Nicole Johnson remembers “the time is now” moment of reflection that led her to apply for the Houston Baptist University (HBU) Master of Science in Management and Entrepreneurship (MSME) program through HBU’s Pampell Online Division. An educator, entrepreneur, wife and mother, Johnson was looking for a program with a business focus that would accommodate her family, work and business commitments, and HBU’s online master’s program fulfilled her needs.
“I selected HBU because I wanted a different experience from my prior educational background,” said Johnson. “I previously attended a private career-focused institution where I gained my bachelor’s degree and wanted to experience a business focus that would aid in the success of my entrepreneurial endeavors,” she shared.
Johnson began the online master’s degree program in the Fall of 2021 and describes HBU as the ideal environment to gain the tools and real-world knowledge to enhance her business, Poppin’ Party Concessions, LLC.
The business began as a project in an entrepreneurship capstone course required for graduation from a former educational institution that Johnson attended.
“I created the project with no intention of furthering it, until my professor, at that time, believed it could be a lucrative venture and suggested I move forward with it. I took heed and began pop-up tent-selling at fairs, carnivals, and farmer’s markets. The tent became a hassle, so my husband and I purchased a trailer that we converted into a concessions mobile food unit, and here we are, Poppin’ Party Concessions,” said Johnson.
The business caters to the nostalgia and bliss of some of childhood’s favorite snacks including cotton candy, funnel cakes, popcorn, shaved ice, nachos, hot dogs, and fountain drinks that speak to everyone’s inner child.
“Close your eyes and picture a giant neon trailer parked in your neighborhood with fun tunes, waving banners, and life-size snacks for selfies and the perfect photo opt before you pick up your food – this is the vision,” said Johnson.
HBU Professor Dr. Christine Galib describes Johnson as one of the online master’s program’s top students. “Nicole is a very thorough and communicative student. Her ability to give constructive and detailed feedback on her peers’ work speaks volumes about her critical and curious mind. Her business, Poppin’ Party Concessions and Rentals is such a great idea based on a need. It has been an absolute joy to work with and learn from Nicole throughout our classes,” said Dr. Galib.
Johnson is enjoying the success of her growing business but also is focused on a higher calling – providing employment opportunities to young people with special needs inspired by her 5-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with a rare condition at birth.
“I was watching a TV show episode that interviewed a young gentleman with special needs who had found it challenging to find work, due to his disability. In that moment, I knew I wanted to cater a portion of my hiring process to helping special needs youth and young adults alike,” shared Johnson.
The enterprising business owner began researching labor laws for young adults to learn how her business could be the change that young people with disabilities needed.
“Allowing youth to learn work ethics and life skills has been the pinnacle of how PPCR enjoys impacting the community,” said Johnson.
Her encouragement to prospective students thinking of applying for HBU’s MSME online degree program is to “do it.” “You will gain so much knowledge from the tools you will learn that you can apply to your endeavors or other businesses if you desire to be an asset to those around you,” said Johnson.
Johnson will complete her master’s degree in the fall 2022 semester. Her plans for the future are to secure a brick-and-mortar location that will allow her to expand her business to offer in-house concessions rentals, product demos and space for events and parties. She also envisions launching a second venture, “Happy Farms,” a farm to educate and empower individuals with special needs.
Her ultimate goal in all of her endeavors is found in Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”