In the colorful tale of Popcorn for the People, you'll find a story that's as heartening as it is crunchy. Sam Bier found himself in a career that he didn’t love. Bier describes his days as a “shopping cart guy” at a grocery store as being very “lackluster.” One day, however, a posting in a local newspaper became a life-changing moment for Bier and his father, Dr. Steven Bier. Sam, who is neurodiverse, felt very unfulfilled in his job and wanted to do more, so he and his parents saw this opportunity as a perfect fit.

“The founders were looking for a meaningful job for their son Sam — and when opening the newspaper saw the listing for the café — so it was meant to be,” Mark Katz said, who is the chairman of the board of trustees.

They would go into business together, and their specialty would be popcorn! They wanted a product with a simple manufacturing process and, as Katz puts it, “Basically everyone loves popcorn.”

What is Popcorn for the People?

The two did not simply want to start another standard snack brand for popcorn lovers. They also wanted their brand, Popcorn for the People, to be inspiring and work to empower the neurodiverse community. Popcorn for the People aims to hire adults who, like Sam, are neurodiverse, for manufacturing to executive positions. With this goal in mind, they expanded their business size from a single cafe to a separate production facility to distribute jobs further. As of the writing of this article, two-thirds of their workforce are neurodivergent.

“They deserve to have the joy and empowerment of meaningful employment which is the mission of Popcorn For The People,” Katz said.

Adults with disabilities are often marginalized within the workforce, with Popcorn for the People noting the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is over 80%. This staggering rate is commonly due to misconceptions by many employers about the capabilities of the disabled community.

“Because people do not understand the loyalty and dedication that autistic individuals bring to the company,” Joseph Cupp, marketing coordinator for the brand, said. “These individuals can bring a unique and valuable skill set to the business community.”

They are dedicated to training and supporting their staff to thrive at Popcorn for the People with one-on-one training for every position in the facility.

Popcorn for the People has grown immensely since its founding in 2014 and has now moved production to a repurposed Wawa store in Philadelphia. While they have gone from a mall to an incredibly successful business nationwide, they have stayed true to their humble beginnings, focusing on creating delicious popcorn. For popcorn purists, they have the traditional butter and kettle flavors. But for the more adventurous foodies, Popcorn for the People has unique specialty flavors like dark chocolate espresso and French toast. Are your mouths watering yet?

In addition to the strides they are making within their own company, Popcorn for the People partners with many other organizations with shared missions.

“We work in tandem with many organizations that promote autism awareness,” Cupp said. “We partnered with Wawa, Eagles Autism Foundation, and Nouryon, who helped fund the construction of our new facility. We, in turn, are donating $1 per bag produced by our Philly production facility and sold to the Eagles Autism Foundation. This circularity will help create even more jobs.”

And the company takes pride in how many neurodiverse people they have been able to employ due to the support of customers and organizations.

“We are able to create employment for some adults for the first time in their lives,” said Cupp.

The team explains that there are many ways to support their mission. One hundred percent of popcorn profits are reinvested back into the organization to increase its impact. But if for some reason you aren’t a popcorn fan, Cupp explained there are many other ways to support their efforts: “Spread the word, buy the popcorn and donate. Whether you see us at a Farmers Market, Concert, or Grocery Store, post and spread the word!!”