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Creating My Granola Formula on a Bikini Competition Diet

 Erica Liu Williams
Erica Liu Williams

Thanks for checking out my Food Founder Story, a series of posts that documents my journey as a food entrepreneur and shares the challenges, surprises and learnings I've had since starting my granola business, gr8nola.


After committing to the idea of launching my granola business, the next thing I had to do was nail down my recipe. Making granola at home was very different than making it repeatedly for farmers markets. I had to go from making small, unmeasured batches to a precise formula that could be 1) replicable and 2) scalable. In other words, I had to go from making 2lbs of granola here and there to 20lbs, weekly—all while maintaining quality and consistency. 

Fortunately, I started as a Cottage Food Operator, which allowed me to produce and sell my granola out of my home kitchen. This made the “R&D" process so much more convenient and affordable than having to find a commercial kitchen.

But here's the kicker: I had to do all of this while on an extremely strict bikini competition diet, which required me to weigh and measure every single meal—six meals a day—that comprised of very specific foods...for 13 weeks!

During this competition prep, I was granted a once-a-week, 2-hour cheat window, during which I could eat foods outside of my “plan". Even though my granola was healthy, this was the only time I could actually taste test it throughout the entire 3-month timespan that it took me to launch gr8nola at my first farmers market. (I committed to the competition date WAY before I decided to start my business, and I don't back out of commitments). Talk about a challenge!

It’s hard to remember the specific timeframe, but it took me at least six weeks to finally nail down all my recipes and baking processes. However, this was definitely Tank’s (my husband, and boyfriend at the time) favorite part—being “Quality Assurance” for all the different granola flavors I would bake that I had to refrain from eating during the week. It meant more for him! :)

Side note: The bikini competition was a one-and-done, bucket list thing. It was definitely a positive learning experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone, but wasn't fitting for me long-term (much respect to these competitors, though—it takes CRAZY discipline and sacrifice). Today, I still work out avidly and eat clean (~80% of the time), but I don’t measure my foods. I'm not a licensed medical professional, but I don't recommend anyone committing to a physique competition while trying to launch a food business (lol).

Erica Liu Williams

Me on competition day, looking super small and orange.