Popcorn is probably one of America’s favorite snacks, and brothers Rudi and Aaron Sinykin have harnessed the popularity of this treat as a way to give back to their community.
For years, the Sinykin brothers worked in corporate America; Aaron was with Intel, and Rudi was with Rubbermaid. Their first foray into entrepreneurship came when they joined forces to operate some Subway franchises for several years. Still not feeling fulfilled, they left the franchise business to do something more meaningful.
“We couldn’t do this working in a franchise situation, where the bulk of our proceeds went back to corporate Subway,” Rudi said. “We knew if we were the owners and operators of our concept, then we could use the funds in our local community.”
In 2013, Kettle Heroes was born, and the name itself is synonymous with its mission.
“Kettle represents any popcorn that’s made in a kettle,” Rudi said, “and heroes remind us to act selflessly while holding ourselves to a higher standard.”
The brothers first started their popcorn enterprise as a food truck company. They were operating their truck at the Gilbert Farmers Market when Basha family members tasted their popcorn – and loved it. They were immediately interested in purchasing it to sell in their grocery stores.
“This was one of those fairytale moments where you get discovered by someone who can take your business to the next level,” Rudi said.
This opportunity propelled them into transforming their food truck venture, which they’d been doing for about two years, into a wholesale packaging operation. Today, Kettle Heroes can be bought in Sprouts, Whole Foods, AJ’s, and as of this year, Fry’s.
While the brothers live off their business, they give back to the community with every bag they sell.
In October, they raised funds for breast cancer awareness, and during November, they focused on Veterans Day. While they endeavor to help every organization that reaches out to them, they primarily support the Pat Tillman Foundation. All their bags of popcorn display the foundation’s logo.
As for the food truck, one of their employees, who’s been with the brothers from the beginning, runs the truck as a separate entity. The truck still frequents the Gilbert Farmers Market, Cardinals games and other events like school fundraisers.
“You get to a point in your life where you ask those big questions about why you’re here and what does it all mean,” Rudi said. “My brother and I feel it’s important to our core identity to give back with everything we’re doing. That’s why we’re excited to be here for people during these tough times. If you want to give a gift to tell someone they’re the hero in your life, we offer customized special labels on all our products.”