CONS & KERNELS: Unfolding from prison with popcorn


Like a kernel to extreme heat,

Emily O’Brien is expanding.

The Hamilton, Ontario-based marketing and communications expert has always lived her life with zeal, pursuing her career with hard work and passion.

I met Emily a few years ago at a restaurant launch and was immediately drawn to her energy. What I didn’t know, is that she was moving through a life-changing experience. She was sentenced to four years in federal prison, after mixing with the wrong crowd and substances, attempting to import narcotics into Canada.

Ever watch popcorn being made at the movie theatre? How the kernels grow and emerge from the pot, piping hot? In Emily’s case, prison was the pot where she founded Cons and Kernels – a healthy popcorn company with an aim to provide reintegration opportunities for ex-offenders.

Dream interpretations of popcorn suggest that a project or task is underway, or indicative of new ideas, especially when sharing it with others. What started in the prison kitchen during a Superbowl party evolved into a commercial one, where Emily now prepares hundreds of bags daily. The flavours and spices are as diverse as Emily’s story, and the community she shares them with; corporate gigs, fundraisers, charities and local markets - Cons and Kernels is popping off.


What’s most profound is Emily’s healing and fresh perspective. While her transition hasn’t been easy, support is smooth like butter, keeping Emily grounded in the process. In this episode, Emily shares insight on life in prison, compassion on all fronts, perseverance through popcorn and bringing ex-cons into the Fold to eradicate stigma and inspire growth.  


Featured tracks:
Watch This - Swollen Members
Top of the World - Rascalz

Catch Emily at Doors Open Hamilton tomorrow (Saturday, May 4) and Sunday, May 5
10 am to 5 pm at
34 Hatt Street.

Web | Instagram | Emily O’Brien on Instagram

Learn more about Cons & Kernels on our Community page.