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How this granola brand got stocked in the pantries of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies like Google and Twitter, with Gr8nola Founder Erica Williams

by Female Startup Club
February 13th 2021
00:44:02
Description

Joining me on today’s episode is Erica Liu Williams, Founder of Gr8nola. 

Gr8nola is delicious, low-sugar granola made with unique & functional superfoods. Born in Erica’s kitchen during ... More

doing here, we're in month two of being part of the hubspot podcast network and I wanted to take a second to shout out another incredible women lead podcast, Being boss with Emily Thompson if you're a creative business owner or thinking about becoming one. Being boss is an exploration of not only what it means, but what it takes to be a creative business owner, freelancer or side hustler, I loved Emily's episode on taking time off as a business owner, it's definitely a really challenging part of running your own business and I recommend giving it a listen, check out being boss wherever you get your podcasts. This is Erica Lou Williams for female startup club Yeah, mm Hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of the female startup club podcast. I'm your host, Don rasheen and joining me on today's episode is Erica Lou Williams, founder of Great Nicola Great Lola is delicious, low sugar granola made with unique and functional Superfoods.

Born in Erika's kitchen during a cleanse tested and proven at the farmer's markets and voted into the pantries of Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies like google twitter and more. Their mission is to create superfood snacks that are as delicious as they are great for you so you can eat feel and be your best every day. In this episode, we cover how the idea came about to start a brand centered around granola, the power of network, how she went about finding customers and her biggest drivers for growth, This is Erica for female startup Club Mhm it's safe to say that most of us have been doing more online shopping lately. Right? And if you're an e commerce brand, that means you might be seeing more first time customers. But once they've made that first purchase, how do you keep them coming back? How do you keep them connected to you and your brand?

That's what Clay Vo is for. Clay vo is the ultimate marketing platform for e commerce brands. Clay Vo gives you the tools to build your contact list, send memorable emails, automate key messages and so much more. That's why it's trusted by more than 40,000 brands, including female founded businesses like Pearl Mix hint and Campari Beauty. Get in on the action to delight customers, grow brand affinity and make some serious money. Clay Vo customers made $10.2 billion dollars through the platform last year. So whether you're launching a new online business or taking your brand to the next level clay vo can help you get growing faster and I can confirm the platform is super easy to use and has all the hard stuff done for you, like templates, automated sequences and general email related resources to learn how to win at email marketing. Plus it's free to get started. Just visit Clay vo dot com slash F. S. C. To create your free account today.

That's K. L. A V. I. Y. O dot com slash F. S. C. Female startup presence. Mhm. Erica Hi hello and welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thanks for having me. It's an honor. I'm very excited to chat to you today and learn about granola. So I'd love to get you to start by introducing yourself and what your business actually is. Sure. So I'm Erica Lou Williams, I'm the founder of Great Lola, which is delicious, low sugar superfood granola. So when we talk about superfoods, I have some of course wholesome ingredients like whole grain oats, almonds, typical granola flavors, but I have some really unique and functional flavors that has never been seen before in granola, like Mata, tumeric, I even have a black granola infused with activated charcoal. So very clean ingredients low in sugar v all the great stuff but most importantly super delicious. Yeah. Um it sounds super delicious.

Gosh, crazy. Love the matchup one. That sounds really cool. I always love to go back before you actually started your business to find out what you're up to in life and what was getting you interested in starting a business in the first place. Sure. So I graduated Stanford in 2004 and being in the bay area in the heart of Silicon Valley. I naturally started a career in tech. So this is when the Facebooks, the googles, all of those are rising. So It was maybe four or five years into my tech career. I did various roles in product management, marketing, sales, got to experience a lot of startup culture And I think this is what incited my desire and curiosity into entrepreneurship and I saw the impact that I could have at a small company and how much that drove me and wanting to just build and be part of something super exciting that I could have immediate impact on. And then I also started to see classmates of mine, given that I was 4-5 years out of college, pursue their own businesses, small, big different industries.

