From Granola to Granolust!
Meet Julie Wiener, founder of @Granolust_ – a food porn fantasy. Granolust is revolutionizing the entire granola industry and it all happened by accident! Her collection of sinfully addictive premium granola made with the finest vegan & gluten-free ingredients will keep you craving more. No wonder it’s the talk of the town! Its sensational product line can be found in over 200 retail locations and counting. When talking about her success she admits that “I still have difficulty owning my entrepreneurial side. I focus on the fact that it was an accident. I don’t identify as that yet, but all my actions speak to it. I am now bridging that gap.” We should all embrace our business woman savviness like Julie has learned to. Her story will inspire you to take the leap of faith in your own life. We had a blast interviewing her! Here’s her entrepreneurial journey.
How did Granolust come to life?
I started it completely by accident. I wasn’t looking to start a business, and certainly not one in the food industry. My background was in fashion and I worked in that industry for 20 years. In 2016 I resigned from my position at the company I had been with for 10 years and for the first time in my life I found myself with a lot of free time.
What brought you into granola of all foods?
On vacation in Mexico one year I had yogurt, berries and granola for breakfast literally every single day. When I came home I wanted to continue eating that way and I found a recipe that was really easy to make and so I modified it a little and started making enough for me to eat at home.
When did the idea turn into a business?
Again very serendipitously, they year after I had resigned from the fashion industry, I went out with a bunch of girlfriends. One of the girls who was there was a mutual friend named Joanna who owns the Westmount juice bar Rejuice. Out of nowhere she said, “I need a new granola supplier.” My friends told her about my granola. She asked for the ingredients, which I knew by heart because it was so easy and I’d been making it for so long. She liked that I used coconut oil and coconut sugar. It happened to be gluten-free and vegan and used organic ingredients. She asked me to make her a bag. I baked her a batch and brought it to her in a big zip lock baggy and forgot about it. She called me two days later and told me that she and her staff loved it and that she needed me to make her twelve kilos a week! I laughed because I thought it was impossible to make 25 pounds of granola in my house. So she said “make as much as you can.” That whole first summer, in 2017, I just starting doubling and tripling the recipe. I was baking all the time.
Being in your first retail store, what did you realize the demand came from?
At Rejuice, they were using it in bulk as a topping for the smoothies and açai bowls. Joanna suggested that I make individual bags. She told me people really enjoyed it there but that they wanted to take it home and put it on their yogurt or breakfast. So I went to a restaurant supply store a few months later and got some Kraft brown paper coffee bags. It was a very DIY looking product at first! We both put it on social media and the whole thing just exploded. It lit a fire under my *ss! I started selling and I just didn’t stop. Two weeks later, I was in fifteen stores. I just kept going. I never really believed that it was a business. I was buying ingredients, baking, and selling.
I love how the branding is so different! So sexy.
I hear that all the time! I love that I make super clean, all-natural, gluten-free granola that comes in sexy, mysterious packaging. It doesn’t look like any other granola out there and it doesn’t’ taste like a regular grocery store brand either. December of the first year of the business, I invested in branding and packaging, and that’s when I went to the black bag. As soon as I did that, it really set a different course. I was able to give the brand a real personality that we play with constantly on social media.
What’s next with the brand? Growth, expansion?
I really beat myself up for a long time for not having a plan. The truth is, not having a plan has allowed me to follow the interest from where it’s coming. We learned that there are many inexpensive brands on the market and there are a lot in the middle, but there’s no one doing premium. Granolust naturally lends itself to gift baskets, monthly subscription boxes and corporate gifts. Some high end hotel and restaurants started ordering it as well as cafés and corporate offices. About a year or so after we started, I introduced the third and fourth flavours. And last year we added two more flavours. Now we have three traditional, “morning” granola flavours that are perfect for your yogurt or smoothie bowl and three flavours (Rosemary Parmesan, Montreal Bagel and Mango Chili) meant to go on top of salads or soups. These are savoury snacks, as opposed to sweet ones. Everybody loves the savoury collection ! It’s so original and unique and they’re next level delicious. I really believe that you have to have a niche in order to stand out, especially in a space as competitive as granola. I’m creating a category that doesn’t exist. You can get salad toppers from stores but nobody is doing savoury granola, and that’s my shot. I’m not moving away from the traditional ones at all because people will always love that but we are offering them a different way to enjoy granola.
