and find that

  • Speaker #0

    peace of heart and that mission that'll drive you to achievement. It's really easy to be motivated by shallow things, but that doesn't always get you so far. And I truly believe that I am where I am today because of the prospect of helping people and this mission that's deeper than just myself. Stay tenacious and stay curious and stay fun and always ask questions. just maintain a childlike sense of wonder and excitement about this opportunity that you have to take control of your own life and change the world. Because it's right there. Especially if you're a student, there's so many resources. Put the work in, put the time in, find what you're truly passionate about, and just go for it. Beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    And I know you have a new product. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    Can we talk a little bit about that?

  • Speaker #1

    Tell me what it is. I'm super excited about it. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    So we have made history, which is such a cool thing to say, and I keep saying it. We have made the first ever in the world zero sugar gum filled lollipop. So think blow pop, but better. so there's ollie gum pops the little blowing bubble if that's indicative but we're super excited it's zero sugar it's allergen free all of our products follow this the same great attributes and benefits because we want it to be inclusive and we want everyone to be able to enjoy candy again and fun and have that nostalgic feeling without the guilt without the stress so you we're basically free of anything. Like, unless you're allergic to, like, air and fun, like, you can have Zahle. Like, I'm kidding, of course, but, like... You're going to be okay.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah, yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And so this has been four or five years in the making, this product. It was, like, a crazy idea, and it has been exceptionally difficult to make. So we're so proud of the way that it's turned out. Oh, my gosh. Well,

  • Speaker #1

    we'll definitely share how people can go find those because they sound delicious. So final question or questions. It's a two parter for you, Alina. I want to go back to our sweet little seven year old Alina self. And since we talked about creativity being with the inner child, your story is just like a beautiful example of that and of following your intuition and your your heart. if you and this younger version of yourself, the seven-year-old version, were standing in the same room looking at each other, what would you say to her and why?

  • Speaker #0

    Do not even spend another moment comparing yourself to anyone else or giving thought or time to anything less than you deserve. I am a teenage girl. And I, of course, have spent time thinking about stupid boys, stupid girls that have hurt my feelings. I want to give her a hug, first of all, and say, girl, you don't know what's coming. But you are just going to love it. Soak it all in and don't even let any of that negativeness into your sunshine.

  • Speaker #1

    And what do you think our sweet little seven-year-old Alina would say to you and why? I think she'd say, oh, Lena, like,

  • Speaker #0

    you look great. Like, I mean... Killing it.

  • Speaker #1

    We weren't sure how that was going to happen, but,

  • Speaker #0

    like, I guess we got from point A to point B. No, genuinely, I think she would be speechless. That... we did it. Like this is success in my mind that we have built something that has a legacy and an opportunity to really help people for years to come. That was the goal, to make a mark. And it's only sweetness from here on out. Like I really like. obviously there's always going to be challenges and we face daily challenges, but I think she would look at me and just see like, we did it. That's success. Well, I'm proud of both of you.

  • Speaker #1

    And I just think you're an amazing example of following your intuition, following your heart, being mission driven, and saying why not, and then going for it. So thank you for inspiring me, for inspiring everyone listening today. and for continuing to listen to that sweet little seven-year-old self who has just the best ideas. Thank you, Alina.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much. Thank you for listening and thanks to my guest,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina Morse. For more info on Alina, she can be found on social media at Alina Star Morse and her business, Zolly Candy, can be found at ZollyPops.com. And again, thank you. If you like what you heard and want to support the show, Unleash Your Inner Creative can be rated, reviewed, and found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. It's also great to share the show with a friend and post about it on social media. You can find me at Lauren LaGrasso and at Unleash Your Inner Creative on all social platforms. Thanks to Rachel Fulton for editing and associate producing this episode. You can find her at Rachel M. Fulton. Thank you, Liz Full, for the show's theme music. She can be found at Liz Full. My wish for you this week is that you find the courage to embrace your inner child's wonder, ignite your spark, and pursue whatever dreams you have with the tenacity and heart of a true creative. I love you and I believe in you. Talk with you next week.

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Description

Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don’t know enough and like it’s just too daunting to even start. But it IS possible and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today’s guest is the CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy and she will share tools on how to do just that--revealing her journey of starting a company at just 7 years old, turning it into a thriving business and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. 


From this conversation you’ll learn:

-Why she chose to go to college at Michigan State, even though she was already running a multi-million dollar company 

-What goes into creating a good pitch

-How to move past self-doubt

-Ways to tend to your mental wellness

-How to maintain a positive mindset

And Much More!


More on Alina:  Alina Morse is an entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy—the clean teeth candy. Not only is she a freshman at Michigan State University, but she has continued to make history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO and the youngest person to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the US as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. She has earned over 300 million media impressions including a Ted Talk, GMA, Dr. Oz, as well as being a verified influencer.


Check out Zollicandy: https://zollipops.com/ 

Vote for Unleash in the Webby Awards HERE: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2024/podcasts/shows/creativity-marketing 


-Remember to subscribe/follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your pods. Please leave us a rating and review- it helps SO much in getting the show out there. And tell a friend about the show- podcasts are very personal and tend to be spread person to person. If this show helped you or made you smile, share the love :) 


Follow the show @unleashyourinnercreative 

 

Follow me @LaurenLoGrasso 


Hosted by Ausha. See ausha.co/privacy-policy for more information.

Transcription

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you.

  • Speaker #1

    Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often, when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don't know enough, like it's too daunting to even know where to start. But it is possible, and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today's guest will share tools on how to do just that, revealing her journey of starting a company at just seven years old, turning it into a thriving business, and how to make and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. Welcome to Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LaGrasso. I'm Lauren LaGrasso. I'm an award-winning podcast host and producer, singer-songwriter, public speaker, and creative coach. This show sits at the intersection of creativity, mental health, self-development, and spirituality, and it is meant to give you tools to love, trust, and know yourself enough to claim your right to creativity and pursue whatever it is that's on your heart. In the month of April, Unleash Your Inner Creative is collaborating with my alma mater, Michigan State University, and their student-run radio station, the Impact 89 FM. Each week this month, you'll hear from a remarkable MSU student or alumni who is doing great creative work out in the world and or on campus. These episodes will air both on the Impact 89 FM as well as on the usual Unleash Your Inner Creative podcast feed. So if you're listening on the radio right now, hi. Welcome to Unleash. I am so happy to have you in the creative community. If you like what you hear, you can go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to learn more about the show and hear more episodes. It's also great to leave a rating and review. And if you're a regular Unleash listener, you can check out the Impact at impact89fm.org for more info on the station, for their shows, and to listen live. Also, before we get into the content today and to our amazing guests. I do want to let you know that Unleash Your Inner Creative is nominated for a Webby Award. This is a huge deal for anyone, but especially for an indie podcaster because big deal people are nominated for Webbys. I mean, I'm talking like the Today Show and the Tonight Show and Unleash Your Inner Creative. It's huge. And I'm so honored to be amongst these amazing nominees in my category of creativity and marketing. And Unleash is by far the smallest company that is nominated. and so we really need our community to show up and support us. So if you're interested to learn more and want to support the show, check out the link in my bio or search Unleash Your Inner Creative on the Webby Awards website. Okay, now to the guest. Today's guest is Alina Morse. She's an entrepreneur, CEO, and the founder of Zolly Candy, the clean teeth company. She's also a freshman at Michigan State University. She made history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO. And as I mentioned, she's the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the U.S., as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. In addition, she's done a TED Talk. She's been on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, and she's a verified influencer. I wanted to have Alina on because she has a truly incredible story, and I find it... Fascinating and inspiring that despite the fact that she already had a thriving business upon entering college, she still wanted to go to Michigan State and get her degree. It really is incredible to know that if a little kid, a.k.a. Alina's younger self, believed in herself so much that she started this huge business when she was just seven, what could we do, being our full-grown adult selves? We can all gain wisdom from Alina's story. From today's chat, you'll learn what goes into creating a good pitch, how to move past self-doubt, Ways to tend to your mental wellness, Alina's best leadership tools, the fun in learning and education, and much more. Okay, now here she is, Alina Morse. Alina, thank you so much for being on Unleash Your Inner Creative. I am so thrilled to talk with you today.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited.

  • Speaker #1

    So we're going to get into your incredible story of how you started this company when you were just seven years old. But before we get to that. I want to talk about how your creativity and your entrepreneurship started. I believe creativity is deeply connected to the inner child. And I know when you were very little, you had an ideas binder, where you would write down all your ideas for inventions. So you tell me about that. Why was that important in your creative journey? And what sort of ideas did you have in there?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, so I've always been an inventor at heart. I have been coming up with ideas for crazy businesses and products since I was three and four years old. So this has been a long time coming, coming up with something crazy and inventive. And Zali originally was put and housed in the IdeaBinder. But essentially, it really started as I had all of these business ideas for silly things, some that already existed, honestly. but just this collection of ideas. And I wanted to house them in one place that was really important and kind of sacred to me, and that was my idea binder. My parents always were encouraging me to add to it and cherish this place where I housed my creative outlet. And so that was really an integral part of my growing up and my Zali story is... this binder and having the idea for Zolly Candy at age seven, but already having this binder full of products and ideas and inventions.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you still do that to this day? Keep a running list of ideas?

