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And So She Goes
And So She Goes

Episode 37 · 10 months ago

37. Erica Liu Williams, Founder, Gr8nola

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

What started as a delicious snack to get her and her former NFL player husband through their yearly body cleanse, has turned into a full time business. Erica Liu Williams created Gr8nola because she couldn't find granola that was healthy and also tasted good. And let me tell you, her granola is outrageously tasty. In this episode, we talk about her experience as 13-year-old swimming at the U.S. Olympic Trials and what that taught her about life as a whole. She gives advice on how to enjoy the process of whatever you do, and explains how to trust yourself when going after what you want.

Conversations with real women who makesports happen, this is, and so she goes. Here's your host, Amanda Borgeous, Hello, welcome in if you're new herethis is a show featuring top women in sports from all different backgrounds,departments, genres, areas of focus. You know, I think, that's what I'veloved most about the women on my show, they're, all so unique, and do so manydifferent cool things. My guess today is a woman who has done so manydifferent things that set her up for success that she never saw coming.Erica, Lew Williams was a very successful swimmer when she was young,making it to the US Olympic trials when she was just thirteen years old. Asyou'll hear in this episode, she didn't quite love swimming as she got older,so she had to make a teph decision to quit, but that actually led her todiscovering a career in the textpace. Well, that didn't really do it for hereither and I'm not going to ruin the story for you, but she is now makingand selling healthy and delicious Cronola. So how did she go from thepool to Silicon Valley to the kitchen? You ask well good question: Let's jumpin here is my chat with great nola founder Erica, Lo Williams, Hello Erica. How are you I'm doing?Well, how are you happy New Year Happy New Year? I'm so excited that it'sfinally, two thousand and twenty one I feel like we all- can just breathe. Well, not breathe easy,because you know we're still dealing with some things from two thousand andtwenty, but I think we're all just ready to start a new year and hopefullystart fresh. I agree big things coming. Yes, yes, hopefully, so, let's talkabout that, I want to start from the beginning. If you don't mind, let'srewind it a bit. Where did you grow up and how did you fall in love withsports sure, so I'm from the bay area, California, so specifically Coopurtinohome of apple and I'll admit that I don't know that I ever fell in lovewith sports per se, but I felt into sports- and this was just an outcome of my parents, puttingme into all kinds of sports when I was very young to keep me active, I didsoccer, I was swimming and it was just done recreationally and then, when Iwas swimming kind of just age group and for fun, I ended up peeking and just accelerating overnightwhen I was around twelve or thirteen. So by the time I was thirteen Iactually qualified for the US Olympic swimming trials. This was summer aftereighth grade and I think I was maybe the second youngest competitor thereand that pretty much set my path all the way into college, where swimmingvery much defined. My feture really defined, who I was and all the timethat I spent, and I think it grew me into sort of thecareer entrepreneur that I am today. But in my person am I a person that isconstantly watching Esbgun or following sports news? Ironically, notespecially given my husband, who you know, tank Williams is a former NFLplayer. I actually didn't even know at the time when I met him that there wasa NFL team called the Vikings, so that's kind of a fun fact. I lovethe Olympics ough, so I definitely was bummed about two thousand and twenty,but I guess I'm excited for two thousand and twenty one and Ipersonally love to watch gymnastics swimming and truck, but sports itself. You know I lived andbreathed it in the form of swimming, but ' I wouldn't say I'm an avid sportslever, though that's so funny. I love that you call it like falling intosports. I think, as kids, a lot of us kind of try different things unlessyou're lucky and you play one sport and you're so good at it that you just keeppursuing it. I was not that person. I tried multiple different things,including swimming, actually, which was so hard that I could only do it for oneyear in high school because it was just so incredibly difficult. You have to bean insane shape, as you know, so I can't imagine being in middle schooland qualifying for the Olympic trials. What was that like? Were you matureenough to like fully understand what that meant? I would say no and I thinkthat actually served as a blessing, because naivete sometimes makes thingsa lot easier because you don't get in your head so much so again. My Path was just in some ways,just in a way it's I don't want to make a sound, so simple, but it was in asense overnight success I literally just physically blossomed. I don't knowI just suddenly got really really fast.

