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Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Lindsey Hively opened Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn shop in Columbia City in her freshman year in college. The shop gave her real-life experience for her studies.
IN THE LEAD / Lindsey Hively

Popcorn key for business success

Dill pickle is one of the numerous flavors of popcorn offered at Hively’s popcorn shop.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Baskets display several flavors of taffy in the retail area of the Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn shop.

Lindsey Hively remembers being 5 years old and trying to sell ordinary rocks at a small stand in her family’s driveway.

“I always knew I wanted to start a business,” she said. “I just didn’t know what.”

Twenty years have dimmed the Columbia City woman’s memory, but she thinks her parents might have been the only takers. A pity sale, she called it.

But the stars lined up when Hively started taking business classes at Indiana University in Bloomington. That was about the time her father bought a used popcorn maker. She was a freshman studying entrepreneurship when she became an entrepreneur, launching Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn.

The business was a real-life case study. As Hively learned various principles in class, such as operations management, she redefined the company.

“I made a lot of pivots along the way,” she said. “I’m definitely a hands-on type of learner, so that probably helped me.”

Hively transferred to IPFW after that first year, which allowed her to be here for the business while earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2011.

Dave Wood, a retired Columbia City entrepreneur, has been a mentor to Hively. They serve on the Regional Opportunities Council together.

Count him among her fans.

“She’s a go-getter. She’s a young person who really has a vision,” Wood said. “She’s very tenacious.”

Hively said the idea of working for someone else has never appealed to her. Under that scenario, she could earn only as much as the employer was willing to pay her.

“The sky’s the limit with entrepreneurship,” she said. “There’s no ceiling on what I can achieve.”

Name: Lindsey Hively

Title: Owner and founder of Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn, 120 Walker Way, Columbia City

Age: 25

Family: Parents Gary and Carol Hively and younger brother Derek

What community groups have you been involved with in a leadership capacity? Hively serves on the Millennial Leaders Alliance, the leadership body of Millennial 2020, a network of northeast Indiana residents ages 15 to 25 committed to improving and celebrating northeast Indiana.

She is the Alliance’s liaison with the Regional Opportunities Council, the decision-makers for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Vision 2020. The non-profit Regional Partnership promotes the idea that the region’s counties have a common goal and can be collaborators instead of competitors. Vision 2020 is a game plan to bring change to the region.

Hively is active with Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, a group for professionals in their 20s and 30s who, according to their own description, are “committed to making our community a vibrant and viable place to live, work and play.”

The Whitley County woman is a member of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. She joined the Columbia City Downtown Redevelopment Commission about one year ago, and recently joined the Columbia City Main Street Association.

Hively’s involvement in city and county leadership was sparked by an email she sent to Columbia City’s mayor. Hively told him how much she loved the city’s downtown and offered to do anything she could to contribute to it.

She’d imagined he’d suggest she plant some flowers. Instead, he invited her to join the Redevelopment Commission. Her community commitments snowballed from there.

What is your most recent accomplishment? Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn was named the 2012 Small Business of the Year by the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce last fall. A major factor in the company’s favor was Hively’s community involvement.

What makes a leader effective? The best leaders put people first, Hively believes. They solicit ideas from the group they’re leading and take a democratic approach. That includes building consensus for projects and ideas when possible.

“Earn respect rather than just commanding it,” she said.

What leadership traits do you value most? Empathy and active listening top Hively’s list.

“You can’t really lead without understanding first,” she said.

The 25-year-old is also big on self-awareness. Having it allows a leader to build a team that compensates for the leader’s weaknesses.

What is the best leadership book you’ve read? “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” impressed Hively because author Stephen Covey discusses changing your perspective to see a situation in different lights. Someone who disagrees with you might have a valid perspective.

Also, Covey preaches the concept of self-awareness.

“You need to know what’s going on with you before you can fix your team,” Hively said.

What are the best ways to overcome self-doubt? “Remember that we’re our own biggest critic,” she said. “There are people out there who want us to succeed.”

Hively sometimes reaches out to one of those people in her own life when she needs an impromptu pep talk.

How do you manage your time? Hively sees time management as an area for improvement.

“I feel like I’m always on the go,” she said.

She’s been able to meet her many commitments by relying on her calendar. Scheduling meetings on the same side of town for the same day also helps Hively be more efficient.

And a major help has been her employees, who are able to run the business when she’s attending various meetings.

Who are your role models and why? Hively admires Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. She studied his business model in college.

Southwest experienced little employee turnover during Kelleher’s leadership because he created an atmosphere where staff worked hard but could also have fun on the job, Hively said.

She tries to strike the same balance at Kernel Coladas with her workers.

“They know they can have fun, but the job needs (to be) done, and the job needs (to be) done correctly,” she said.

Describe one leadership challenge and how you resolved it: Hively has a problem many women would love to have: She looks younger than she is.

But that can present a challenge when she sits on boards with people more than twice her age. Hively described some of the reactions she gets as humbling.

The young entrepreneur said it’s important for her to dress and act the part of someone who’s run her own business for five years. And she relishes the times when she has surprised fellow committee members with her comments and ideas.

“It’s like, ‘Who’s this little girl?’ ” she said.

Even so, Hively seizes opportunities to learn from others with more experience.

What are your goals? “I just really want to build a self-sustaining business that can run without me and continue to grow and provide jobs here in Whitley County,” she said.

Hively has also enjoyed getting a taste of economic development activities. She might pursue more of them.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Hively loves the outdoors. Her family stays active with biking, kayaking, snowboarding, snow skiing and camping.

Like many other entrepreneurs, the Hivelys don’t take many days off.

sslater@jg.net

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