  • Speaker #0

    I wish I could say yes, truly. I do. I'm very busy. But I also try to keep running lists in kind of sacred places, notebooks or... Excel spreadsheets, very sacred Excel spreadsheets of ideas for Zali and ways to better my business and dream collaborations and goals and aspirations. I'm a very much so list-based, goal-based person. I love to write things out. I feel that it's the best way that I achieve and accomplish. And I definitely encourage others to do so as well, because I feel like that, that act of writing something out, writing out a plan, writing down your goals, your dreams. it makes it so much more likely that you're going to achieve it. It's very tangible. I'm all for writing things down. I do not have a 2024 version of the Idea Binder, but maybe like someday down the road, post Zali, I'll start that up again.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And it sounds like you have different little versions of it that work for your current iteration of your business. And that's such a great tip for anyone out there who's creative, who's building something. to keep a running list of ideas. And then when you're feeling creatively blocked, you can go back to that and start to implement them.

  • Speaker #0

    Absolutely.

  • Speaker #1

    Let's get into your company, Zolly Candy. You got the idea when you were just seven. So let's talk about how did it go from a seven-year-old being like, I know how to hack the system and have candy every day of my life, to a full-blown company, to where you are now?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I found the loophole for sure in eating candy. I was seven years old. I took a trip to the bank with my dad and the bank teller offered me a sugary lollipop. And I feel like this is a universal experience. Correct me if I'm wrong. But my parents always told me, no, you can't have candy. It's too much sugar. You're going to get cavities, whatever. It'll rot your teeth. Fine. And I feel like that's how the conversation always went. No, you can't have candy. Okay, fine. Moving on. But being the tenacious and stubborn kid that I was and am still today, I said, well, why not? Why can't I make something that's delicious, that's fun, but it's also healthy? It could clean my teeth, you know, it contributes to proper dental care or whatever, but the root of it was that I wanted to have candy without my parents saying no. And I asked probably a hundred times, when are we going to make these lollipops? When are we going to make this happen? How can I create this candy? My dad gave me the advice that he always did when I had a business idea. He said, write down a plan. And so I wrote out a business plan in my idea binder and then the real work started. I started to research on Google, on YouTube, on LinkedIn, finding connections of third and fourth generation candy makers, reaching out to manufacturers, food scientists.

  • Speaker #1

    Can I ask you, how old were you when you were doing all this? Were you seven? Seriously?

  • Speaker #0

    Like on LinkedIn? I was. Honest to God.

  • Speaker #1

    How did you know to do that?

  • Speaker #0

    So it sounds very professional, but it was like keyword searching. Okay. It was like, oh, like candy maker. Okay. People close to me that are either like able to manufacture candy, have a background in it, have a background in food science that were like local people that I could like actually connect with. Wow. And ask them questions. And I also talked to my dentist and my dental hygienist. You know, that felt like such a natural segue to getting into the oral health care space. But throughout all of this research and, you know, finding people and just honestly looking on YouTube, like, how is candy made and watching that video of like mass production of candy, just learning and replacing, you know, the sugary ingredients in candy with like sugar free alternatives or substitutes and finding those like it was a long process. But during that, I learned that tooth decay is actually the single greatest epidemic facing kids in America. And that was according to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2014. And although it's not today, in 2024, the single greatest epidemic still. it's growing and it's ravaging both the nation and the world. And that's pretty devastating. It is a preventable disease in most cases. and the hard truth is that a lot of kids do not have access to proper dental care, and obviously America also has a huge problem with diabetes. One in three Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic, so there's a lot of connections within this realm of, like, why isn't there something better for you that's fun, that's functional, that's accessible? And so it was kind of checking all the boxes. Like, this is solving my problem, but this could also help people all over the world. And I became very passionate about it. And that's what really set Zali apart from the other ideas in my idea binder is that had this mission and this component of like philanthropy and helping people and that it felt so achievable. through all the research that took about a year or so, then I pulled all of my savings and I asked my parents to match it. And it was a very generous deed that they did for me. They took a leap of faith with my idea. So they matched my initial funding. And then I went to a manufacturing facility and I had them run some plant trials, which was so cool. And I worked with a food scientist and we tweaked and we taste tested for about another year. before we pitched to Whole Foods Markets in 2015.

  • Speaker #1

    So at that point, were you nine?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Wow. And so tell me, were you leading the pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So I was a theater kid.

  • Speaker #1

    Yes, me too, girl.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, the entrepreneur pipeline from being a theater kid is so strong.

  • Speaker #1

    So strong.

  • Speaker #0

    Somebody needs to do like a research paper about it. I was just talking about that.

  • Speaker #1

    Like in this episode that I put out today, I was saying theater people and theater kids, theater majors are the most underrated entrepreneurs and employees. Yes. Because they can do anything. They can innovate. They understand people. They understand how to take on different roles. You're so right. But like... still, I don't care, like at nine as a theater kid or not. That's very impressive. How did you go about approaching that? And what do you think goes into a good pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    You know what? Honestly, I really treated it as a script. I was curating with the help of my dad and some of our mentors. So like we had met a third generation chocolatier who is local to us. And a friend of my dad's and somebody that has now become one of our major mentors in the manufacturing space. So he obviously had some experience with pitching and just talking about an item that is very innovative and new. Going about presenting that was something that we really leaned on him, leaned on research and talking to other people that were entrepreneurs pitching buyers. You know, it was a lot about hearing people's perspectives and opinions on our product and our journey and how we could best present that. But I truly approached it as being my most authentic self. And I was so proud of what we had accomplished to this point. You know, we had created a real product from an idea that I had in the bank. So I was very excited to just have something tangible that I could show someone, anyone who would listen. But I curated this pitch with the help of my team and my family. And we went in there and I had it memorized top to bottom, backwards, forwards. And we just did it. And we had some really good feedback on packaging and the product itself. And the buyer basically said, you know, we'll let you know. in a couple months if we're interested. And I really thought like, there's no way like maybe maybe this is not gonna happen. But sure enough, in two or three months, we heard back that they were placing a PO purchase order.

  • Speaker #1

    And that was Whole Foods, right?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes, in Southern California.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. So what did you do in those two to three months? Because in those two to three months, a lot of times like people who are in a similar period of waiting. will encounter a tremendous amount of self-doubt, wondering, oh my God, did I do the pitch the right way? Oh, this could have gone better. Oh, they must not like it. You strike me as an unbelievably confident person. But tell me, what did you do in that two to three month period when self-doubt came up?

  • Speaker #0

    A big part of my story is that I didn't have a lot of fear and doubt because I hadn't faced the real world of like failure. Right. And it really wasn't even an option in my mind. It was, you know, we've poured hours of time. We've poured resources. My parents have taken this chance on me. this is going to work. I'd like to say I didn't have the baggage that a lot of entrepreneurs, that a lot of adults have when looking at entrepreneurship. It's absolutely so scary. And like, I have a hard time talking to young entrepreneurs now because I'm like, it is so hard. And it's so hard to not doubt yourself. But almost adopting that sense of like curiosity and tenacity and taking that leap of faith with the sense of childlike wonder. I think that's so important because that's the way that I looked at the world. Some people may perceive that as naive, but I think it's such an advantage.

  • Speaker #1

    Oh, yeah. It's brave. It's really brave. And it is something that's wonderful when you've had supportive parents. I also grew up with incredibly supportive and loving parents that you can go out into the world and really believe in yourself before the world has told you no a bunch of times or told you you're not good enough. I know you've experienced many different things since then because you've built a multi-million dollar company. So there's going to be ups and downs and peaks and valleys. How do you borrow that nine-year-old's mindset now?

  • Speaker #0

    I have experienced entrepreneurship whilst also being a teenager, elementary schooler to a middle schooler to a high schooler to now a college student. I think I have gone through just about every emotion that both an entrepreneur and an adolescent. has experienced, and they have been simultaneous, which is pretty insane. Oh my gosh. But I think it's put in perspective that business is not that bad compared to the mean, evil things that little middle school kids would say. So I have always sort of had to have this thick skin and tough outer shell because I was the only girl in the room in the industry. you know, I would walk in and people would think like, it's not bring your daughter to work day, like what's going on. And then I would go to school and I would feel out of place. Yeah. You know, I went to public school my entire life and there was nobody that was doing entrepreneurship or exploring it. And that was very isolating as well. and don't get me wrong, like I had a lovely childhood. I have, you know, I had a lot of friends, like, but there was of course like mean, nasty kids and mean, nasty people in the industry. So for me, like I had to really empower myself from within and surround myself with like only the best people that were going to support me. Only the friends that I felt were on my side, a hundred percent of the time, regardless if I had Zali or not, only like the family that I felt, which is like my whole family. that was like so supportive and like always lifting me up and like keeping me out of the comment sections of like YouTube videos. And it's so hard to fall into the trap of self-doubt and just the meanness of the world. Even as somebody who you would think like, you know, I run a nonprofit. I make candy that helps people smile. Like how can people find a way to hate on me?

  • Speaker #1

    Because they're jealous, to be honest. I mean, like, I think. here's the thing. A lot of people look at someone like you who is so unbelievably accomplished and so driven and so smart and really sure of herself. And instead of letting that inspire them and be like, oh my God, she did it so I could maybe do it. They project their self-doubt onto you. And I wanted to ask you about that because Barbara Corcoran said to you, how old are you? You answered 15 when you met her. And she said, you conduct yourself like you're 25. You're actually intimidating. I think that when you are just like, you are a powerhouse of a human being. people who are not healed are going to project that emptiness. That's not what Barbara was doing. I want to be clear.

  • Speaker #0

    No,

  • Speaker #1

    yeah, yeah. But like, you know, some of these middle school girls that you're talking about, like they're going to project that emptiness onto you because they're feeling bad about themselves.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    So how have you dealt with that and kept yourself of self and self-love through all those things?

