Like many of you, I’m super passionate about health & fitness, and I love eating delicious food. However, we all know it’s a hard act to balance both: eating for your taste buds and eating for your health. However, I strongly believe we should have access to snacks we love both because of the way they taste and what’s in (or not) inside of them. When I couldn’t find clean and great tasting granolas in stores, I was inspired to create my own recipe, and gr8nola (“great”nola) was born!
Every year after Super Bowl, Tank (my husband, and yes, he’s a Tank :) and I do a cleanse, where we eliminate all the bad stuff from our diet. It’s not paleo but kind of paleo “plus” where we eat paleo plus non-gluten carbs like quinoa, rice and of course, oats! After doing the cleanse year after year, we started getting tired of resorting only to fruit to satisfy our sweet tooth and wanted something more “carby". But snacks we typically craved were not cleanse-friendly since they usually had added sugars, flour or unhealthy fats.
One evening, I was watching Alton Brown make granola on Food Network and it inspired me to make my own, since I couldn’t find any "clean" granolas in stores. Instead of using GMO vegetable oils and adding brown/refined sugar, I used healthier ingredients like organic coconut oil and stevia. Bam! I made a cleanse-friendly granola, and not only that; it was the BOMB and instantly became our favorite snack.
Disclaimer: Tank is from Mississippi and granola is not popular in the South. He never ate granola before this, yet he became hooked on gr8nola! So much that when our cleanse finished, he would still ask me to make it, even when we could eat whatever we wanted.
I started to wonder if others would like gr8nola as much as we did. I figured: "You can’t find clean granolas that also taste great in stores, and I’m sure there are other people like us who would like it, right?" In true “lean startup” fashion, I decided to "test” this hypothesis and gave myself three months to launch my product at a local farmers market. (Mind you, at the time, I was also training for my first—and last—physique/bikini competition, so when I was trying to perfect my formula, I could only taste-test it during a once-a-week 2-hour cheat window. Talk about a challenge!)
Exactly three months later, I launched gr8nola in at a local farmers’ market. I sold 30+ bags at my debut — people really loved it! My customers kept coming back week after week, a great sign of product market fit. However, I had no strategy to grow, business plan, nor any knowledge of the food industry, and it was just a “cute” hobby at the time.
Fortunately, an old friend who worked at Google reached out when she saw I launched my gr8nola Facebook page and introduced me their food team. I sent Google a sample and they liked it so much that they invited me to their annual Micro Kitchen fair, an event where Googlers sample various products and vote for what they want in their kitchens.
It was such an honor to simply be considered for the fair; let alone to be included in the same line up with brands I admire such as Zico, GT's Synergy Kombucha, Krave Jerky, Dang Foods, and more. But that’s when the first challenge presented itself: I had to go from home-baking 20lbs of granola for the market to making 200lbs to supply enough granola for the thousands of Googlers attending the fair! So I quickly found a local commercial kitchen and hand-baked this granola with my mom.
Want a good workout? Try hand-mixing and baking 200lbs of granola! It took my mom and I over 5 hours of non-stop hand mixing, baking, cleaning and washing.
Anyway, I was ready for the fair! I showed up and it was intense: My BFF and I were busy passing out samples while Tank was laboring in the back of the booth filling up hundreds of the tiniest sample cups to minimize the inevitable hoarding. The event was overwhelming and a bit stressful. But guess what? I won the granola category and was to officially become a Google supplier in 2014!
When I received my first purchase order it was for 1400lbs, and I didn’t know whether to celebrate or panic! How am I going to produce over a ton of granola?! It was hard enough producing 200lbs for the fair AND I had a full time job!
Learning Lesson: When you have an opportunity that you have to make work, you WILL find a way, *if* you want it bad enough.
Long story short, I made it work. Today, I produce tons (literally) of gr8nola every month using the same handmade process that started in my home kitchen and still supply Google along with other tech companies in the Bay Area. While this might sound like a lot, I'm still a really tiny company (it's just me!), with huge aspirations to share gr8nola with the rest of the world!
This might have been the longest story ever, and if you read all the way down to this sentence, I’m really impressed and thanks for reading & visiting my site!
Tank & I...I guess you could say I can lift a tank? :) Photo by Sasha Photography
Here I am at my very first farmers market in June 2013!