Emily O'Brien is a woman on a mission, and the delicious popcorn recipes she dreams up as owner of Cons & Kernels are just a small part of that mission. When Emily was arrested on a drug-trafficking charge after becoming involved in an unhealthy and predatory relationship, her life took a huge turn. Imprisoned as a first-time offender in a federal facility, she knew that she could choose to make the best of the situation, and so she set out to turn her life around. Having always been interested in health and fitness, Emily was nervous about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet in prison. She soon noticed that women would use the ingredients available to purchase with their allotted food budgets to create popcorn recipes, and an idea was born. When she was released, she would start a popcorn company. Not only would she create delicious, healthy recipes inspired by her time behind bars, but she would also use her business as a platform to educate others about her experience, and about how easily life can take a wrong turn.
Well aware of the stigma that having a criminal record brings, Emily decided that rather than moving forward by trying to forget the past, she would embrace her experience and use her energy to fight stereotypes. With flavours like Jailhouse Cheese, and a fingerprint sticker sealing every bag, Emily isn't afraid to poke fun at herself, and this lighthearted, humorous approach pushes back against the stigma attached to being an ex-con. Her goal as she grows the company is to provide reintegration opportunities for others who've been through the system, and to spark meaningful conversations about the justice system and life after imprisonment. You can read more about Emily's experiences as an inmate and an entrepreneur on her blog, and you can pick up a bag of her so-good-it's-criminal popcorn at Business Out of the Box (414 Barton Street E), Stir it Up Cafe (312 Barton Street E), The Hop Urban Market (24 King Street W, Dundas), or order online. We're so excited to see Cons & Kernels thriving, and we can't wait to see what Emily does next!
I'm Avril, and I'm the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for the Barton Village BIA. On the Barton Villager blog, you'll find news and updates on Barton Village events, businesses, history, and community initiatives.