I wasn't really even focused or superin love with swimming. It was again something my parents put me in from meyoung age, just to keep me active and there was never any pressure comingfrom the top down or within myself to perform at a high level when in swimming. I would say it's a it's asport where very from a very young age, similar to gymnastics. You get veryhigh level com, you know competitor, so you have Olympians that are you knowsome cases for men, Michael Phelps was fifteen when he qualified for theOlympics, but you have some women who pualified for the Olympics when they'refourteen and winning gold medals and setting world records at age. Sixteen,so people do blossom pretty young, and I would say that it was a blessing, andisguise that my parents never really pressured me into it. I never pressured myself into performing andsuddenly, when I became fast overnight and qualified for Olympic trials, Itijust had to kind of go through the motion and execute versus feeling tonsof pressure leading to those moments it just kind of arrived, and then Iperformed and you're just in it and you're so young. You don't even reallyknow how to qualify it or understand like how I guess high level it is, andof course it was very nerve racking. You know the competitionitself and swimming at a high level. At these events Rin these meats, but I wasyoung and you just kind of go in Brihteye, bushy tailed and you don'tset superhigh expectations, so I think that was actually a reallygreat thing. Yeah. That's such a good point, I feel like being naive, canoften be a blessing, and I miss that sometimewhat. Do you remember from theOlympic trials? I know it was quite a bit of time ago yeah. So this was thesummer after eighth grade the Olympic trials was at Indianapolis. So was at University ofIndiana, and I mean it was just you know I felt likeI was coming from the bottom. There might have been, maybe seventy oreighty qualifiers per event, and I again it wasn't like. I was seated veryhigh, and so I went in just excited to be there. I qualified. For one event, it was ahundred meter brushjroke. I remember obviously being super nervous leadingup to warming up getting off the blocks. I remember the exact event I feel, likeI kind of screwed up my turn. So again. If you're not familiar swimming, ahundred meters would be Olympic Zeles, ast size, pool and you're going downdown a lap and then back the other lap, and I gave it my all. I know I could havedone a better turn and I ended up getting eighteenth, which was apersonal best. But when I think back you know it wasn't like. I went inexpecting to make semifinals, but I was literally two spots and two tenths awayfrom making sixteent, which would have had me qualified for semifinals, which I can't even say. I regret because itwas still a best time. It was. It was a great performance and of course I youknow in my head, I'm like man. If I would have hit the turn, I definitelywould have made semifinals. But I was happy with that because it wasjust so exciting and I feel like I did a great job and I think it set the tonefor okay, maybe for two thousand and four can I can I get seated higher andcan I qualify for semi finals or you know, hopefully one day make theOlympics and that's its own. I think set of kind of story and kind ofchallenges. You know, because I think by the time that I finished that twothousand trials and then I had my mindset on Oi love to make the Olympicsfor two thousand and four. I think by that you know when you start settingall these expectations, you can get into your head and we can go into thatif you like, but it wasn't as it wasn't the same experience by the time. Twentytwo thousand four rolled around there were a lot of other factors thatI think kind of played into my motivation and my love relack thereoffor the sport. So at what point, because you pursuedswimming after this into college right. So at what point? Did you decide tosort of shift gears and focus on other things? Sure? Now it's a great question,so I remember getting back on the plane after two thousand old big trialssitting with my coach. Turning to him and saying I want to make the Olympicsin two thousand and four and my coach turns back to me and he says: Well I'mglad we're on the same page and from there you know you have four years toqualify which that's not an issue qualifying for the time, but just trainand just obviously get yourself to the point where you feel like you can conbrprogress to that level. Ind High School was really tough. I mean Iwould say that I was highly focused. You know again. Swimming was my life. Imade sure that I maintained good grades. I knew by...