And this opened up my eyes into thinking about my past less linearly. So, I think when I graduated college and I started my tech career, I always thought, okay, maybe I just climbed the corporate ladder, jump from job to job, get a pay, get a title that would make me feel satisfied with my past. And it was maybe four or five years into this? That I started to question that and see that, you know, maybe there's other ways where if you create a business, which is all about value generation, what if I can kind of create something that brings value to my customers and can ultimately bring freedom and flexibility to myself. So that's what incited the desire to even think about being a business owner. But when I started, I really didn't have any ideas, like when I started thinking about viewing myself as an entrepreneur. So it took a while to actually land on a product, but that's kind of where the first it came from. And so what did you do to start testing out different ideas or even finding that framework for what you're interested in? So, again, I think I was always thinking within a box, you know, I think this is sometimes a struggle of mine where okay, I started to see a little bit more outward where I'm envisioning myself as hey, I could start something of my own.

And given the fact that my whole career background was in tech, I naturally started thinking what's the problem I could solve through software, the internet or an app. And it wasn't necessarily that I was super passionate about tech, It was just all I knew. And so I started an ever notebook of ideas and problems and I was maybe filling this up with things that just didn't motivate me or They didn't really get me that excited and I had this notebook for like six months and it wasn't until I was just had some white space away from work, it was during the holidays, so things were slow that I had this epiphany moment of wait a minute. I have this amazing granola, it's super tasty, super clean. I make it literally because I can't find granola and stores that meet these dietary requirements. But then it's literally on demand in my household because people, my husband loved it so much, what if this could be my idea. So the granola actually was something I was already making for over a year, just out of a lifestyle and a dietary need and just because it was delicious and it took struggling and not having good clarity around what I wanted to do and me being able to step away from my work and my career to have a moment where I was like, what if my idea can be food and not check?

And that's when I got that idea and that's like what I went with. I love that opposite ends of the, of the spectrum entirely. So you've been making this in your kitchen, you've been making it for you and your husband as like a snack or breakfast and you've been experimenting with different flavors. What did you then have to do to actually think I'm validated with this idea and I'm actually going to move forward. Yeah. So I actually didn't feel like it was validated yet. All I knew is that I think I have good taste buds and my husband has good taste buds have to go see if other people agree. And so my first step was, okay, what is the quickest way to get feedback? And so I, This was back in 2013. So again, this was before direct consumer and being able to go out and acquire customers online was as easy. So I immediately landed on, let me go to my local farmer's market and just test it. So I went in with a kind of a tech mentality, you know, you call it the lean startup approach right? And I literally just wanted to get access to a community of people who could give me rapid feedback and I felt a farmer's market was a perfect starting ground because you literally can get feedback in person right away.

So I looked into the parameters and the requirements to getting into the farmer's market. It took about three months from that initial, hey, I want to test this out of farmers market to actually selling at the farmers market. And from that first market, I was able to get really visceral, real time feedback immediately that people loved it. And then by the second week I had people coming back repeat purchasing. So it was easy to get that feedback to know that hey, this is really delicious. People will put their dollars to it and more importantly they will come back and repeat purchase. That wasn't the hard part because again, I approached it very lonely where all I wanted to do is validate if it was good. I think getting to the next stage of actually getting some larger winds or finding a channel, getting the confidence to go full time on the business that has been, I would say the meat and like the biggest part of the journey so far right. And I guess as well because you know, you've just made like a certain amount of stock for the market and you're going there on the weekends and that kind of thing.

But you know, it's not scalable, it's not necessarily the business model that you're after. You know, whether it was going down that wholesale retail route or whether it's going DTC director consumer, so great. Like testing. But then what happens, how do you take it to that next level and you know, scale it. Sure. And I wish I could say that, oh, I had this plan, an idea in this strategy from the get go. Honestly had no idea what I was doing, literally, I was first time entrepreneur, maybe four or five years into my tech career, launching a business in an industry that I had no knowledge of not a single connection in. And so basically the farmer's market, I was able to quickly validate, hey, this is really good, people will buy it, people will come back, but I didn't know what to do from there. I think at that moment, if you would have asked, hey, where do you see granola being? I would have said, I don't know, maybe in the shelves of whole foods or just like a grocery store, you know, and I think that's how a lot of brands start brands in the CPG industry or food and beverage, a lot of brands will go into grocery right away.