  • Speaker #0

    On the note of Barbara Corcoran, I share this with anyone who asks. I think this is hysterical. After that airing of that episode, I was on the Dr. Oz show with her. it was like COVID times, we're all like masked up. We're taking the elevator down to like the streets of New York where she was like waiting for her like, you know, very fancy car. Like, she's the coolest. She said to me, she was like, oh, do you have a boyfriend? And I did. I had a boyfriend for like three, three years or something. And she was like, well, you got a date up. She goes, go a couple years up. It was hysterical.

  • Speaker #1

    She's so real.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, like not only did I get good business advice, but I was like getting dating advice. And I just thought it was like incredible. But on the self-doubt note, like I said, I surround myself with the right people. I think it's super important. You have to also empower yourself from within. And if there's unresolved like feelings of I'm not good enough, like at what point do you have to push those aside and give yourself that tough love? And I just realized, like, stop. Stop letting the outside hate in because it's so harmful. You're a boss. get over it. You need to be so strong for yourself if you're going to be strong for your team. If you're going to be a leader, if you're going to be somebody that you want other people to look at and think that's an inspiring story, that's what I want to be like, be that person. Wake up every day. It's an active choice to let hate in. And anybody that says otherwise, I don't think that's true. Sure, it's hard to ignore or not allow people's opinions of you to seep in and internalize that. but it is a choice. And so I actively wake up and make the choice to not surround myself with people that are not, you know, supporting me, that I'm not obviously supporting back as well. the vibes have to be good or else like I'm not going to be my most productive self, my most efficient self. And I have to be that for my team because I have people relying on me. And I wake up every day with this mission in mind, like I want to help people smile. But if I'm not smiling and if it's not coming from a real place, then like that's not real. And then that's not an inspiration.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And it's like, no, I'm not like smiley bubbly all the time. No one is. But it's very real. it's an active choice to be that way.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. I mean, you mentioned the pandemic. There's been so many difficult things on top of you building this business and being a kid and being in a relationship and like having your family, having your team. how do you tend to your mental health through all this and make sure to take care of yourself?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I play tennis. Like staying active, I feel is so important to overall mental health, physical health, your immune system, like everything. I travel so much that I'm like sick all the time. So I feel like having something that encapsulates just like wellness and mental wellness as well has been really crucial. I've met some of my best friends playing the sport, played it through high school, and I actually started because of the pandemic. Both of my parents have always played, you know, recreationally and on leagues, but I was a competition dancer for over 10 years, and I couldn't go into the studio. I couldn't, you know, participate, and so I had to find something else, and a couple of my friends were trying out for the high school tennis team, and I was like, I can do that outside. And I just went all in, and that is... one of my passions. I play on the MSU club tennis team. So incredible. And just another group of incredible people that I've met through something that I love. So that's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    That is so beautiful. Yeah. Being part of the extracurriculars at Michigan State, I'm a Michigan State alum. And being part of the extracurriculars there, I feel like is what makes the college so special. It's really, to me, like, the community of MSU, because that's what started my career. I moved out to LA for an internship on the Ellen Show because of somebody I met in Michigan State, because I was going around my junior year of college in the theater department being like, I really want to intern on the Ellen Show someday. I didn't know anyone who was on the Ellen Show, but my friend Brandon Piper, who was a theater, actually graduate student at the time, was like, I actually have a friend who's a PA there. Let me introduce you. and that's what is different, I think, about Spartans as opposed to anyone else, is the heart, the care, and the genuine desire to help each other.

  • Speaker #0

    My dad said this to me. My dad's a Spartan. He said, there's two major schools that you think about when you think about Michigan, the state of Michigan, and one school, it's the students against the school, per se. in one school it's the students against each other. And I said, I want to go to the school where it's the students together.

  • Speaker #1

    That makes me want to cry. It's so true.

  • Speaker #0

    It is so true. I hate that Michigan State gets demoted to like a party school.

  • Speaker #1

    It's so not true, right, Alina?

  • Speaker #0

    It is so not true, first of all. And it is so much more.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    It is this community of people that anywhere you go, you see someone wearing a Spartan shirt, you say go green, they say go white, and it's like. Immediate connection, instant. There's alumni networks in almost every state. It is so incredible to be a part of this community that is so humble and willing to support one another and empower one another. And I feel very grateful and super excited that even as a freshman, I have been reached out to numerous times throughout this year to act in that sort of mentorship role as well. Within the Entrepreneurship Institute, which I also can't say enough good things about. yes shout out to Aaron he put us in touch obsessed love Aaron um and Brode as well yeah just the connections oh, I think this person could help you out. Oh, you know, we could learn from each other. Let's collaborate. Let's make this happen. It's just not even a question in my mind that if I ask someone for help, they're going to be there. And I think that that's really special.

  • Speaker #1

    It is. And it's different than other places. It's certainly different than the other school, which we won't be naming. But I totally agree. And I've seen it so many times throughout my career and my life. and I'm curious because, I mean, I guess we didn't really finish, because you went from Whole Foods to now, like, you're in tons of retailers.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes.

  • Speaker #1

    So I want to finish that story, but I also, like, a little precursor, I want to ask you why you decided to go to college, because I think that's probably pretty interesting, and I'm curious to know about it. But first, let's talk about what happened after that Whole Foods meeting.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So, you know, I waited, and we worked on the... product. We worked on the critiques that we were given, and that was really good feedback. And then we faced a really big roadblock. We got on Amazon.com, and that was super exciting. Naturally, it was really exciting. And also, Amazon has evolved and grown a ton since 2015. Seeing that evolution has been really interesting. So when we got on, I mean, think back 10 years ago, essentially, we were shipping product directly from our home. and it was melting in transit. And people would get their Zollipops, and they would get Zolliblops, essentially. And it was terrible, and we were devastated. But it was a very important roadblock that we had before we shipped product to Whole Foods. We went back to our manufacturing partners, and we figured it out. And that was a point of realization that was really unique to me, because throughout this entire journey up to that point, I thought, this was a good idea. This was a simple idea. Why has nobody done this before? Like, why are like, I hate to say it, like Werther's and Russell Stover, like the grandma's purse candies of the world, why are they the only sugar-free items in the store? Because they're not fun, they're not family-friendly, and they're not functional. So why hasn't somebody done this yet? Or done the clean teeth aspect? It just didn't make sense to me. And this was why. Nobody had gotten past this roadblock. And it was so, so stressful dealing with all of like the different formulation challenges. But once we finally figured it out, we were set. And now our product can ship on vessels in the heat of summer to China, Korea, like it's like bulletproof. So that was a really important roadblock that we faced early on. We got on Amazon, we shipped our product to Whole Foods, and then we just started expanding. We received... some of our first major media, I was on Good Morning America for like a kids Shark Tank episode, which was so fun. A couple years later, I was on like actual Shark Tank. I've done all sorts of crazy stuff since then. But now we're in about 20,000 stores. We're in about a dozen countries. And we have over 100 SKUs, different products.

  • Speaker #1

    So SKUs are different products?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah. And so like they're different like configurations. So like this could be like a smaller version of this bag. And like we have about 15 items.

  • Speaker #1

    Amazing. So, okay, this brings me to my next question. You are so accomplished as a business person. And I feel like especially in your generation, people are seeing that there are more options than just going to college. Like you can go to college, but you can also do trade school. You can go straight to entrepreneurship. You can take a gap year. I feel like there's a little bit more flexibility within the Gen Z beautiful people. Why was going to college still important to you?

  • Speaker #0

    I've gotten this question so much and I know why, but I don't know if it's like a fun answer. I love to learn. I really do. And I'm very self-aware and I realize that I have a lot to learn because despite doing this and being in this world for over half my life, I still rely on my team very heavily for integral roles like the financials and accounting. I understand it, but I couldn't do it. Day in and day out, that couldn't be my role. And as a CEO, you have to be a delegator and a leader, and you can't do everything yourself. So it's very important to have really smart people on your team. But just the type of person I am, I want to understand it more. And I want to be a better entrepreneur, a better functional CEO. And I just want to expand my mind. and it's kind of a twofold answer. I also really wanted to find my people. I actually wasn't even going to come to MSU. I've been a Spartan my whole life. My dad went here. I really wasn't going to come to school here, and I was going to go out of state, but I was introduced to Dave Hawthorne, who runs FMI here, the Financial Markets Institute in Broad. And he was telling me about... the Burgess Institute. And that was like game changer. There are very few universities that have an entrepreneurship program so built out. It is exceptional, the resources that they have here. And no one was talking about it. There was no like marketing, like I'm in the entrepreneurship circles, like I would have known. And I had no idea. So I came and I took a tour and it was like mind blowing. It was like, oh, like I could see myself going to school here. I met like the MSU club tennis people. I met like the Burgess Institute people. And I was like, yeah, this clicks. and I knew that I could find an entrepreneurial support system and ecosystem, and that was really important and something that I was lacking in my personal life. I didn't know entrepreneurs my own age that lived in Michigan, at least. I had a couple friends overseas and then scattered around the United States, but I didn't have people that I could look at that were my own age and trying to do similar things. So that changed the game for me, knowing that I could forge relationships with people that were passionate about the same thing as I was, being entrepreneurship, and having that level of like relationship was super, super cool. So, and that's what it's been. Yeah. It's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    No, I think it's also so smart because, you know, as a media professional, somebody who produces and hosts podcasts and helps people tell their story, it's also a really great plot point in your story. that endears people to you. Because when you hear, oh my gosh, she's a freshman in college. it's so compelling and you want to know more, more so than if it was like she was a youngest kid entrepreneur and then she went off on her own. Like, cause it kind of feels like it's more of the same that way. Like you're doing something to disrupt yourself and that's interesting and compelling. And I just think it was actually beyond like the fact that you're getting tactical grade information, building community. It was a smart storytelling and business move. And I see you girl. That was brilliant.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you. It wasn't intentional. I actually announced my college decision on live QVC. Wow. When I decided that I was going to come to MSU and I like more like a green blouse. It was fun.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you know Kim Gravel?

