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Secrets of Success: Rob and Renee Israel

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Rob and Renee Israel, husband and wife founders of Doc Popcorn, an international franchise specializing in fresh-popped, kettle-cooked popcorn. Using 100 percent corn oil, proprietary flavor blends and other high-quality ingredients, Doc Popcorn creates delicious popcorn flavors that are gluten-free, wheat-free and nut-free.

Ready for a lifestyle change, Rob and Renee decided to move from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, to open their first Doc Popcorn location at a local shopping mall. Drawing on Renee’s background working for top marketing agencies and Fortune 500 companies and Rob’s entrepreneurial expertise, they launched Doc Popcorn in 2003 and began franchising in 2009. Today, Doc Popcorn is the world’s largest franchisor of fresh-popped popcorn with over 100 locations in the United States and abroad. The Israels also recently partnered with Dippin’ Dots, maker and franchisor of iconic flash frozen ice cream and other frozen treats, and are now beginning to franchise co-branded locations nationwide.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Rob Israel: Growing up I wanted to be a doctor. As it turns out, I ended up a “Doc” of popcorn.

Renee Israel: What didn’t I want to be when I grew up? The first thing that comes to mind: I was really into learning French from an early age, and I thought I would be a translator for the UN.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Rob: I saw a real need to create a better conscious food company at a time when it was not so fashionable to do so.

Renee: I was consulting for a variety of startup companies on my own when I met my serial entrepreneur husband. I loved the idea of taking one of the world’s most popular snacks and finding a way to make it even better, and better-for-you. Branding a commodity product to stand out was also very exciting to me.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Rob: Although I consider many moments to have been pivotal on our way to success, I’d consider the biggest one to be turning our business model into a franchise.

Renee: Our most pivotal moment was definitely when we made the decision to franchise the business.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Rob: Know what you love and are great at—then go do it! In addition, surround yourself with others who are great and love the things you don’t.

Renee: You can’t wait for perfection. Sometimes “good enough” has to keep the ball moving forward.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Rob: Be confident in your vision and knowing you can see what others cannot. In doing so, be focused, clear, realistic...and excited every time you hear the word “no.”

Renee: Being an entrepreneur can get lonely, but having a peer group with like-minded, driven people who are as passionate about what they are doing as you are can make it less so.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Rob: Great entrepreneurs will keep making great businesses and keep making our world more awesome and “good-er.” We will see more social enterprises in small business trying to make the planet a better place.

Renee: I had the privilege of hearing [SBA Administrator] Maria Contreras-Sweet speak at the International Franchise Association convention this year, where she stated that two-thirds of job growth is coming from small businesses. I believe small business will continue to be the cornerstone of job creation for our economy.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Rob: I have many favorites, but I recently read The Boys in the Boat, a nonfiction book about nine Americans’ epic quest for gold in 1936, and really loved it. My favorite of all time, however, is probably the Encyclopedia Brown series—but you need to read it when you’re about 9 years old.

Renee: It’s hard to pick just one, but for business I’d have to say Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. And my favorite novel would be Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Fun fact: I read that one in French!

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Rob: “Give what you seek—get what you wish.”—I think I wrote that.

Renee: My own mantra: Be a present, positive and inspiring energy to myself and others.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.