I think as a consumer that's typically where you think of how you discover products. I ended up getting my first big break, very serendipitously, I didn't go seek this out. So basically when I launched the business, I shared it with my network on facebook and then one of my friends who worked at google headquarters in mountain view California, she saw that I launched the business and she was like, oh my God, amazing, this is so cool, Let me connect you to the food team at google. And so for those of you who aren't aware google, like all these tech giants now in tech startups, they offer unlimited free drinks and beverages to their employees to incentivize to you know, stay on site work and obviously to just have the best benefits and recruit great talent and so Google pioneered this, they're the ones who kind of like set that precedent and culture within the tech industry. So I had the opportunity through old connection to share my product with google's food team and they gave me the opportunity to have my products sampled by googlers and then basically get voted into their kitchen.

And so I literally went from okay here I am home baking on the side of my full time job at night, you know, £20 of granola a week for the farmers market two after like this kind of voting kind of opportunity, this competition that I did. I got my first purchase order from Google and their first order was for £1500. So that was really exciting, but I was completely in over my head, I didn't know how I was going to even produce this because I was literally making at home and eventually I had to quickly figure out a way to outsource manufacturing, you know, understand how, you know what, even the package and the pricing was going to be, how it was going to source these ingredients versus me going to the store and buying raw goods on my own at the grocery store. And I think that the biggest lesson in this moment was look, if you have this huge opportunity or like this make or break moment and in this case on the other side was securing the largest corporate customer you could ever get, you will find a way maybe your solution comes a little late, you're not able to fulfill that first order on time, which I definitely was not on time, but it was big enough exciting enough, dire enough that it forced me to figure it out, wow gosh, what a big wind to have straight away.

That's so exciting. And I guess that really speaks to the power of network and the power of, you know, talking to people about your idea and putting that message out there and just seeing if something comes back. Absolutely. In this case, it wasn't like I was even seeking out business, right? It was literally just me sharing with my network what I was doing. I felt like it was really important for me to be transparent because again I had a full time job so I didn't want to feel like I was tiptoeing around this working on a moonlighting so I felt like hey I have to kind of be able to talk about it, I was a little self conscious about you, but I have a full time job or people going to look at it like what are you doing at work or what are you doing after work and I just owned it and I felt like it was a responsibility and if it weren't for that first post of me sharing what I was doing blindly to my network, I would have never had that opportunity and so if we fast forward here, I am my first customer after the farmer's market is this corporate giant. And naturally I started to pursue all those other tech offices because google is not the only one that does this, everyone does this now and mind you, Covid has kind of flip the world upside down so you know, we can go over that later.

But I basically built my business going a very alternate route then what most food and beverage businesses do by basically going into these tech offices and becoming like the granola of choice that employees get to eat on site for free in that enabled me lot of volume and enabled me to have run, right because this is a channel that wasn't super expensive and didn't require a lot of marketing. And it also was something that I was able to moonlight on the side of my tech job because a lot of the process was just sales generation and business development and building relationships and getting intros on that I was able to do on the side of my job for actually the next 4.5 years. Oh wow, okay. I thought you were about to say like, you know, it was that kind of point that you quit your job. Cool. Holy moly. No, there were some lulls and I'll frame it with the fact that in food and beverage distribution is super important, right? You can't just go to whole foods, you can't just go to a lot of these accounts and say, hey bring me and you like it, Bring me in.

Google is just such an anomaly there. So big that they do everything in house, right? So when they placed their first order, they have a warehouse, they're doing the purchasing. Whereas every other tech company needs your product to be distributed through their middleman distributor. And even though I had google and it was great credibility, it was very hard to get twitter, it was very hard to get dropbox. It was very hard to get linked in because all of them were like, well you have to be carried by our distributor in the middle because we want to streamline all of our purchasing through one entity. We love your product, We can't bring you in direct. And so it took a while and I was kind of trapped in a chicken or egg situation to truly unlock distribution and get into all those other companies which really unlocked the volume. So google unfortunately did not unlock distribution, but it was great credibility, great cloud and it was great start. Yeah, I guess that's like you were able to leverage that name and that credibility to get in the door of all these other people. Yes. Okay. So, well, so 4.5 years you are doing this as a side hustle essentially.