...you know, freshman software year that Iwas going to either sign with Stanford or Berkeley. So my career, like not mycareer path, my my path was already set. Basically, from eighth grade where Iknew swimming was going to be my ticket into college, and then you show up topractice every single day and you grind it out. You maintain your good grades,knowing that you're doing this work to lead you to that next step, which waseither the two thousand for Olympic trials and college, and I would saythat I peeplooking back, I picked when I was fifteen, so fifto know. When Iwent to college I signed with Stanford. I never ended up improving my time atmy best event, the hundred breshstroke since I was fifteen, and I think that, given any kind of journey, whether it'ssports, whether it's career, you're, bound to hit a wall right, yourthere's never like this infinite hockey, puck always going up into the right andanything you're going to have Ebsan flows go up and down, and I think thatthe fact that when I was thirteen and success came so fast overnight. Ofcourse, I got super motivated by that, but then, once I started dealing withmore adversity, such as hey, you know, you're not going to always improve anddrop time and do personal best, every single meet or hey. You might have todeal with some injuries that are going to set you back or, broadly speaking,hey you're, not going to always like the grind. You know now you're at thisnext level. The staks are higher as far as the work that you have to put in, I personally just didn't enjoy it like.Unfortunately, I wasn't in love with the action of swimming like if you wereto ask if you askd me today, do I ever swim for fun? I don't because Ipersonally don't really desire to get in a pool put on cap and goggles andswim and look at a line on the groud. That's just not something I enjoy. Ilove to work out, but physically I just didn't enjoy what you have to spendninety percent of your time doing, which is practice, and I think so muchof that just ends up. You know, I think, there's some peoplethat can look at that and say you know what I'm going to force myself to loveit, I'm going to do mine tricks. Ultimately, it's all about. You knowthe end point and winning- and this is the end goal and that will keep yougoing. But for me I just didn't enjoy the process. So by the time I got intocollege, I I got to a breaking point by mysophomore year and I was dealing with injuries as well at the time, but Ikind of had a moment with myself and at my nineteen year old self, this wasprobably the hardest decision that I had to make, which was basicallyretiring from the sport early. So I would say that most people who are onthis path, where you're pursuing athletics at the highest level- it's rare that you see someone quittingwhen you still have clearly some time to go,and for me that was four years of simming dewon on a scholarship and bythe time you know I was my sophomore year. I realized that I this was no longer. Iwas it. Wasn't that I wasn't like it wasn't that it wasn't making me happy.I was completely unhappy and I wasn't enjoying the three hundredsixty degree college life as a whole, because I was so tired and drained. Inever even really went to class, and so I ultimately made the decisionto quit after my sophomore year, which ment relinquishing my scholarship,which is a huge financial commitment, because Stanford was like fiftysanddollars and at the time my parents weren't really willing to support andtell out all the money. So I ended up having to you know, apply for somefinancial, a see if I can get money from other scholarships, scholarshipfoundations academically to make the decision to relinquish my scholarship,but enable myself to kind of have my life back and have my happiness back. I think there was a lot of concern frommy parents on whether or not once I quit swimming. If I was going to pursueother things that would make the most out UF out of my education, because Iwas already not going to class, so they were worried that I was going to quitswimming and like not do anything else with my time and what I learn- and Ithink was such A. I think, such a I don't know I feel like it was such ablessing disguise is that you know when one door closes, many other doors openand I didn't quit swimming to pursue other things I quld swimming, because Iwasn't happy, but then suddenly, I had ban with an space to enjoy campus lifeand go to class and travel abroad and get experience working at my firstinternship was that which was actually at Yahoo and that good got my foot inthe door working in the tech industry, which is what the what industry Istarted in when I ended up graduating Stamford in two thousand and eight. Somy pivot out of sports, which was after sophomore year, basically enabled me toget my foot on the door in the techinthestrey which ultimately youknow once I start sharing my story. It leads to basically where I am now whereI'm starting ere, basically I'm a founder of Agronolla Company, whichthat intect and swimming seems so...

...unrelated, but itll hnnacts as we kindof move forward. Don't you wish, in those moments of you, know, quitting and pivoting thatyou could like understand how all of the dots connect and like how one thingleads to the next, and I know that it's just unrealistic, but I feel like whenwe're young actually doesn't even matter for young or not. The decisionthat you made to retire from swimming was not an easy one, and it was that decision that then, as yousaid, led to other things, but a lot of times. We don't understand that closingone door can open another or open others. So how do you feel that quitting swimming helped? Allow you to just open yourmind up to things because, like you said you were just so busy focusing onswimming, that you didn't even have time to focus on other things at alland then all of a sudden, if there's like this whole new world in front ofyou right and when I was nineteen, I didn't have that foresight, whereas nowhaving gone through it, looking back and reflecting and seeing how the dotsconnect backwards. When I'm in these moments today, I feel like I I have theexperience. I have a little bit more wisdom to learn, or at least coerce myself intorealizing hey. You know if I quit this or if I shut the door in this, I knowI'm going to find other opportunities and I have to say the first thing isthat a lot of times you can't just expect, oh I'm going to quit, and thenthings are going to just magically happen right. You need to have you need to have like the right workethic. You need to have the right proactivity to go out into the worldand find those and then execute and work hard towards pursuing them right.So I don't want to give off this impression that it's like, oh one door,closes and then suddenly, like things just come on your playe and they're newand exciting, you have to be action oriented. But when I was nineteen, Ididn't have any foresight or any sense of what I wanted to do after I quit swimming, and my parentswere really concerned about that. They were like you're not going to classlike we support you quitting swimming because you 're always to selfmotivated. So this is your decision to make not ours, but what we don't wantyou to do is just end up wasting your college. You know tenyear becauseyou're not swimming you're, not going to class you're, not doing other things,and I never even gave that any thought, because all I cared about was. I justwant to quit this, I'm so unhappy and then naturally I ended up finding those next opportunities and I thinkthat the way things have connected is just I don't know if it's just. This is theway I look at things like from a mental perspective in a mindset perspectivewore again if it's stuff that was so serindipitous and it's so coincidentalthat it's just this ironic story I feel like you- could look at it from bothways right, but basically, when I quit swimming, Iended up working at Yahoo, which was getting my foot in the door in thedetect industry and then once I graduated college in Two Thousand andeight, I started in working in tact, multiple careers and then four or fiveyears into my tect career. That's when I started to get an itch to dosomething entrepreneurial, which was the launch of my Gronalla business,Great Nola, and then it took me a four years to finally quit my teph career togo full time on my business in the way that is seg like the way that isconnected to this transition into the tech industry. WAS THAT I ended upselling my gonolage to all the very tet companies that I had my network in orthat I' workd. For so I supply Google I supply linked in Isupply facebook. This is all pre covid, but basically I started a Granallabusiness selling into the very industry that I workd for, and that enabled meto quit that career in that industry o now pursue a completely unrelatedbusiness, even though my customers are from that industry. So again, there'sso many dots. I get connected that you just don't see and don't plan for inthe future. But just getting your you know getting experience gettingyourself out in the world into the different interests enables you to kindof branch out and open your eyes to different opportunities. Okay, it'sstory time. I really love this story. Can you please share how you startedGra Nola? Where did the idea come from? I mentioned. I worked in thetechnindistry for about fourish years and I started to get the itch to dosomething: entrepreneurial and I never intended to start a food business, letalone agronalla business. How random is that? So I thought: okay, what is the techproduct or what's the soccware, the Internet website that I'm going tostart, because it was e, only professional experience that I had andthe Grenol itself was completely unrelated. So I was already making thisgrennel an maybe a year to prior to this entrepreneural itch. It wascompletely separate and it was born from a cleanse that my husband taken. Ido every single year, the Monday after...

