Malachi Symonds in a banana plantation in Costa Rica (Photograph provided)
When Malachi Symonds launched Paddle Popped Popcorn in 2014, it included small comics in the bag to engage younger customers.
The technique worked. The kids loved the comic strip called The Story of Paddle Popped.
But the updates came too slowly, and something bothered Mr. Symonds about the practice.
“Putting the comics in the bag was wasteful,” he said. “Often the paper was just thrown away.”
He is passionate about the environment and studied agriculture and sustainability at Earth University in Limon, Costa Rica.
So he decided to change the process.
On January 1, he will launch an extended version of the Paddle Popped story on his social media platforms.
“I will post one page a week,” he said.
At first, the comics were drawn by local artist Cushi Ming. During the pandemic, Mr Symonds found someone overseas to draw them, hoping to get them out a little faster.
In the future, he wants to organize a competition to involve schoolchildren in drawing certain comics.
“Children are the creatives,” he said.
A page from Malachi Symonds’ comic strip (Photograph provided)
There are five chapters in total right now. The story follows a little boy who falls into the ocean and is stranded on an island. He is rescued by monks who live in a monastery.
The strip has an Asian aesthetic inspired by Mr. Symonds’ early childhood passion for kung fu movies.
But in the comic, the monks train its main character to be a popcorn master, rather than a kung fu warrior, as would be typical in old movies.
“They teach him different ways to pop corn,” Mr. Symonds said. “He has to go through all these hardships to become a master.”
He too must have become a popcorn master when he started the business in 2014 to help fund his college education. Like his main character, he had to go through trials and tribulations to get Paddle Popped Popcorn off the ground.
“There were no wise monks to show me the way,” he said. “I had to learn to do everything on my own.”
It was too easy to over-season or under-season the product.
“It definitely took a while to get the flavors to where I have them now,” he said.
Malachi Symonds with a print of one of his comic pages (Photograph provided)
But he eventually succeeded, so customers were soon coming back for more. Now one of its slogans is “the taste of more”.
It currently offers three flavors, Original, Sefu-Ami (yeast), and Rainbow Pop. He plans to roll out a few more next year, all saltier.
But even though he loves popcorn, he says the business is just to fuel his passion for the environment.
“I’m pushing to make Bermuda a bit more sustainable, which is the end goal,” he said.
He has a two-year-old daughter, Nariah, in Costa Rica, and wants to make the world a better place for her.
“Having a child really changes your perspective,” he said.
After graduating from Earth University in 2019, he returned to Bermuda for a few months, then traveled to Arizona in early 2020. There, the pandemic broke out and he found himself unable to return to Bermuda due to airport closure.
“So I thought I would go back to Costa Rica,” he said.
He spent the first six months of the pandemic there.
“I ended up staying a little longer than planned,” Mr Symonds admitted.
It was hard not being in Bermuda for Paddle Popped to continue.
“It pushed me to find a team,” he said. “I needed to get it to where it’s functional with or without me. That was my biggest problem. And then people weren’t buying as much popcorn because they weren’t buying as much.
Previously, his popcorn was available at places such as Mocha Cafe, Buzz and Brown & Co. During the pandemic, he was able to expand into the MarketPlace, which raised his profile during the difficult first months of the lockdown.
While in Costa Rica, Mr. Symonds sought out other business opportunities.
Given the shortage of bananas plaguing Bermuda at the time, he arranged for a container of bananas to be sent from Costa Rica to Bermuda. His suppliers assured him that they could deliver the cargo to Bermuda without pests, without problems. But when the container arrived in Bermuda, it was full of bugs and had to be destroyed.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “Maybe the container was already dirty. Maybe there were bugs on the bags. Everything is a learning curve.
It was disappointing, but he learned to see everything in the most positive way possible.
It was Earth University that inspired his interest in sustainability. The school has a strong focus on the environment and ecology.
One of his assignments for an economics class was to assess the sustainability of Bermuda.
“They were saying the way you classify a first world country and a third world country is how many people are involved in agriculture,” he said. “In a third world country, 70% of people would be involved in agriculture. In a developing country, you would have 50%. The others are in the production market, taking a fruit and processing it into juice or canning. »
Bermuda does not fare well under his scrutiny.
“Yes, Bermuda is a first world country because we have less than 5% of our population in agriculture,” he said. “We mainly focus on services. We don’t have real production lines. Because we are so advanced, there are huge gaps in our industries at ground level and because of that, we are not moving forward as a country. Most people would agree when I said Bermuda was backsliding.
He sees many friends leaving the island to buy houses abroad.
“They say, I’m going to live somewhere else, because the cost of living is too high,” Mr Symonds said. “It’s a sad reality. I want to make Bermuda a place where people want to stay.
He thinks Bermuda could push for greater sustainability.
“We already capture water from our roofs,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people around the world want to do, but can’t do it.”
Next year, he plans to launch a new company called Sunnyside Sustainability.
“It’s all built around how to make Bermuda more sustainable,” Mr Symonds said. “He pushes agriculture. It pushes sustainable practices on the island.
One of the products he hopes to bring is a machine that helps people turn kitchen waste into methane to use as cooking gas.
“It works on bacteria,” he said.
For more information on Paddle Popped Bermuda and his The Story of Paddle Popped comic, check out their Facebook and Instagram pages under @PaddlePopped.
Malachi Symonds, front right, cultivating with classmates at Earth University in Limon, Costa Rica (Photograph provided)