  • Speaker #0

    I actually don't. I've seen her at the studio, but I just don't know her.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. I had her on my podcast recently. We've become friends. I feel like you two should be buddies. She's just also like a wonderful, generous human being. And I think you two would vibe. So leadership, we've talked about that a few times. You run a team. How has being a Spartan and being involved in like what we talked about, like the Spartan community, seeing how we help each other, affected the way you lead? And what is your leadership style?

  • Speaker #0

    My leadership style is imperfect. I am learning and growing alongside my team. I don't know everything. And so my leadership strategy is just very honest and humble and appreciative that I have people that are, you know, willing to work with me because it, you know, team, it's a team. and that's so important to emphasize. I couldn't do it without the people that have been there and continue to show up, and so I have implemented some processes that I feel make it really easy to be a good leader and to keep everyone's goals aligned, but what makes it really easy to be a good leader is finding good team members. That's the most challenging part of honestly building a team. and running a team is like just finding those building blocks and making sure that they're in the right seat they have the right hat and how those roles evolve over time as the business grows so for me like i've implemented eos which is entrepreneur operating system and it's outlined in the book traction by gina wickman so that's a great process you I really am like a firm believer on like weekly meetings and making sure that everyone's on the same page and that priorities are set and that rocks are like kind of what they refer to as like big goals. Making sure that everybody understands what those are. And that we're actually driving towards tangible accomplishments. So that's obviously like huge in my book because that's what I've centered around this leadership strategy. But also just like connecting with people and meeting people where they're at and communicating effectively and authentically is like the best strategy of leadership because it's a collaboration. It's a team effort. And I think it's really important to just like connect with those people first. We're learning and growing together. As our team grows, that's also been... something that I'm always working on and trying my very best to be the best leader I can for my people. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And I think something you outlined that I really would like to highlight is you said it's imperfect. And I think the best leaders I've ever had have been honest with me about what they don't know, about what they do know, about what the vision is, about what their fears are without scaring people. You know, it's a fine line. Yeah. Well,

  • Speaker #0

    people want to feel appreciated. Yeah. each one of my team members brings something so valuable to the table. And I want them to know that. Because not only does it empower them to continue to work hard, especially if their mission is aligned with ours, like helping people and being philanthropic. Like, that's what I mean by finding the right people, finding people that are aligned. Right. Not just good at their skill set. Not just smart or capable, but caring and aligned with our mission. So that's really... what sets people apart for me, those are the team members that I go towards. Like, yeah, maybe they don't have the skill set right now, but the skill set is easy. That's the easy part. If they have the passion and the work ethic, like they can learn Excel in two days. Like, you know, like as a stupid example, like you have to find the right people at the core and then you can work on the role. You can work on the skill set. So I'm also a firm believer in that. Yeah. And just like, you know, appreciating the value that people are bringing. and allowing people to grow in those roles because I'm always growing. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    One of my mentors once said, hire for heart, train for skill. Yes. I try to do that because you can't teach someone how to have a good heart, how to work hard, how to have the same values as you. Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    Be loyal and work hard and always show up. It can't be taught. Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Some people don't want to do that.

  • Speaker #0

    And in a small business, you need people that are going to want to be there. and want to work a couple extra hours because we have to this week because we don't have another option.

  • Speaker #1

    Because we help people smile.

  • Speaker #0

    That's why we work hard.

  • Speaker #1

    And speaking of your team, I know Zali is a family-run company. I know your dad in particular has been integral in starting and building the company. I listened to an interview. He said he's the business manager. Is that still true? Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    So

  • Speaker #1

    I'm curious because I think it's really beautiful when children inspire their parents to dream. and I'm curious because your dad quit his accounting job to go with you. Yeah. How has it been to like watch your parents dream and co-create with you and get to see a different vision for their lives? You know,

  • Speaker #0

    this is not something I talk about all the time, but I think it's really important to our story. My family is very, very Polish. And my great grandparents immigrated to the United States on both sides of my family. And, you know, my grandparents grew up speaking Polish. And I talk about my grandmother in particular, growing up and being, you know, this working woman and her and her sisters like navigating this world together. and you know we didn't come from a lot at all actually my great-grandfather came to the United States with a pierogi board that's it and my maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur and started an advertising agency and my grandfather on the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather, had an auto parts shop about five minutes from where I grew up, which I didn't even know about until a couple years ago, which I think is insane. So I come from hustlers and entrepreneurs and people that have worked their butts off and still been at the bottom, and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity. to be supported by my parents and get to wake up every day and live out literally the American dream. It hasn't been handed to me, but the opportunity that I can actually change the trajectory of my parents'lives, both economically, socially, they've worked so hard for my sister and I, so incredibly hard. And the fact that I get to work hard. And then, you know, hopefully one day get to take care of them beyond what they could maybe imagine is so incredible. They've taken this journey with me and seen my crazy ambitious ideas through. It's not possible without them. They saw that little girl that like loved like to act and be theatrical and express herself. and have crazy ideas, but be so stubborn and tenacious that it was going to happen, and they let me fly. That doesn't happen. That takes really special people. I just feel very, very grateful that I get to take them on this journey. and show them that like, we can change the world. It doesn't matter where we come from. And that I can almost see this line of entrepreneurship through in my family as well. I think that's so special. So I hope like all my entrepreneurial ancestors are proud of me and You're touching on something so important,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina, because that is a thing. You're completing a karmic cycle. You're taking what they started. They were the original investors. Yeah. And you're taking that investment that they made in their future generations and you're making good on it. Yeah,

  • Speaker #0

    it's so special. I do look at the lineage and especially both of my grandfathers on both sides or my great grandfather and my grandfather. their entrepreneurial ventures like are so like so inspiring to me because like they had it so much harder there was no social media like promoting like advertising in like the 70s like what like that's crazy but like here I am given this opportunity to like make something happen you and everybody has this opportunity, like truly, and it's a very common misconception that I come from money or that I'm like this like hoity-toity, richy gal. I'm not. and I've hustled and bootstrapped to make this happen, and it's because I'm passionate about something bigger than money, and it's helping people smile and helping to hopefully change the world and inspire young girls that they can be entrepreneurs too. There is so much heart and depth to... what appears to just be like a bag on the shelf, it's not. It's so much deeper than that. So I feel very, very fortunate that I get to, you know, do something that I'm actually passionate about every single day. So beautiful. Hi, creative.

  • Speaker #1

    If you love the show and it has meant a lot to you, think about sharing it with your friends, family, and anyone you think would love to hear it. Podcasts are spread person to person, and I know the number one influencers in my life are my friends and family. So if you know someone who would love it, you can think about passing it along. Unleash Your Inner Creative can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Wednesday in the Unleash podcast feed. Remember, during the month of April, you can also listen to Unleash on the Impact 89 FM on Wednesdays live from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Okay, now back to the podcast. And what would be your advice to either a student listening who wants to become an entrepreneur or a young girl listening who's like, wow, I love what Alina did. How can I do something like that? What's your best advice for them? go for it and find that

  • Speaker #0

    peace of heart and that mission that'll drive you to achievement. It's really easy to be motivated by shallow things, but that doesn't always get you so far. And I truly believe that I am where I am today because of the prospect of helping people and this mission that's deeper than just myself. Stay tenacious and stay curious and stay fun and always ask questions. just maintain a childlike sense of wonder and excitement about this opportunity that you have to take control of your own life and change the world. Because it's right there. Especially if you're a student, there's so many resources. Put the work in, put the time in, find what you're truly passionate about, and just go for it. Beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    And I know you have a new product. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    Can we talk a little bit about that?

  • Speaker #1

    Tell me what it is. I'm super excited about it. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    So we have made history, which is such a cool thing to say, and I keep saying it. We have made the first ever in the world zero sugar gum filled lollipop. So think blow pop, but better. so there's ollie gum pops the little blowing bubble if that's indicative but we're super excited it's zero sugar it's allergen free all of our products follow this the same great attributes and benefits because we want it to be inclusive and we want everyone to be able to enjoy candy again and fun and have that nostalgic feeling without the guilt without the stress so you we're basically free of anything. Like, unless you're allergic to, like, air and fun, like, you can have Zahle. Like, I'm kidding, of course, but, like... You're going to be okay.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah, yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And so this has been four or five years in the making, this product. It was, like, a crazy idea, and it has been exceptionally difficult to make. So we're so proud of the way that it's turned out. Oh, my gosh. Well,

  • Speaker #1

    we'll definitely share how people can go find those because they sound delicious. So final question or questions. It's a two parter for you, Alina. I want to go back to our sweet little seven year old Alina self. And since we talked about creativity being with the inner child, your story is just like a beautiful example of that and of following your intuition and your your heart. if you and this younger version of yourself, the seven-year-old version, were standing in the same room looking at each other, what would you say to her and why?

  • Speaker #0

    Do not even spend another moment comparing yourself to anyone else or giving thought or time to anything less than you deserve. I am a teenage girl. And I, of course, have spent time thinking about stupid boys, stupid girls that have hurt my feelings. I want to give her a hug, first of all, and say, girl, you don't know what's coming. But you are just going to love it. Soak it all in and don't even let any of that negativeness into your sunshine.

  • Speaker #1

    And what do you think our sweet little seven-year-old Alina would say to you and why? I think she'd say, oh, Lena, like,

  • Speaker #0

    you look great. Like, I mean... Killing it.

