12-Year-Old Michigan Girl Youngest Exhibitor At Chicago's Sweets & Snacks Expo
CHICAGO (CBS) -- It all started with a trip to the bank and the offer of a lollipop.
"I came up with the idea for 'Zollipops' when I was 7-years old," said Alina Morse. "I was at the bank with my dad and the teller offered me a lollipop and my dad said I shouldn't have candy because it was bad for my teeth and I asked why can't there be candy that's good for us?"
That's when the young entrepreneur came up with a healthier version of her favorite treat. WBBM's Lisa Fielding reports.
"Well, my dad said I should do my research so I talked to my dentist. I found out that tooth decay is the single greatest epidemic facing kids today," she said. "I asked my dentist what was in his products and what could we use to make our lollipops."
'Zollipops' are sugar free, gluten free, vegan and kosher. They contain erythiritol, xylitol and stevia, all of which are sugar alternatives.
"Erythritol and xylitol are plant based. They both raise the pH in your mouth after a meal and neutralizes the acid so it strengthens you tooth enamel and takes away the bacteria that causes cavities and tooth decay," Morse said.
Alina Morse is the youngest exhibitor at this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo being held at McCormick place. She's one of 700 vendors who are showing off their products over 4 acres. She said being a kid-preneaur just came naturally.
"I've always had a business mindset because my dad is in business and my mom is in marketing. I guess it's in my blood," she laughed.
Alina's sister Lola came up with the name, and dad Tom Morse helps run the business.
"Smart business owners ask questions. She always asked me why we can't have healthier candy options," he said. "She probably asked me 100 times 'Dad, when are we going to make those lollipops?' before we actually made them. The key is; most great entrepreneurs are curious and they keep challenging themselves and others. We probably would've never made them if she wasn't persistent."
Ten percent of profits of 'Zollipops' goes toward supporting oral health education.
"This is a cause-based business. One of our missions is to help reduce childhood tooth decay. For every bag of 'Zollipops' that someone buys, about two-three go for free to kids across America to reduce that tooth decay problem," Tom Morse said.
Now Zolli candy is in Whole Foods, Kroger, Toys R Us, on Amazon and makes its debut in Dylan's Candy Bar in Chicago on Tuesday.
"We're releasing our new Zaffy Taffy at Dylan's Candy Bar and it's super exciting. It's crazy. I've been to Dyan's and it's awesome," Alina Morse said.
The sixth grader has already been featured on "The Steve Harvey Show", "Good Morning America' and will be on an upcoming episode of "Shark Tank." Zolli was the only candy partner for the 2015 & 2016 White House Easter Egg Rolls as part of former First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative. Alina is also launching her own YouTube channel Zollicandy.
Alina hopes that Zollipops will help to start changing minds and candy-eating patterns.
"Our mission for every kid in America to have a clean mouth, a healthy smile and have a 'Zollipop' in their hands," Alina Morse said.
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