You've built up all these different people who are already buying for their tech companies. Does that mean we're also still selling direct to consumer via your own website or that wasn't even kind of on your radar at that point. So when I started I had a really chunky website, more so to just seem credible. So if someone discovered me at the farmer's market or someone wanted to look me up online, I had a presence but I didn't focus on direct consumer probably until A couple years later. So just to timeframe this 2013 is when I launched the business at the market, I became an official Google Supplier in early 2014. I had a very basic website that you could check out and purchase product, but you have to be pretty die hard to go find me and go go through the checkout flows pretty junky. And then I would say that I started to pursue direct consumer more as an organic channel. So as I started to be a staple food product in these offices, naturally there's a funnel of customers and employees who become diehard fans and then they go seek me out and buy me online for their household.

And so I revamped my site. Maybe that first version one back in 2016 it was just, you know, a template ties site on Shopify. But 2016 is when I got undated and started selling on Amazon and then also started thinking more about my web and digital presence. Right. And is that around the time that you or was there a specific kind of tipping point that made you be like, okay, I've got to quit my job now and actually focus on doing all of this at once. Yeah, it took a while. So I would say that even though I got google almost straight away, I had quite a bit of a lull for a year or two. I think due to two reasons number one, I mentioned this chicken or the egg situation and kind of this roadblock with not having distribution. So I'd go to offices and they'd say, hey, we like it, but you need to be with this distributor and then you go to the distributor and the distributor says, well you need to come with secured business for us to bring you on. And so it took a while to truly get distribution and then easily go back to those companies and say, okay, here I am, you could buy me now through the distributor.

That was number one, Number two. I was also still straddling my career. I think that at the time, you know, I had actually jumped to another job. It was a startup series A I came in as a head level role and I was very passionate about that job too. And so there was this lifecycle, not just in the business, but for me personally to understand what is it that I want to pursue? Do I want to see if I can make this little side project that it literally just started as a side project as a little itch. Do I want to see if I could see this through and build it into something meaningful or Do I want to continue investing in what now had become a near 10 year career and see where that can go and what ended up becoming that moment, which was very slow over time. Like if you imagine you have two wells, right? I have one, well, which is my day job tech career. I have another well, which is this little business selling granola into these tech offices that I started to build on the side and slowly over time. And I think this happened as I was starting to get more traction and I was starting to figure out who I could get more offices on board or who I could sell online to customers if I build relationships with influencers and get my brand out there.

I started to see how my direct activity could impact the bottom line and the revenue of my business and with that my confidence built and with that my passion built and over time it was like my corporate career well started to drain as my great Nola's side passion project started to fill and when I got to the moment where I'm literally employed but I just, everything about my job feels like a drag, right, communicating with my colleagues showing up to work. I feel like a pull where all my physical time and energy is being spent towards this one thing where the well is empty. That's when I knew it was time for me to take the lead. Mm wow. And at that point are you able to share any kind of numbers on how much you were doing revenue wise? You know, were you able to support yourself by making the leap at that point? Sure. So I also, I'm very conservative as far as just financial planning and spending. I'm not the type that does this model and I had this goal of breaking even or having like a profitability point in order to make the leap.

So much of it was just like this values and like gut instinct at the same time, I knew that the time for me to make the leap was going to be around the corner. So I made sure to plan and also look at my job, my tech career at the time in the last year or two as hey, this is what enabling my passion project because I do have this secure salary and secure benefits and I know that the moment I do leap, that's going to go away and I'm not going to be, you know, running a super profitable business right away where suddenly I'm going to have income to replace my salary. Like I knew that once I leapt, I'm all in, I'm not going to be making money, I'm going to be investing any kind of profit back into the business to grow it. But I'll be prepared for that because of how I'm saving and planning financially for my future right now. But when I did quit the job full time job in late 2017, I was at a quarter million in revenue and 90% of that was supplying these tech offices, which was all drummed up on as a side hustle and I did break even and technically that channel is profitable, even though you would say you're not profitable cause I don't pay myself as a founder, but it was about a quarter million, most of it was supplying offices, But it was literally one product, 1 flavor that was selling to these offices.