  • Speaker #1

    We weren't sure how that was going to happen, but,

  • Speaker #0

    like, I guess we got from point A to point B. No, genuinely, I think she would be speechless. That... we did it. Like this is success in my mind that we have built something that has a legacy and an opportunity to really help people for years to come. That was the goal, to make a mark. And it's only sweetness from here on out. Like I really like. obviously there's always going to be challenges and we face daily challenges, but I think she would look at me and just see like, we did it. That's success. Well, I'm proud of both of you.

  • Speaker #1

    And I just think you're an amazing example of following your intuition, following your heart, being mission driven, and saying why not, and then going for it. So thank you for inspiring me, for inspiring everyone listening today. and for continuing to listen to that sweet little seven-year-old self who has just the best ideas. Thank you, Alina.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much. Thank you for listening and thanks to my guest,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina Morse. For more info on Alina, she can be found on social media at Alina Star Morse and her business, Zolly Candy, can be found at ZollyPops.com. And again, thank you. If you like what you heard and want to support the show, Unleash Your Inner Creative can be rated, reviewed, and found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. It's also great to share the show with a friend and post about it on social media. You can find me at Lauren LaGrasso and at Unleash Your Inner Creative on all social platforms. Thanks to Rachel Fulton for editing and associate producing this episode. You can find her at Rachel M. Fulton. Thank you, Liz Full, for the show's theme music. She can be found at Liz Full. My wish for you this week is that you find the courage to embrace your inner child's wonder, ignite your spark, and pursue whatever dreams you have with the tenacity and heart of a true creative. I love you and I believe in you. Talk with you next week.

Description

Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don’t know enough and like it’s just too daunting to even start. But it IS possible and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today’s guest is the CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy and she will share tools on how to do just that--revealing her journey of starting a company at just 7 years old, turning it into a thriving business and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. 


From this conversation you’ll learn:

-Why she chose to go to college at Michigan State, even though she was already running a multi-million dollar company 

-What goes into creating a good pitch

-How to move past self-doubt

-Ways to tend to your mental wellness

-How to maintain a positive mindset

And Much More!


More on Alina:  Alina Morse is an entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of ZolliCandy—the clean teeth candy. Not only is she a freshman at Michigan State University, but she has continued to make history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO and the youngest person to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the US as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. She has earned over 300 million media impressions including a Ted Talk, GMA, Dr. Oz, as well as being a verified influencer.


Check out Zollicandy: https://zollipops.com/ 

Vote for Unleash in the Webby Awards HERE: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2024/podcasts/shows/creativity-marketing 


-Remember to subscribe/follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your pods. Please leave us a rating and review- it helps SO much in getting the show out there. And tell a friend about the show- podcasts are very personal and tend to be spread person to person. If this show helped you or made you smile, share the love :) 


Follow the show @unleashyourinnercreative 

 

Follow me @LaurenLoGrasso 


Hosted by Ausha. See ausha.co/privacy-policy for more information.

Transcription

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you.

  • Speaker #1

    Have you ever dreamed of starting a business of your own? Often, when thinking about going into entrepreneurship, it feels overwhelming, like you just don't know enough, like it's too daunting to even know where to start. But it is possible, and you can do incredible things when you put belief and hard work behind your vision. Today's guest will share tools on how to do just that, revealing her journey of starting a company at just seven years old, turning it into a thriving business, and how to make and eventually becoming the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. Welcome to Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LaGrasso. I'm Lauren LaGrasso. I'm an award-winning podcast host and producer, singer-songwriter, public speaker, and creative coach. This show sits at the intersection of creativity, mental health, self-development, and spirituality, and it is meant to give you tools to love, trust, and know yourself enough to claim your right to creativity and pursue whatever it is that's on your heart. In the month of April, Unleash Your Inner Creative is collaborating with my alma mater, Michigan State University, and their student-run radio station, the Impact 89 FM. Each week this month, you'll hear from a remarkable MSU student or alumni who is doing great creative work out in the world and or on campus. These episodes will air both on the Impact 89 FM as well as on the usual Unleash Your Inner Creative podcast feed. So if you're listening on the radio right now, hi. Welcome to Unleash. I am so happy to have you in the creative community. If you like what you hear, you can go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to learn more about the show and hear more episodes. It's also great to leave a rating and review. And if you're a regular Unleash listener, you can check out the Impact at impact89fm.org for more info on the station, for their shows, and to listen live. Also, before we get into the content today and to our amazing guests. I do want to let you know that Unleash Your Inner Creative is nominated for a Webby Award. This is a huge deal for anyone, but especially for an indie podcaster because big deal people are nominated for Webbys. I mean, I'm talking like the Today Show and the Tonight Show and Unleash Your Inner Creative. It's huge. And I'm so honored to be amongst these amazing nominees in my category of creativity and marketing. And Unleash is by far the smallest company that is nominated. and so we really need our community to show up and support us. So if you're interested to learn more and want to support the show, check out the link in my bio or search Unleash Your Inner Creative on the Webby Awards website. Okay, now to the guest. Today's guest is Alina Morse. She's an entrepreneur, CEO, and the founder of Zolly Candy, the clean teeth company. She's also a freshman at Michigan State University. She made history by being the youngest Inc. 5000 CEO. And as I mentioned, she's the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. With a line of over 10 products and distribution in 20,000 stores in the U.S., as well as in over 12 countries, Alina continues to drive growth and innovation in the candy space. In addition, she's done a TED Talk. She's been on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, and she's a verified influencer. I wanted to have Alina on because she has a truly incredible story, and I find it... Fascinating and inspiring that despite the fact that she already had a thriving business upon entering college, she still wanted to go to Michigan State and get her degree. It really is incredible to know that if a little kid, a.k.a. Alina's younger self, believed in herself so much that she started this huge business when she was just seven, what could we do, being our full-grown adult selves? We can all gain wisdom from Alina's story. From today's chat, you'll learn what goes into creating a good pitch, how to move past self-doubt, Ways to tend to your mental wellness, Alina's best leadership tools, the fun in learning and education, and much more. Okay, now here she is, Alina Morse. Alina, thank you so much for being on Unleash Your Inner Creative. I am so thrilled to talk with you today.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited.

  • Speaker #1

    So we're going to get into your incredible story of how you started this company when you were just seven years old. But before we get to that. I want to talk about how your creativity and your entrepreneurship started. I believe creativity is deeply connected to the inner child. And I know when you were very little, you had an ideas binder, where you would write down all your ideas for inventions. So you tell me about that. Why was that important in your creative journey? And what sort of ideas did you have in there?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, so I've always been an inventor at heart. I have been coming up with ideas for crazy businesses and products since I was three and four years old. So this has been a long time coming, coming up with something crazy and inventive. And Zali originally was put and housed in the IdeaBinder. But essentially, it really started as I had all of these business ideas for silly things, some that already existed, honestly. but just this collection of ideas. And I wanted to house them in one place that was really important and kind of sacred to me, and that was my idea binder. My parents always were encouraging me to add to it and cherish this place where I housed my creative outlet. And so that was really an integral part of my growing up and my Zali story is... this binder and having the idea for Zolly Candy at age seven, but already having this binder full of products and ideas and inventions.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you still do that to this day? Keep a running list of ideas?

  • Speaker #0

    I wish I could say yes, truly. I do. I'm very busy. But I also try to keep running lists in kind of sacred places, notebooks or... Excel spreadsheets, very sacred Excel spreadsheets of ideas for Zali and ways to better my business and dream collaborations and goals and aspirations. I'm a very much so list-based, goal-based person. I love to write things out. I feel that it's the best way that I achieve and accomplish. And I definitely encourage others to do so as well, because I feel like that, that act of writing something out, writing out a plan, writing down your goals, your dreams. it makes it so much more likely that you're going to achieve it. It's very tangible. I'm all for writing things down. I do not have a 2024 version of the Idea Binder, but maybe like someday down the road, post Zali, I'll start that up again.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And it sounds like you have different little versions of it that work for your current iteration of your business. And that's such a great tip for anyone out there who's creative, who's building something. to keep a running list of ideas. And then when you're feeling creatively blocked, you can go back to that and start to implement them.

  • Speaker #0

    Absolutely.

  • Speaker #1

    Let's get into your company, Zolly Candy. You got the idea when you were just seven. So let's talk about how did it go from a seven-year-old being like, I know how to hack the system and have candy every day of my life, to a full-blown company, to where you are now?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I found the loophole for sure in eating candy. I was seven years old. I took a trip to the bank with my dad and the bank teller offered me a sugary lollipop. And I feel like this is a universal experience. Correct me if I'm wrong. But my parents always told me, no, you can't have candy. It's too much sugar. You're going to get cavities, whatever. It'll rot your teeth. Fine. And I feel like that's how the conversation always went. No, you can't have candy. Okay, fine. Moving on. But being the tenacious and stubborn kid that I was and am still today, I said, well, why not? Why can't I make something that's delicious, that's fun, but it's also healthy? It could clean my teeth, you know, it contributes to proper dental care or whatever, but the root of it was that I wanted to have candy without my parents saying no. And I asked probably a hundred times, when are we going to make these lollipops? When are we going to make this happen? How can I create this candy? My dad gave me the advice that he always did when I had a business idea. He said, write down a plan. And so I wrote out a business plan in my idea binder and then the real work started. I started to research on Google, on YouTube, on LinkedIn, finding connections of third and fourth generation candy makers, reaching out to manufacturers, food scientists.

  • Speaker #1

    Can I ask you, how old were you when you were doing all this? Were you seven? Seriously?

  • Speaker #0

    Like on LinkedIn? I was. Honest to God.

