Alina Morse just turned 15, and her quarantined birthday was exciting but bittersweet. While the high school freshman is home from school and away from her friends, the candy company she founded has seen business boom during the pandemic.
“I feel like I'm growing up really fast,” Morse, who lives in Wolverine Lake, Michigan, told InsideEdition.com.
The teen entrepreneur had just gotten her braces off and was in the middle of her freshman year when her state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order went into effect.
But she’s continued to run her sweets empire, Zolli Candy, from home. And demand for the sugar-free, low-calorie sweets, which are marketed as actually being good for your teeth, is growing.
- See what Alina's life at home is like during quarantine in the video above.
Zolli was named one of the fastest-growing private companies in 2019, and banked $3.7 million in sales in 2019. And it recently hit another milestone: in the weeks leading up to Easter, the company said it had its biggest sales week on Amazon ever—with sales up more than 250 percent from this time last year.
“Given the pandemic, there has been a behavioral shift,” Klint Briney, a spokesperson for Zolli Candy, told InsideEdition.com. “Consumers couldn’t get their Easter products this year. Seasonal items are typically an impulse buy, so they shifted those purchase patterns to e-commerce. People are more focused on their health and more sensitive to what they are eating.”
Zolli Candy is sold in about 25,000 major retailers across the country, including Walmart and Walgreens, and the company's first product, the Zollipop, is the seventh best-selling lollipop on Amazon. They taste like normal sweets but are sugar-free since they’re made with low-calorie substitutes like xylitol and erythritol.
As a food company, Zolli is considered an essential business, and so operations in its warehouse have continued during the pandemic. However, Morse has been working from home to keep herself safe and healthy.
She doesn’t mind the shift, either. It’s a nice change of pace from all the traveling and trade shows she usually attends across the country, she said. And instead of working in an office, Morse has been taking business calls from her bedroom.
- Check out what her average day is like in the video at the top of the page.
Without having to go to school everyday, the 15-year-old CEO has been more consumer-facing and business-focused than usual. “I've gotten to not only emerge myself in other parts of the business that I wouldn't normally be in every day, but I've also been able to start other parts of the business, she said.”
She also keeps busy by journaling, tackling her two hours of homework a day, skateboarding and taking remote dance classes. She’s also been sampling her new products, including Zolli Caramelz, which just hit CVS stores recently.
“We have been working on these for a long time, and to finally be able to tell people about them is crazy to me, because I'm so used to keeping them a secret,” she said. Another new product, BallPopz, will roll out with several flavors in June.
Staying at home clearly has meant staying busy, but Morse did take time to ring in her 15th birthday with a homemade cake and a party with her friends on Zoom. Her younger sister, Lola, also gifted her blue light glasses “so when you do your online school, you can wear them and stuff,” Lola explained.
And with new products and another year under her belt, Morse has a lot to look forward to—except, apparently, turning 16.
“I don't like driving,” she laughed.