Oh my gosh, that is so cool, I love that, wow! So you quit your job, you've taken the leap, you're going all in and I want to talk about the marketing side of things for building your e commerce and direct to consumer side of the business. You've obviously got this channel going really, really well with all the tech businesses. But how do you start drumming up interest in finding those relationships that you mentioned and finding customers and getting the word out there about your brand? I would say that my director consumer has been built through two channels. The first is again the corporate offices, luckily you know my granola got into the hands and mouths of thousands of employees and has been a staple in these offices for years. So naturally I have a pretty strong organic direct consumer market in California and the pacific northwest like in Seattle where I was supplying these offices and so it's very easy to attribute sales that came into northern California or these regions to my presence in these offices and I don't do much marketing are much paid yet.

This is something that I'm going to be testing more this year. But as I was thinking about building direct consumer, I was using instagram a lot as my platform to build the brand And so first came figuring out the platform, which I personally wasn't much of a strong social media and users, so I literally had to figure out and run instagram on my own and I barely had a personal page, but what I started to do is I started to reach out to micro influencers, people who are like kind of healthy foodie people, they just you know, post about brands, clean foods And I just started to reach out to people with maybe 10 or 20,000 followers, people who had good engagement and I would contact them directly with a very authentic message that was really focused on them and how you know, aligned and inspired, I am with their values and then basically offered the product to be sent with no obligation of them posting or doing anything with it. So I started testing it with like one or two people, I was really excited when people replied back and were like yeah send it, I'm super excited to try and then I was even more excited when I saw them post about it.

And so from then you kind of create a playbook out of it where it's like Okay, these two people that I first reached out to my messaging worked now how do I build this up? So I have like an arsenal of 30 or 50 of these people who really are supportive of me as a brand founder loved the product, but most importantly the relationship was built on not being transactional and building authentic relationships and so I would say with instagram, you know, a lot of it is more top of the final branding, you can't expect that especially with smaller people, you know, one post is going to move the needle, but if you start to build this, you know this cohort of people who are fans, they all have similar followers in the same industry, people will start to see your brand more and more on social media, they will convert at the end of the day, but I've never done paid influencers, so you know, it's hard to speak on that necessarily, but I feel like building relationships with influencers has been a key and driving sales online And at what point was this kind of happening, was this like 2018, are we up to now?

I would say this influencer outreach and in me thinking about instagram as a channel to market the brand Was more in like 2016, and I would say back then the algorithm was different people got much higher engagement than they do now. So of course nowadays people are looking at Tiktok and other platforms and of course now a lot of influencers are monetizing instagram, so sometimes you get people who just, they might be really small, but they're like, oh you have to pay to post, but back then, you know, just like with any early platform, like people are, we're definitely more open to just posting without getting paid. And I think Tiktok is kind of that new channel, which I'm trying to figure out as well. Tiktok is so much fun. I love Tiktok such a big opportunity there for sure. How has your marketing evolved from that time to now and what's your biggest driver for growth and acquiring new customers? Okay. So I would say that most of my business has been built on business development and sales. So if I think about my business channels, there's 3-4 channels.

So the first is, and I would say was the corporate offices and that's heavily relied on sales activity. It's relationship driven. Maybe you hire a broker who also has relationships and it's really like person to person selling and sampling and account management and that's been the bread and butter of my business. Then we have direct to consumer, which again, actually it is again very relationship driven, but kind of through these influencers who are the marketing arsenal. But again, that still takes outrage, still takes one on one relationship building. I haven't really used any platforms to scale it yet. And then there's retail, which is selling into grocery stores. So this is a channel that I started to pursue maybe two years ago. It's, it's something that I'm approaching a little bit more cautiously because going into grocery requires a lot of spend and resources and marketing support. But it's getting into the doors of grocery stores is still on more of the sales and business development side. Usually you can try to get into stores by pitching yourself to the decision makers or you can hire broker and then once you're in the store there's a lot of marketing you need to do around promoting your products, discounting your products, paying for shelf space, paying for ads and that's kind of to appease the retailers to know that you are doing your part to get your product noticed and moving off the shelf.