What have you learned from previous experience that you have used in your current business model?
I have over twenty years experience in the fashion industry and a journalism degree before that. I learned that knowledge is transferrable. You take everything you’ve learned and you can apply it anywhere. When I started doing trade shows for Granolust, everything I’d learned from doing them for twenty years in the fashion industry came in handy. Did it matter whether I’m hanging up a dress or selling granola? It didn’t. The other thing that I have been really excited about is discovering that I have the ability to be an entrepreneur. I always felt that I was a great soldier but not a general.
The passion that I found through this is off the charts. It’s cliché. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a different level of investment when you’re doing your own thing. Not just financial, but as an involvement. Your soul is attached to it
Any time I show anything to people, they get really excited. That’s how I know it’s not time to stop. I’m giving it a shot with this savoury collection. I really believe it will work. For people who like granola and understand it, it’s going to be easy to get them into savoury. For people who think that they don’t like it, we’re working really hard on the messaging and how to answer the question – what is it? What can they do with it? Part of the problem when I had the original flavours is that they lived together in a granola or cereal aisle. I didn’t know to plan for what was going to happen.
Tell me about your ideal world in a ten or twenty-year bracket. Do you see the brand going that long? Do you want to build that empire all the way through?
I do. Part of me would love for someone or company to want to buy it. Right now, though, it’s not time for something like that. I think that there are so many natural extensions of the brand that we can do, playing on lust. People ask me about bars all the time. I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing. I won’t put a window on the bag just because that’s what everyone does. It doesn’t go with the whole seductiveness. I do think that there are a lot of ways to expand.
Do you have any big dreams other than getting it sold? What’s your huge vision?
I’m not good at big visions. I’m much more into small-picture things. My short to medium-term plan is that we’re launching across Canada and into the US. I’m in about 250 stores and about 50 corporate locations. I’ve been selling one store at a time I want it to be across Canada and the States. We started working with distributors in Quebec and Ontario. We have to start with independent and specialty stores and build to a point where the price point is understandable in the mass grocery stores. I want to be in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I really want to see if the savouries do what I think that they will, then I think that the sky is the limit.
How is the balance now in your life compared to working in the fashion industry career?
Someone asked me if I wanted my life to revolve around my business or my business revolve around my life. The truth is, I finally feel like I have a perfect balance. At the same time, I’m still not over the fact that if I don’t want to go into the office, I don’t need to go into the office. If I want to take some time for myself, I can. The truth is, I’m never “off”. Even when I was working in the fashion industry. I’m always finding new stores to sell and new people to connect with. There aren’t any hours anymore. It’s only going to be as successful as I am willing to make it and I am willing to put in. I don’t stop. I know what my strengths are and that’s what I focus on. I’m just always down to talk to people and to check the stores and communicate. There is no one who’s going to be a better advocate for my brand than me. I talk about it as much as I can. Anyone I talk to sees my passion. I’m really excited about it, and I feed off of the positive reinforcement from stores reordering or people ordering from our website. I got an order today from a woman who’s ordered already five times since November. There is nothing that feels as good as that message that’s being conveyed. The balance feels really good.
What does success mean to you?
It’s getting the product out there and communicating our vision and showing people that you can truly eat well and better. I want it to be a household name. I want everybody to know about Granolust. I want it to be financially successful, I want to expand the collection, I want it to be in every store! Success for me is building the brand. The past two years have been really challenging for so many small businesses and I’m proud that we are still around! It’s difficult enough to make any business a success during regular times but during a worldwide pandemic it’s even harder. Success will mean to me that I’ve been able to achieve all my goals.
Shop all flavours directly of Granolust on their website!
For all the lust and cravings, visit their Instagram @Granolust_
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