  • Speaker #1

    How did you know to do that?

  • Speaker #0

    So it sounds very professional, but it was like keyword searching. Okay. It was like, oh, like candy maker. Okay. People close to me that are either like able to manufacture candy, have a background in it, have a background in food science that were like local people that I could like actually connect with. Wow. And ask them questions. And I also talked to my dentist and my dental hygienist. You know, that felt like such a natural segue to getting into the oral health care space. But throughout all of this research and, you know, finding people and just honestly looking on YouTube, like, how is candy made and watching that video of like mass production of candy, just learning and replacing, you know, the sugary ingredients in candy with like sugar free alternatives or substitutes and finding those like it was a long process. But during that, I learned that tooth decay is actually the single greatest epidemic facing kids in America. And that was according to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2014. And although it's not today, in 2024, the single greatest epidemic still. it's growing and it's ravaging both the nation and the world. And that's pretty devastating. It is a preventable disease in most cases. and the hard truth is that a lot of kids do not have access to proper dental care, and obviously America also has a huge problem with diabetes. One in three Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic, so there's a lot of connections within this realm of, like, why isn't there something better for you that's fun, that's functional, that's accessible? And so it was kind of checking all the boxes. Like, this is solving my problem, but this could also help people all over the world. And I became very passionate about it. And that's what really set Zali apart from the other ideas in my idea binder is that had this mission and this component of like philanthropy and helping people and that it felt so achievable. through all the research that took about a year or so, then I pulled all of my savings and I asked my parents to match it. And it was a very generous deed that they did for me. They took a leap of faith with my idea. So they matched my initial funding. And then I went to a manufacturing facility and I had them run some plant trials, which was so cool. And I worked with a food scientist and we tweaked and we taste tested for about another year. before we pitched to Whole Foods Markets in 2015.

  • Speaker #1

    So at that point, were you nine?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Wow. And so tell me, were you leading the pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So I was a theater kid.

  • Speaker #1

    Yes, me too, girl.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, the entrepreneur pipeline from being a theater kid is so strong.

  • Speaker #1

    So strong.

  • Speaker #0

    Somebody needs to do like a research paper about it. I was just talking about that.

  • Speaker #1

    Like in this episode that I put out today, I was saying theater people and theater kids, theater majors are the most underrated entrepreneurs and employees. Yes. Because they can do anything. They can innovate. They understand people. They understand how to take on different roles. You're so right. But like... still, I don't care, like at nine as a theater kid or not. That's very impressive. How did you go about approaching that? And what do you think goes into a good pitch?

  • Speaker #0

    You know what? Honestly, I really treated it as a script. I was curating with the help of my dad and some of our mentors. So like we had met a third generation chocolatier who is local to us. And a friend of my dad's and somebody that has now become one of our major mentors in the manufacturing space. So he obviously had some experience with pitching and just talking about an item that is very innovative and new. Going about presenting that was something that we really leaned on him, leaned on research and talking to other people that were entrepreneurs pitching buyers. You know, it was a lot about hearing people's perspectives and opinions on our product and our journey and how we could best present that. But I truly approached it as being my most authentic self. And I was so proud of what we had accomplished to this point. You know, we had created a real product from an idea that I had in the bank. So I was very excited to just have something tangible that I could show someone, anyone who would listen. But I curated this pitch with the help of my team and my family. And we went in there and I had it memorized top to bottom, backwards, forwards. And we just did it. And we had some really good feedback on packaging and the product itself. And the buyer basically said, you know, we'll let you know. in a couple months if we're interested. And I really thought like, there's no way like maybe maybe this is not gonna happen. But sure enough, in two or three months, we heard back that they were placing a PO purchase order.

  • Speaker #1

    And that was Whole Foods, right?

  • Speaker #0

    Yes, in Southern California.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. So what did you do in those two to three months? Because in those two to three months, a lot of times like people who are in a similar period of waiting. will encounter a tremendous amount of self-doubt, wondering, oh my God, did I do the pitch the right way? Oh, this could have gone better. Oh, they must not like it. You strike me as an unbelievably confident person. But tell me, what did you do in that two to three month period when self-doubt came up?

  • Speaker #0

    A big part of my story is that I didn't have a lot of fear and doubt because I hadn't faced the real world of like failure. Right. And it really wasn't even an option in my mind. It was, you know, we've poured hours of time. We've poured resources. My parents have taken this chance on me. this is going to work. I'd like to say I didn't have the baggage that a lot of entrepreneurs, that a lot of adults have when looking at entrepreneurship. It's absolutely so scary. And like, I have a hard time talking to young entrepreneurs now because I'm like, it is so hard. And it's so hard to not doubt yourself. But almost adopting that sense of like curiosity and tenacity and taking that leap of faith with the sense of childlike wonder. I think that's so important because that's the way that I looked at the world. Some people may perceive that as naive, but I think it's such an advantage.

  • Speaker #1

    Oh, yeah. It's brave. It's really brave. And it is something that's wonderful when you've had supportive parents. I also grew up with incredibly supportive and loving parents that you can go out into the world and really believe in yourself before the world has told you no a bunch of times or told you you're not good enough. I know you've experienced many different things since then because you've built a multi-million dollar company. So there's going to be ups and downs and peaks and valleys. How do you borrow that nine-year-old's mindset now?

  • Speaker #0

    I have experienced entrepreneurship whilst also being a teenager, elementary schooler to a middle schooler to a high schooler to now a college student. I think I have gone through just about every emotion that both an entrepreneur and an adolescent. has experienced, and they have been simultaneous, which is pretty insane. Oh my gosh. But I think it's put in perspective that business is not that bad compared to the mean, evil things that little middle school kids would say. So I have always sort of had to have this thick skin and tough outer shell because I was the only girl in the room in the industry. you know, I would walk in and people would think like, it's not bring your daughter to work day, like what's going on. And then I would go to school and I would feel out of place. Yeah. You know, I went to public school my entire life and there was nobody that was doing entrepreneurship or exploring it. And that was very isolating as well. and don't get me wrong, like I had a lovely childhood. I have, you know, I had a lot of friends, like, but there was of course like mean, nasty kids and mean, nasty people in the industry. So for me, like I had to really empower myself from within and surround myself with like only the best people that were going to support me. Only the friends that I felt were on my side, a hundred percent of the time, regardless if I had Zali or not, only like the family that I felt, which is like my whole family. that was like so supportive and like always lifting me up and like keeping me out of the comment sections of like YouTube videos. And it's so hard to fall into the trap of self-doubt and just the meanness of the world. Even as somebody who you would think like, you know, I run a nonprofit. I make candy that helps people smile. Like how can people find a way to hate on me?

  • Speaker #1

    Because they're jealous, to be honest. I mean, like, I think. here's the thing. A lot of people look at someone like you who is so unbelievably accomplished and so driven and so smart and really sure of herself. And instead of letting that inspire them and be like, oh my God, she did it so I could maybe do it. They project their self-doubt onto you. And I wanted to ask you about that because Barbara Corcoran said to you, how old are you? You answered 15 when you met her. And she said, you conduct yourself like you're 25. You're actually intimidating. I think that when you are just like, you are a powerhouse of a human being. people who are not healed are going to project that emptiness. That's not what Barbara was doing. I want to be clear.

  • Speaker #0

    No,

  • Speaker #1

    yeah, yeah. But like, you know, some of these middle school girls that you're talking about, like they're going to project that emptiness onto you because they're feeling bad about themselves.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    So how have you dealt with that and kept yourself of self and self-love through all those things?

  • Speaker #0

    On the note of Barbara Corcoran, I share this with anyone who asks. I think this is hysterical. After that airing of that episode, I was on the Dr. Oz show with her. it was like COVID times, we're all like masked up. We're taking the elevator down to like the streets of New York where she was like waiting for her like, you know, very fancy car. Like, she's the coolest. She said to me, she was like, oh, do you have a boyfriend? And I did. I had a boyfriend for like three, three years or something. And she was like, well, you got a date up. She goes, go a couple years up. It was hysterical.

  • Speaker #1

    She's so real.

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, like not only did I get good business advice, but I was like getting dating advice. And I just thought it was like incredible. But on the self-doubt note, like I said, I surround myself with the right people. I think it's super important. You have to also empower yourself from within. And if there's unresolved like feelings of I'm not good enough, like at what point do you have to push those aside and give yourself that tough love? And I just realized, like, stop. Stop letting the outside hate in because it's so harmful. You're a boss. get over it. You need to be so strong for yourself if you're going to be strong for your team. If you're going to be a leader, if you're going to be somebody that you want other people to look at and think that's an inspiring story, that's what I want to be like, be that person. Wake up every day. It's an active choice to let hate in. And anybody that says otherwise, I don't think that's true. Sure, it's hard to ignore or not allow people's opinions of you to seep in and internalize that. but it is a choice. And so I actively wake up and make the choice to not surround myself with people that are not, you know, supporting me, that I'm not obviously supporting back as well. the vibes have to be good or else like I'm not going to be my most productive self, my most efficient self. And I have to be that for my team because I have people relying on me. And I wake up every day with this mission in mind, like I want to help people smile. But if I'm not smiling and if it's not coming from a real place, then like that's not real. And then that's not an inspiration.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And it's like, no, I'm not like smiley bubbly all the time. No one is. But it's very real. it's an active choice to be that way.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. I mean, you mentioned the pandemic. There's been so many difficult things on top of you building this business and being a kid and being in a relationship and like having your family, having your team. how do you tend to your mental health through all this and make sure to take care of yourself?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah, I play tennis. Like staying active, I feel is so important to overall mental health, physical health, your immune system, like everything. I travel so much that I'm like sick all the time. So I feel like having something that encapsulates just like wellness and mental wellness as well has been really crucial. I've met some of my best friends playing the sport, played it through high school, and I actually started because of the pandemic. Both of my parents have always played, you know, recreationally and on leagues, but I was a competition dancer for over 10 years, and I couldn't go into the studio. I couldn't, you know, participate, and so I had to find something else, and a couple of my friends were trying out for the high school tennis team, and I was like, I can do that outside. And I just went all in, and that is... one of my passions. I play on the MSU club tennis team. So incredible. And just another group of incredible people that I've met through something that I love. So that's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    That is so beautiful. Yeah. Being part of the extracurriculars at Michigan State, I'm a Michigan State alum. And being part of the extracurriculars there, I feel like is what makes the college so special. It's really, to me, like, the community of MSU, because that's what started my career. I moved out to LA for an internship on the Ellen Show because of somebody I met in Michigan State, because I was going around my junior year of college in the theater department being like, I really want to intern on the Ellen Show someday. I didn't know anyone who was on the Ellen Show, but my friend Brandon Piper, who was a theater, actually graduate student at the time, was like, I actually have a friend who's a PA there. Let me introduce you. and that's what is different, I think, about Spartans as opposed to anyone else, is the heart, the care, and the genuine desire to help each other.