And then I think there's this world of supplying these grocery delivery companies. So I wouldn't say that this is D to see but it's almost like I'm supplying my granola to another business who has a D. D. C. Model. So there's obviously we know like you know amazon fresh anyone that's doing direct consumer with grocery delivery. That's another channel that I'm starting to pursue. So when we think about marketing and I don't know the new age digital sense that's more focused on the DTC channel exclusively. Those other three channels I mentioned retail food service, corporate offices and these grocery delivery companies. That's all very relationship sales activity, cold calling, pitching and prospecting. But online a lot of the focus is I think focused on retention. So email marketing is really really key to making sure that your website and just the whole user experience is very seamless and clear and differentiated and slick so people can check out with no issues and then top of the funnel, a lot of that husband again, besides influencers, a little bit of media spend, which I'm dabbling in now.

So facebook ads to try to scale it. But then, you know, for me, I'm trying to find what is that scalable channel that can grow direct consumers in a profitable way. And I think everyone's trying to crack that code now, especially in food, everyone wants to know what the, what the secret sauce is. I'd love to dig in a little bit deeper with your email marketing strategy. I know that you guys use clay vo as your email marketing provider and I'm interested to talk to brands who can share a little bit about their strategy there. Sure. So with email marketing, I've been using clay vo for about two years and it's an awesome platform, super robust. I previously used another one that it just doesn't compare. So I think the first things are making sure you have really solid lifecycle flows. So when you have email capture on your site, making sure that you have a very strong drip series for incentivizing customers off the get go and getting them to convert and sharing your brand story and you know, kind of educating the consumer on your products and why you're different.

So I think welcome series is really critical, of course you have the typical abandoned carts, the customer wind backs, you know, post purchase flows. So right away I set up kind of these basic flows that I'm also starting to iterate a little bit more on now and once those are kind of set, you know, collect the data testing, see how you can optimize them also, I do a lot of content. So if you were to go to my site, I have a ton of recipes. If you go on my instagram, there's so much stuff focused on just how you can enjoy Great Nolan in different ways. And so I do have weekly newsletters that gets sent and I, I have a pretty strong founder voice and presence within the company and how I communicate to my customers. So these emails are coming actually for me as the founder and it could highlight things like content and recipes too. You know, new press that we got two new updates, new flavors, new announcements and of course the promotion here and there. Yeah, the old promotion. So cool. I love that. I love that it's also your voice coming through and having that found a story so people can really buy into the brand and buy into what you're doing and why you're doing it and that's really important.

I do agree. I think that I'd say like a big weakness of mine is everyone says I need to be more present on my instagram, right? And I just need to get over it and start sharing myself on that platform more. But I do lean in a lot on linkedin. I do a lot of founder blogs that they do take time to document and share learnings. But this type of content does so well on linkedin and at the end of the day, like Lincoln, these are people who are like semi connected to you or they know you and that is always going to be your strongest first customer. And so while yes, you should be thinking about how do you scale the brand and get to customers? You've never heard of you? You have people literally that you're connected to our 2nd 3rd degree connections. That's low hanging fruit. And so if you can have a platform like linkedin to share what you're doing and your success and your failures and you could just be really authentic and raw, more and more people will learn about the brand that way. And yeah, I think that this has been a great platform for me to just build the brand from, not just a customer side, but like just business perspective.

