Arriving at a friend’s party in 2007, Dr. Virginia Githiri sat down to watch the Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears.
She brought popcorn for everybody to snack on as they eagerly watched the game, it was a hit. People started asking if they could order some, which got Githiri thinking she wanted to start a company.
Today, everyone can try Githiri’s popcorn. She owns and successfully runs a popcorn store in downtown Bloomington called Popkorn Kernels With A Twist.
In 2007, Githiri closed the popcorn shop after a year and a half in business. She officially restarted her company in 2016, but she is not new to owning businesses.
“I’ve owned storefront businesses since my early 20s,” Githiri said. “Throughout my life, I have had storefront businesses, I’ve done independent businesses, I’ve had breaks here and there.”
While Bloomington is a fairly liberal town, the U.S. Census reports that it is only about 4% Black. However, these demographics never got in the way of Githiri’s success.
“Oftentimes, people still are a bit mystified that Black women can own things that has their name on it,” Githiri said. “But I am bold about my identity and I’m not ashamed of it. I am very intentional to say ‘This is self-founded, single-owner, it’s not a franchise and some rich white man didn't give me this.’”
Being one of the few Black business owners in Bloomington has given Githiri a sort of visibility allowing her to help others.
“It’s rare to see African Americans, particularly in small white towns, to have businesses like this,” Githiri said. “I can show people it’s possible, and that Black people are movers and shakers and leaders just like everyone else, just like white people.”
While Githiri helps people daily with her businesses, she also helps students on campus. Githiri teaches students in the School of Public Health at IU.
How does she manage it? Githiri recommends teamwork, authenticity, honesty and communication.
“It’s important to be honest with the people you deal with,” Githiri said. “I think communication is critical to success and to the respect that you desire from others. I also have a great team.”
Githiri is a perfect example of accomplishing whatever you put your mind to, and you can always make a difference. Her last piece of advice follows, and it can help outside of work as well:
“Walk in your truth, be who you are, be authentic.”