639
10 min 51 sec

Food Lover Sells Granola to Hungry Google Employees

From the local farmers market to the kitchens of major tech corporations—this granola recipe isn’t good, it’s grrrrrrr-eat!
B2B Co-Packing Food Product

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What It's About

A tasty side hustle with real crunch!

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Experimentation & Product Development
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

A lot of the lessons in this story are quite affordable. As much as I try to highlight stories that have almost no startup costs or just a few hundred dollars, the reality is that even if your idea does require a larger investment, and even if your idea then completely fails (it might not!), you’re still out less money than you would be if you went to a typical MBA program.

Fun Fact

At the time she started, Erica was training for her first—and last—physique/bikini competition. So when she was trying to perfect her formula, she could only taste-test it during a once-a-week 2-hour cheat window. Her ex-NFL football player of a husband, Tank, became her official taste-tester for the remaining 6 days and 22 hours of the week! (Not a bad gig, and you can imagine how much willpower and control this took from Erica!)

Notes from Chris

Episode 639
The Super Bowl is a big deal for Erica Liu Williams and her husband, Tank, who actually played in the NFL for a few years. Naturally, it’s a time for indulging. So, to undo all the junk food eating, they also do an annual 30-day cleanse starting the day after the Super Bowl. And it turns out, erasing refined sugars, alcohol, and processed foods forced them to come up with some pretty unique and fascinating recipes.

A few years ago, one of these creations turned out exceptionally well. They couldn’t stop eating it—even after the cleanse was over. It became a year-round staple in their home.

This creation was a simple granola—friendly to multiple cleanses and diets, non-GMO, nutrient-packed granola.

It wasn’t long before the granola was a hit at parties they hosted. Everyone loved it, and when Erica realized that there was really no clean granola competition, the idea became clear: she would learn to sell it.

Erica started making granola—buckets and buckets of it, and she called her new venture gr8nola. She had her regular recipe, but she wanted to launch with two others to provide variety and hopefully encourage customers to buy 3 boxes instead of just 1.

Due to recently updated cottage food laws in California, Erica was able to cook her product right out of her house. She couldn’t sell online or wholesale, but she could sell at farmers markets. Speaking of which, she needed to find one. The big, high-traffic markets turned out to have massive waiting lists, so she instead turned to a smaller one nearby. She didn’t have to have the best spot at the best market—she really just needed to get her product out there in the hands of real customers and go from there.

And then came Erica’s big break. A friend of hers worked at Google and offered to introduce her to their food team. They asked for a sample. She sent one. And then she got something in the mail that would change the direction of gr8nola forever: an invitation to present it at Google’s annual Micro Kitchen Fair.

It was simply too good to be true. She’d have the opportunity to offer samples to thousands of Google employees and maybe even make a contract with the kitchens at Google—and all thanks to someone in her network who saw her page on Facebook.

The week before the event in September, Erica and her mom baked all day long to produce 160 pounds of gr8nola and package it into 2,000 mini bags. It was a long day, but it ended up being worth it. She was going to be an official Google supplier!

The large purchase was for 1,400 pounds of nutty, whole-grained goods. It was incredible. And I was also quite the challenge.

Three years after starting on the side, Erica became a full-time business owner. It was a meaningful transition—her business alone could now support her. But the move didn’t come without a few hiccups.

She immediately scheduled a new flavor launch—matcha green tea—for two months away. The co-packer said the new packaging would be in, so she scheduled a photographer and PR blitz accordingly. Of course, the new packaging did not arrive on time—and rescheduling everything was an expensive nightmare. “Next time,” she says, “I’m scheduling a buffer!”

Erica equates these lessons learned to free business school—because even if the mistake costs money, she continues to get paid through regular sales. Next up, she’s launching another new flavor, and considering how to grow into new product lines next year.

The post-Super Bowl 30-day cleanse is now a lot easier, thanks to Erica’s good-tasting and good-for-you gr8nola.


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • gr8nola: Learn more about this gr8t side hustle over on Erica's website!
SEE ALSO:

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Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"You can Google a lot of things, but a lot of my initial questions and problems were very specific, and most of my solutions and problem solving were an output from networking. Networking is so critical!"
—Erica Liu Williams #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau