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Teen entrepreneur finds a sweet opportunity 

Candy addicts, moms and dentists know the cavity-inducing downside of sugary snacks. In Michigan, one entrepreneur has concocted a sweet solution. Thirteen-year-old Alina Morse is the creator and founder of Zolli Candy, a company that makes teeth-cleaning candy. If that sounds crazy, get ready for another zinger. She founded the company when she was only 9 years old.

Alina came up with the idea for her original tooth-friendly lollipop when she was 7. A sugar enthusiast herself, she wanted to find a solution to every child’s biggest problem: being told “no” to snacks. When she also realized that tooth decay is a big – but preventable – problem for children, she identified a market need and a gaping opportunity. Then, she got to work.

First, Alina conducted her research. She interviewed her dentist about ideas to make a lollipop healthy. She watched videos on YouTube, and when she was ready, attempted her first prototype in her mom’s kitchen. That day, Zollipops were born. Success, however, didn’t come on her first try. In an interview on Yahoo.com, Alina says, “I kept experimenting with flavors and ingredients and sharing with friends for input. We are always working on new items and flavors to be the best.” 

Today, Alina’s healthy and tooth-friendly Zollipops are sold at grocery stores like Walmart and Kroger and are the number one selling lollipop on Amazon. Yet, Alina says her proudest accomplishment is her efforts with One Million Smiles, an initiative that promotes oral health education – and helps more children maintain their sweet smiles.

The Youth Entrepreneurs curriculum is based on a set of eight Foundational Values, core principles we believe are essential to lifelong fulfillment and success. The Foundational Values we teach are consistently carried out in everyday interactions, and this story presents an excellent opportunity for students to see them in use in a real-world scenario. 

Educators: Leverage this story and follow-up questions for classroom discussion.
Students and alumni: After you’ve read the story, reflect on these questions. 

Questions for Discussion


  • YE works to equip students with an opportunity-focused mindset. What opportunity did Alina seize? What might have prevented her from starting her business?
  • Where most people saw a problem with sugary snacks, Alina saw a possibility. How can you apply that mindset in your own life?
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  • When Alina came up with her business idea, how did it intersect with her own interests?
  • Alina is passionate about her business, but what challenges does she likely face as a middle school student with a million-dollar business? What Foundational Values should she engage in everyday life? 

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Win-Win Focus
  • How does Alina’s business idea benefit herself as well as others?
  • How is she continuing to align her business with a win-win mentality? 

Find more resources on Win-Win Focus