  • Speaker #0

    My dad said this to me. My dad's a Spartan. He said, there's two major schools that you think about when you think about Michigan, the state of Michigan, and one school, it's the students against the school, per se. in one school it's the students against each other. And I said, I want to go to the school where it's the students together.

  • Speaker #1

    That makes me want to cry. It's so true.

  • Speaker #0

    It is so true. I hate that Michigan State gets demoted to like a party school.

  • Speaker #1

    It's so not true, right, Alina?

  • Speaker #0

    It is so not true, first of all. And it is so much more.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    It is this community of people that anywhere you go, you see someone wearing a Spartan shirt, you say go green, they say go white, and it's like. Immediate connection, instant. There's alumni networks in almost every state. It is so incredible to be a part of this community that is so humble and willing to support one another and empower one another. And I feel very grateful and super excited that even as a freshman, I have been reached out to numerous times throughout this year to act in that sort of mentorship role as well. Within the Entrepreneurship Institute, which I also can't say enough good things about. yes shout out to Aaron he put us in touch obsessed love Aaron um and Brode as well yeah just the connections oh, I think this person could help you out. Oh, you know, we could learn from each other. Let's collaborate. Let's make this happen. It's just not even a question in my mind that if I ask someone for help, they're going to be there. And I think that that's really special.

  • Speaker #1

    It is. And it's different than other places. It's certainly different than the other school, which we won't be naming. But I totally agree. And I've seen it so many times throughout my career and my life. and I'm curious because, I mean, I guess we didn't really finish, because you went from Whole Foods to now, like, you're in tons of retailers.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes.

  • Speaker #1

    So I want to finish that story, but I also, like, a little precursor, I want to ask you why you decided to go to college, because I think that's probably pretty interesting, and I'm curious to know about it. But first, let's talk about what happened after that Whole Foods meeting.

  • Speaker #0

    Yes. So, you know, I waited, and we worked on the... product. We worked on the critiques that we were given, and that was really good feedback. And then we faced a really big roadblock. We got on Amazon.com, and that was super exciting. Naturally, it was really exciting. And also, Amazon has evolved and grown a ton since 2015. Seeing that evolution has been really interesting. So when we got on, I mean, think back 10 years ago, essentially, we were shipping product directly from our home. and it was melting in transit. And people would get their Zollipops, and they would get Zolliblops, essentially. And it was terrible, and we were devastated. But it was a very important roadblock that we had before we shipped product to Whole Foods. We went back to our manufacturing partners, and we figured it out. And that was a point of realization that was really unique to me, because throughout this entire journey up to that point, I thought, this was a good idea. This was a simple idea. Why has nobody done this before? Like, why are like, I hate to say it, like Werther's and Russell Stover, like the grandma's purse candies of the world, why are they the only sugar-free items in the store? Because they're not fun, they're not family-friendly, and they're not functional. So why hasn't somebody done this yet? Or done the clean teeth aspect? It just didn't make sense to me. And this was why. Nobody had gotten past this roadblock. And it was so, so stressful dealing with all of like the different formulation challenges. But once we finally figured it out, we were set. And now our product can ship on vessels in the heat of summer to China, Korea, like it's like bulletproof. So that was a really important roadblock that we faced early on. We got on Amazon, we shipped our product to Whole Foods, and then we just started expanding. We received... some of our first major media, I was on Good Morning America for like a kids Shark Tank episode, which was so fun. A couple years later, I was on like actual Shark Tank. I've done all sorts of crazy stuff since then. But now we're in about 20,000 stores. We're in about a dozen countries. And we have over 100 SKUs, different products.

  • Speaker #1

    So SKUs are different products?

  • Speaker #0

    Yeah. And so like they're different like configurations. So like this could be like a smaller version of this bag. And like we have about 15 items.

  • Speaker #1

    Amazing. So, okay, this brings me to my next question. You are so accomplished as a business person. And I feel like especially in your generation, people are seeing that there are more options than just going to college. Like you can go to college, but you can also do trade school. You can go straight to entrepreneurship. You can take a gap year. I feel like there's a little bit more flexibility within the Gen Z beautiful people. Why was going to college still important to you?

  • Speaker #0

    I've gotten this question so much and I know why, but I don't know if it's like a fun answer. I love to learn. I really do. And I'm very self-aware and I realize that I have a lot to learn because despite doing this and being in this world for over half my life, I still rely on my team very heavily for integral roles like the financials and accounting. I understand it, but I couldn't do it. Day in and day out, that couldn't be my role. And as a CEO, you have to be a delegator and a leader, and you can't do everything yourself. So it's very important to have really smart people on your team. But just the type of person I am, I want to understand it more. And I want to be a better entrepreneur, a better functional CEO. And I just want to expand my mind. and it's kind of a twofold answer. I also really wanted to find my people. I actually wasn't even going to come to MSU. I've been a Spartan my whole life. My dad went here. I really wasn't going to come to school here, and I was going to go out of state, but I was introduced to Dave Hawthorne, who runs FMI here, the Financial Markets Institute in Broad. And he was telling me about... the Burgess Institute. And that was like game changer. There are very few universities that have an entrepreneurship program so built out. It is exceptional, the resources that they have here. And no one was talking about it. There was no like marketing, like I'm in the entrepreneurship circles, like I would have known. And I had no idea. So I came and I took a tour and it was like mind blowing. It was like, oh, like I could see myself going to school here. I met like the MSU club tennis people. I met like the Burgess Institute people. And I was like, yeah, this clicks. and I knew that I could find an entrepreneurial support system and ecosystem, and that was really important and something that I was lacking in my personal life. I didn't know entrepreneurs my own age that lived in Michigan, at least. I had a couple friends overseas and then scattered around the United States, but I didn't have people that I could look at that were my own age and trying to do similar things. So that changed the game for me, knowing that I could forge relationships with people that were passionate about the same thing as I was, being entrepreneurship, and having that level of like relationship was super, super cool. So, and that's what it's been. Yeah. It's been incredible.

  • Speaker #1

    No, I think it's also so smart because, you know, as a media professional, somebody who produces and hosts podcasts and helps people tell their story, it's also a really great plot point in your story. that endears people to you. Because when you hear, oh my gosh, she's a freshman in college. it's so compelling and you want to know more, more so than if it was like she was a youngest kid entrepreneur and then she went off on her own. Like, cause it kind of feels like it's more of the same that way. Like you're doing something to disrupt yourself and that's interesting and compelling. And I just think it was actually beyond like the fact that you're getting tactical grade information, building community. It was a smart storytelling and business move. And I see you girl. That was brilliant.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you. It wasn't intentional. I actually announced my college decision on live QVC. Wow. When I decided that I was going to come to MSU and I like more like a green blouse. It was fun.

  • Speaker #1

    Do you know Kim Gravel?

  • Speaker #0

    I actually don't. I've seen her at the studio, but I just don't know her.

  • Speaker #1

    Okay. I had her on my podcast recently. We've become friends. I feel like you two should be buddies. She's just also like a wonderful, generous human being. And I think you two would vibe. So leadership, we've talked about that a few times. You run a team. How has being a Spartan and being involved in like what we talked about, like the Spartan community, seeing how we help each other, affected the way you lead? And what is your leadership style?

