Amelia Cooper by Mikayla Whitmore

Amelia Cooper Grabs Business by the Balls

How one entrepreneur went from beauty to popcorn without missing a beat

Amelia Cooper is nothing special, she swears. In fact, the only thing that she says sets her apart from anyone else is audacity.

But, despite being modest when describing herself, she is actually more special than she lets on. Maybe it’s the audacity that drives it home, or maybe it’s her drive itself, or her passion, or wicked sense of humor, or her business acumen. Regardless, this Las Vegan is a whirlwind of brains, culinary goddess-ness and compassion.

She also happens to be one of the busiest women in town, balancing a company that just expanded (Amelia C & Co, which represents the upper echelon of hair-and-makeup artists in Las Vegas and Chicago) with being a dog foster mom (along with her husband, Rob) for Forget Me Not Animal Sanctuary of Las Vegas, serving on the board for the Wedding International Professional Association and being a member of the Junior League. She is also the founder of Las Vegas’ ballsiest business, The Curious Confectionery, where she creates some seriously hip artisan popcorn balls using unusual ingredients that also happen to be vegan.

The entrepreneur never really intended to dip her toes into so many different pools. It just all sort of happened.

“There’s no Hallmark story here,” Cooper says. “I was always good at hair, so when I moved back to Vegas after dumping my boyfriend, I answered an ad on a whim for a wedding hairstylist.”

Things progressed quickly and six years later, Cooper was off on her own, creating Amelia C & Co  and diving headfirst into the world of small businesses ownership.

In 2008, on a layover in Miami following her honeymoon, she stumbled upon The Omnivore’s Dilemma in Hudson News, which began her journey into veganism. 

“It was my first step toward a plant-based life because it was the first [thing] I ever consumed that made me think past convenience or caloric content,” she says. In 2013, when she made the transition, it was seamless. “I didn’t even realize I had been vegan for a whole week. Here I was, chomping my way painfully through potato chips and pasta before I realized I had a big green ‘V’ slapped over my life.”

That figurative “V” ultimately led her to launch v.curiositythink Rachael Ray Every Day magazine but for vegans—and later, The Curious Confectionery.

Vegas Seven: How did you go from a beauty business to a vegan business?

Amelia Cooper: Like every millennial, I’ve been exposed to enough hashtags to live in a perpetual state of inspiration. I’m fortunate enough to have a dynamic, incredible team at Amelia C & Co, and their talents provide me the luxury of making room in my life to try other things on for size. As an avid reader of Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Food Network magazine before I went vegan, I was really disappointed that no similar content seemed to be available to vegans. Yes, I’m happy there are activism and health articles and new soy products, but what I really wanted was wine and seitan recipe pairings and a full-page spread on designing a tablescape featuring this year’s Pantone color. In 2015, I set out on a journey to create a magazine like that, blissfully unaware of what it would require and how ill-equipped I was to provide it. After muscling my way through my first year with the magazine, I was working on our fall edition featuring old-time Halloween treats. I loved, loved, loved popcorn balls growing up, and the sad, high-fructose-laden ones sold at the drugstore just didn’t cut it. As most wonderful things that happen in my life tend to, it grew organically from there. My longtime friend Brittney over at Mad Batter Cafe reached out, wanting to include some vegan options into her menu. I pitched her the idea of artisan popcorn balls, and about six months later we beta-launched The Curious Confectionery.

Amelia Cooper poses for a photo inside her home in Las Vegas, Nev. on December 13, 2017.

How do you balance your time between the fine art of popcorn ball creations and the fine art of beauty?

When I first started out as a small business owner, I had the benefit of being completely ignorant about what I was doing. I learned how to run a business from books, blogs, forums and Meetups. I didn’t have any bad habits to unlearn, so that meant from the start I was able to be critical and ruthless on how to spend my time. I prioritize my life entirely based on impact, a handy trick I picked up from my guru, Tim Ferriss. I’m no saint and I certainly fall behind, blunder and make a spectacular mess of things. However, by prioritizing what’s important above all else and being able to know what’s important based on the impact that task will have, I can get through running two businesses, being a member of a volunteer organization and sitting on a professional association board of directors while fostering dogs and being a wife and friend. I also firmly believe it’s better to be busy than bored and broke, so there’s that.

Your advertising campaign for The Curious Confectionery taps into an old-fashioned vibe with a little steampunk hip thrown in. What’s that all about?

There’s something very grand about the turn of the century. Food was made differently then, and popcorn balls make me think of Americana fairgrounds and apple pie and straw hats. Building a brand with a steampunk flair to it helps us communicate that old-time feel without going full prize-winning fairground pig. More importantly, we’ve taken a treat with some history to it and mashed it up with unexpected additions like hemp hearts and smoked salt and banana chips. I’d say we’ve updated a classic, but we aren’t rebuilding furniture here, just making a damn fine popcorn ball! 

Amelia Cooper and one of her cats Cleo by Mikayla Whitmore

What’s your favorite popcorn ball you’ve whipped up?

My absolute, hands-down favorite is our maple pecan. I tend to like richer flavors that aren’t too sweet, and the maple caramel with pecan pieces really does it for me. That said, if you asked anyone who has ever tried our popcorn balls, you’d absolutely get Hummingbird and Happy Hipster as crowd favorites. Hummingbird is a riff on the sassy Southern cake, a spice-spiked caramel tossed with candied pineapple, toasted coconut, pecans and banana chips, before being balled up with popcorn. That tangy sweetness of the unexpected pineapple bits gets you every time. The Happy Hipster psychs you out into thinking you’re being healthy, complete with hemp hearts, flaxseed, pink Himalayan salt and sunflower seeds all coated with a rich maple caramel.

What are your plans for the future?

Amelia C & Co just expanded to Chicago and we’ve got a powerhouse new team out there that we are lavishing love and time on. Working through the startup phase of The Curious Confectionery is also a full-time job, all while making sure we maintain our current fabulous artists here in Amelia C & Co Las Vegas. The near future includes keeping our heads down, our noses clean and doing whatever it takes. And a large brandy. We have absolutely no plans to get into cookies, selling makeup, YouTube makeup videos or eating animals.