So other founders that I admire have already heard of my brand because they see things on linkedin or investors or business industry, people, wow, that's so interesting. When you say founder blogs on linkedin, do you mean long form posts sharing learnings or is there something else that I'm missing? They're exactly that cool, I'm going to check that out. I love that. That's a great idea. No, it's great. You know, for me too, it's just nice to have this documentation for my own self. Like we all need to take time to do retrospectives and talk about planning. And you know, I think one of the awesome things that I was unintentional is I actually have a lot of founders to reach out to me who are like, thanks so much for sharing these posts were thinking about doing a website revamp and reading why you made certain changes in detailing. So specifically why you made these decisions really helps me. And so that's also been really awesome to just be able to inadvertently scale my knowledge in some ways to help other founders who might be looking into solving the same problems.

Mm Yeah, that's so interesting. I'm gonna, I'm gonna do some, some stalking. So online stalking of your post later, Where is the business today? And what does the future look like for you? And great mola Sure. So I will say that 2020 was definitely the hardest year in the business. It was actually the first year of no revenue growth. Again, because of Covid and so much of my business was selling into these tech offices who basically overnight because of coronavirus had all go remote and now it doesn't look like they're coming back online or in office anytime soon. That was challenging. But I think it was a really great. I think the fact that I did my side hustle for so long and had footing beneath me. You know, I know that, you know, as an entrepreneur, we're all going to hit these moments where it's like, it almost feels like what the heck is going on, How am I going to deal with these challenges? And for me it was, this is gonna be the first year where I didn't grow. I feel like I'm prepared for that because I've had footing, I've done this on the side for so long in the beginning to prepare me for like the rainy, your rainy day and it just forces you to pivot.

And so right now as I look towards the future, knowing that I'm not expecting these corporate offices to come back anytime soon. It's forcing me to think about diversifying my channels. It's forcing me to think about, hey, how do I scale direct consumer pre covid? I wasn't looking at direct consumer as a channel. I was going to heavily invested. I looked at it as let this channel grow as the brand grows organically. But now it's like, okay, so there needs to be a world where this can be true and what do I need to do to test and make that happen. So the goal would be to make direct consumer a scalable channel where the unit economics can be healthy now at the same time, I'm also trying to build hopefully one day international retail brand. So going into more grocery stores, testing that channel, getting data around my best flavors figuring out how to be successful in grocery, that is kind of the second priority. So when you think about it, even though it sounds like these two channels, it's like okay, growing grocery stores grow online, it's really challenging because these are huge, completely different channels and they take different resources.

But the goal is to build a national brand that hopefully is more than just granola but just stands for healthy snacking totally sounds like you're well on your way. I have no doubt you're going to get that really soon. Hope so. But I think my journey has been a process around patients, you know, I think there's a lot of people who are, they go all in their super bullish from the beginning, they leap with two ft forward and I've kind of been more slow and incremental, you dipped your toe in the beginning, you were just dipping that too. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business? I would say don't get in your own head around why you think you can't do it? I think that was my biggest challenge, which was just having the confidence to even see myself in those shoes that's first and foremost. Like if you have an idea there's nothing stopping you. I mean of course we all have certain limitations, different resources, but you just have to get out there and try And I would say that my biggest advice is you don't spend a lot of resources in the beginning like first go out and test your product.

So again for me I looked at it as How do I get rapid feedback? Let me go to the farmer's market, maybe this will cost me $1,000 to just get the basic business stuff to learn if this is worth pursuing further. So I think with everyone else just try to use that lean startup approach. I hear a lot of founders who are like, oh well in order to do this, I have to produce this many thing, you know this many units and then I need to invest in all this media spend. But really I think there's scrap your ways to just first get validation around the product that mm Yeah, totally get started small and then see how you can grow from there. I love that approach. We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode, question number one is what's your why? Why do you do what you do? First of all, I'm super passionate about food and healthy living and so granola is something that I think just represents my values which is I don't think things have to always be a compromise where it's like, oh if I want to be healthy, I have to deprive myself of delicious, indulgent food. I think that there's a world where we can create both.