  • Speaker #0

    My leadership style is imperfect. I am learning and growing alongside my team. I don't know everything. And so my leadership strategy is just very honest and humble and appreciative that I have people that are, you know, willing to work with me because it, you know, team, it's a team. and that's so important to emphasize. I couldn't do it without the people that have been there and continue to show up, and so I have implemented some processes that I feel make it really easy to be a good leader and to keep everyone's goals aligned, but what makes it really easy to be a good leader is finding good team members. That's the most challenging part of honestly building a team. and running a team is like just finding those building blocks and making sure that they're in the right seat they have the right hat and how those roles evolve over time as the business grows so for me like i've implemented eos which is entrepreneur operating system and it's outlined in the book traction by gina wickman so that's a great process you I really am like a firm believer on like weekly meetings and making sure that everyone's on the same page and that priorities are set and that rocks are like kind of what they refer to as like big goals. Making sure that everybody understands what those are. And that we're actually driving towards tangible accomplishments. So that's obviously like huge in my book because that's what I've centered around this leadership strategy. But also just like connecting with people and meeting people where they're at and communicating effectively and authentically is like the best strategy of leadership because it's a collaboration. It's a team effort. And I think it's really important to just like connect with those people first. We're learning and growing together. As our team grows, that's also been... something that I'm always working on and trying my very best to be the best leader I can for my people. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah. And I think something you outlined that I really would like to highlight is you said it's imperfect. And I think the best leaders I've ever had have been honest with me about what they don't know, about what they do know, about what the vision is, about what their fears are without scaring people. You know, it's a fine line. Yeah. Well,

  • Speaker #0

    people want to feel appreciated. Yeah. each one of my team members brings something so valuable to the table. And I want them to know that. Because not only does it empower them to continue to work hard, especially if their mission is aligned with ours, like helping people and being philanthropic. Like, that's what I mean by finding the right people, finding people that are aligned. Right. Not just good at their skill set. Not just smart or capable, but caring and aligned with our mission. So that's really... what sets people apart for me, those are the team members that I go towards. Like, yeah, maybe they don't have the skill set right now, but the skill set is easy. That's the easy part. If they have the passion and the work ethic, like they can learn Excel in two days. Like, you know, like as a stupid example, like you have to find the right people at the core and then you can work on the role. You can work on the skill set. So I'm also a firm believer in that. Yeah. And just like, you know, appreciating the value that people are bringing. and allowing people to grow in those roles because I'm always growing. That's beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    One of my mentors once said, hire for heart, train for skill. Yes. I try to do that because you can't teach someone how to have a good heart, how to work hard, how to have the same values as you. Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    Be loyal and work hard and always show up. It can't be taught. Yeah.

  • Speaker #1

    Some people don't want to do that.

  • Speaker #0

    And in a small business, you need people that are going to want to be there. and want to work a couple extra hours because we have to this week because we don't have another option.

  • Speaker #1

    Because we help people smile.

  • Speaker #0

    That's why we work hard.

  • Speaker #1

    And speaking of your team, I know Zali is a family-run company. I know your dad in particular has been integral in starting and building the company. I listened to an interview. He said he's the business manager. Is that still true? Yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    So

  • Speaker #1

    I'm curious because I think it's really beautiful when children inspire their parents to dream. and I'm curious because your dad quit his accounting job to go with you. Yeah. How has it been to like watch your parents dream and co-create with you and get to see a different vision for their lives? You know,

  • Speaker #0

    this is not something I talk about all the time, but I think it's really important to our story. My family is very, very Polish. And my great grandparents immigrated to the United States on both sides of my family. And, you know, my grandparents grew up speaking Polish. And I talk about my grandmother in particular, growing up and being, you know, this working woman and her and her sisters like navigating this world together. and you know we didn't come from a lot at all actually my great-grandfather came to the United States with a pierogi board that's it and my maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur and started an advertising agency and my grandfather on the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather, had an auto parts shop about five minutes from where I grew up, which I didn't even know about until a couple years ago, which I think is insane. So I come from hustlers and entrepreneurs and people that have worked their butts off and still been at the bottom, and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity. to be supported by my parents and get to wake up every day and live out literally the American dream. It hasn't been handed to me, but the opportunity that I can actually change the trajectory of my parents'lives, both economically, socially, they've worked so hard for my sister and I, so incredibly hard. And the fact that I get to work hard. And then, you know, hopefully one day get to take care of them beyond what they could maybe imagine is so incredible. They've taken this journey with me and seen my crazy ambitious ideas through. It's not possible without them. They saw that little girl that like loved like to act and be theatrical and express herself. and have crazy ideas, but be so stubborn and tenacious that it was going to happen, and they let me fly. That doesn't happen. That takes really special people. I just feel very, very grateful that I get to take them on this journey. and show them that like, we can change the world. It doesn't matter where we come from. And that I can almost see this line of entrepreneurship through in my family as well. I think that's so special. So I hope like all my entrepreneurial ancestors are proud of me and You're touching on something so important,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina, because that is a thing. You're completing a karmic cycle. You're taking what they started. They were the original investors. Yeah. And you're taking that investment that they made in their future generations and you're making good on it. Yeah,

  • Speaker #0

    it's so special. I do look at the lineage and especially both of my grandfathers on both sides or my great grandfather and my grandfather. their entrepreneurial ventures like are so like so inspiring to me because like they had it so much harder there was no social media like promoting like advertising in like the 70s like what like that's crazy but like here I am given this opportunity to like make something happen you and everybody has this opportunity, like truly, and it's a very common misconception that I come from money or that I'm like this like hoity-toity, richy gal. I'm not. and I've hustled and bootstrapped to make this happen, and it's because I'm passionate about something bigger than money, and it's helping people smile and helping to hopefully change the world and inspire young girls that they can be entrepreneurs too. There is so much heart and depth to... what appears to just be like a bag on the shelf, it's not. It's so much deeper than that. So I feel very, very fortunate that I get to, you know, do something that I'm actually passionate about every single day. So beautiful. Hi, creative.

  • Speaker #1

    If you love the show and it has meant a lot to you, think about sharing it with your friends, family, and anyone you think would love to hear it. Podcasts are spread person to person, and I know the number one influencers in my life are my friends and family. So if you know someone who would love it, you can think about passing it along. Unleash Your Inner Creative can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Wednesday in the Unleash podcast feed. Remember, during the month of April, you can also listen to Unleash on the Impact 89 FM on Wednesdays live from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Okay, now back to the podcast. And what would be your advice to either a student listening who wants to become an entrepreneur or a young girl listening who's like, wow, I love what Alina did. How can I do something like that? What's your best advice for them? go for it and find that

  • Speaker #0

    peace of heart and that mission that'll drive you to achievement. It's really easy to be motivated by shallow things, but that doesn't always get you so far. And I truly believe that I am where I am today because of the prospect of helping people and this mission that's deeper than just myself. Stay tenacious and stay curious and stay fun and always ask questions. just maintain a childlike sense of wonder and excitement about this opportunity that you have to take control of your own life and change the world. Because it's right there. Especially if you're a student, there's so many resources. Put the work in, put the time in, find what you're truly passionate about, and just go for it. Beautiful.

  • Speaker #1

    And I know you have a new product. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    Can we talk a little bit about that?

  • Speaker #1

    Tell me what it is. I'm super excited about it. Yes.

  • Speaker #0

    So we have made history, which is such a cool thing to say, and I keep saying it. We have made the first ever in the world zero sugar gum filled lollipop. So think blow pop, but better. so there's ollie gum pops the little blowing bubble if that's indicative but we're super excited it's zero sugar it's allergen free all of our products follow this the same great attributes and benefits because we want it to be inclusive and we want everyone to be able to enjoy candy again and fun and have that nostalgic feeling without the guilt without the stress so you we're basically free of anything. Like, unless you're allergic to, like, air and fun, like, you can have Zahle. Like, I'm kidding, of course, but, like... You're going to be okay.

  • Speaker #1

    Yeah, yeah.

  • Speaker #0

    And so this has been four or five years in the making, this product. It was, like, a crazy idea, and it has been exceptionally difficult to make. So we're so proud of the way that it's turned out. Oh, my gosh. Well,

  • Speaker #1

    we'll definitely share how people can go find those because they sound delicious. So final question or questions. It's a two parter for you, Alina. I want to go back to our sweet little seven year old Alina self. And since we talked about creativity being with the inner child, your story is just like a beautiful example of that and of following your intuition and your your heart. if you and this younger version of yourself, the seven-year-old version, were standing in the same room looking at each other, what would you say to her and why?

  • Speaker #0

    Do not even spend another moment comparing yourself to anyone else or giving thought or time to anything less than you deserve. I am a teenage girl. And I, of course, have spent time thinking about stupid boys, stupid girls that have hurt my feelings. I want to give her a hug, first of all, and say, girl, you don't know what's coming. But you are just going to love it. Soak it all in and don't even let any of that negativeness into your sunshine.

  • Speaker #1

    And what do you think our sweet little seven-year-old Alina would say to you and why? I think she'd say, oh, Lena, like,

  • Speaker #0

    you look great. Like, I mean... Killing it.

  • Speaker #1

    We weren't sure how that was going to happen, but,

  • Speaker #0

    like, I guess we got from point A to point B. No, genuinely, I think she would be speechless. That... we did it. Like this is success in my mind that we have built something that has a legacy and an opportunity to really help people for years to come. That was the goal, to make a mark. And it's only sweetness from here on out. Like I really like. obviously there's always going to be challenges and we face daily challenges, but I think she would look at me and just see like, we did it. That's success. Well, I'm proud of both of you.

  • Speaker #1

    And I just think you're an amazing example of following your intuition, following your heart, being mission driven, and saying why not, and then going for it. So thank you for inspiring me, for inspiring everyone listening today. and for continuing to listen to that sweet little seven-year-old self who has just the best ideas. Thank you, Alina.

  • Speaker #0

    Thank you so much. Thank you for listening and thanks to my guest,

  • Speaker #1

    Alina Morse. For more info on Alina, she can be found on social media at Alina Star Morse and her business, Zolly Candy, can be found at ZollyPops.com. And again, thank you. If you like what you heard and want to support the show, Unleash Your Inner Creative can be rated, reviewed, and found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. It's also great to share the show with a friend and post about it on social media. You can find me at Lauren LaGrasso and at Unleash Your Inner Creative on all social platforms. Thanks to Rachel Fulton for editing and associate producing this episode. You can find her at Rachel M. Fulton. Thank you, Liz Full, for the show's theme music. She can be found at Liz Full. My wish for you this week is that you find the courage to embrace your inner child's wonder, ignite your spark, and pursue whatever dreams you have with the tenacity and heart of a true creative. I love you and I believe in you. Talk with you next week.

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