And so that's what granola was for me and I want to bring that to more people in the world. But most importantly, my why is I never saw myself being an entrepreneur. I actually, as a young girl, didn't even see myself as being career oriented. But my path has taken me on this journey and I'm on this mission to kind of prove to myself that I could be this woman that I vision myself to be now because before I never saw this and now I feel like the only limiting factor is my mentality. That's so cool. I love that. Really, really nice Question. Number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made your business pop? So besides putting the fact that I started my business out there on facebook, which inadvertently got me to get connected into google and selling into google, I would say figuring out how to build relationships with influencers has been really key and again, you've got to put yourself out there and build connections and that's really important, whether it's sales, whether it's marketing, whether it's online, whether it's corporate.

I think it's been really, really about relationships. Mm totally. And I also think with the influence society things. It's also a numbers game, right? Like if someone says no, just don't give up, it's just do it again, do it again tomorrow, do it again the next day and just keep on going until you find those people who are right for your brand versus being like influences didn't work for me, right? Totally. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading listening to subscribing to? Sure. So I'm actually for the food and beverage people out there, I'm part of this group called Startup CPG. I think it's a community of now, 2000 plus industry people, founders, service providers, etcetera on this. There's a doughnut app on slack, you know, of course. Now in Covid, you can't connect to people as much in person, but I'm probably networking with other founders every single week and a lot of it is through these groups where you kind of get matched and you can coordinate calls from there. So a lot of my learnings again has to do with relationship building and connecting with founders one on one.

But I'm also reading a lot of books related to other CPG founders. So I'm reading Mark rampollas book on how he built Zico coconut water. So that's one that I just started and then I love, you know how I built this, the podcast and then the accidental creative podcast. Cool. You know when you say this lack group thing, how do people get into the slack group thing? So you would just go to startup CPG. Um, so CPG and you just go on the website and I think you can just join from there. Yeah, it's like an open group, so I would definitely join, It's been amazing. You could literally crowdsource a question and people will get back to you and then then they have this channel that allows you to get paired blindly with people and you just do these little coffee chats. I love that. That's so cool. I'm going to link it in the show notes for anyone who is interested in checking that out. Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your am or your PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful. I tend to write out a list of my to do.

So I typically do this weekly and I have it structured in a way where like there's a section that's like really important big things and then I have like some of the remedial things that I have to check off the box. And so for me it always feels good when I get to clear things off my list. But ultimately look, business is thousands of micro moments, you win the day by doing the best that you can, you're not going to always have the most productive day, but I think in the days that I feel we're really great is when I know I could check really important things off my list and of course get a workout in, get that sweat in for sure. I need to do more of that Question. Number five is if you only had $1,000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? So if you were asking me that question today, I would probably spend it on Sampling and probably getting connected to investors to date. I've never raised money, but if I only had 1000 today I would go out and raise money and any of the product example, if it were me starting out and it was literally like you have $1,000 to start a business again.

I think that would probably be testing maybe some media spend and getting some data around customers and buying inventory. But I think again, it's about getting the product out there because that's your number one selling tool? Cool. Thanks. And question number six, last question is how do you deal with failure And is there a particular time when you know you've been feeling like you're failing so with failure. I think it's really important to learn but move on from it. I think that a weakness of mine is that you often want to just brush it under the rug and move on too quickly. But I think it's really important to actually document it and take it as a learning moment and to the point of asking the question, hey, is this going to put me out of the business? Is this going to matter in a month, a year or two years? If not take it with stride, because it's going to make you smarter for the future. Amazing, thank you so much Erica, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today and share all these really cool learnings and lessons that you've had along the way. Love it. Thank you so much for having me. It's fine. Hey, it's just me here.

Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the female startup club podcast. If you want to hear more, head to my instagram at Dune rasheen to see my filmed interviews with incredible female founders like Erica from fluffy Beauty Greta from drop bottle and Sammy leo from breeze bum, and if you like what we're doing here, visit our website and sign up to female startup club dot com to get all of the good stuff delivered straight to your inbox and lastly subscribe to the female startup club podcast. Mhm, Mhm Yeah,

How this granola brand got stocked in the pantries of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies like Google and Twitter, with Gr8nola Founder Erica Williams
How this granola brand got stocked in the pantries of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies like Google and Twitter, with Gr8nola Founder Erica Williams
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