Super Bowl. So why is it after SuperBowlit's, because we've had all the holiday eating from Christmas NewYear's Thanksgiving, and then we have all these back toback weekend tailgates we're both Stamford alume, and so we always go to the Stamford Games andit's just lots and lots of food and Glattony so by the time February rollsaround after the last like Hura, we're a bit fluffy and we're ready to cleanit up, and we just eliminate a lot of bad things from our diet. So this isn'tlike a juice or dtox clans. It's just a lit. It's basically we're eating wholeminimally process foods, things that are usually like non alergenic. So weliminate Soy Deory, along with, like GMOs, werfine, sugars, alcohol, youname it, and so year after year we started doing this clans. We started itback in like two thousand and nine two thousand and ten. So it's like been aten year tradition in our household, so maybe the second or third year. When we,whenever we crave something sweet and Crunchy, it was always really hard tofind anything that would be cuns friendly, but wasn't just fruit, and soI never really ate or made Grenola prior. But I was watching TV. I saw oneof my favorite celebritie chefs on food network make Gonola and it inspired meto make my own because many grinolas, you fina an store sholvs, are notclenes friendly. They have loads of refined, sugars, inflammatory oils, andso I ended up making a healthier version and ended up not just being sogood that we ate it on the clans, but basically when we were done cleansingand we could eat whatever we wanted any junk food that we wanted. Tank wouldalways ask me to make the Gonolla, because it was that good, and so Ialready was making this as just like a pantry staple for tank and then justlike my immediate family and then when I started getting this entrepreneuralitch yeah, maybe for six months I had a notebook of just no ideas that reallyresonated with me, because they were all within tech, and I just wasn't thatpassionate about tech. I had a light bull moment where I was basically likewhat if I started a business selling my granola like completely, not tech, buthey, it's really good. You can't find anything that has this ingredientprofile that tastes us good at stores. So why the heck? Not So, I decided tolaunch it at the local farmers market and that's how I started on thisjourney and it was on the side of my tech job and it was really humble and very smalland kind of cute thit was nothing really serious and then Dondandon. Itbecame serious. I would say that the entrepreneur journey has has comewith a lot of ups and downs in some ways similar to the swimming, except.The difference is that I'm super passionate about what I do Dane and dayout for the business. I love the grind, whereas with swimming I hated the grind,but I love the enberal. I love winning and I feel like that is the differenceright. You have to love the process. You have to love what you're doing youcan't just be all about the destination like. I know it sounds Cliche, but youhave to enjoy and value the process and the journey. So when I launched I started at thefarmers market, it was so small home grown. I was literally baking theGrenala out of my home kitchen selling at the farmers market, hampacking everysingle bag, baking every batch out of my home oven and I had my first bigbreak very, very early, similar to swimming ore. I, like suddenly pickedover night and qualified for Olympic trials, but I had the opportunity to get my productvoted into Google and so for those of you who are unaware, Google, and allthese big tech companies. If you work there, you have the most amazingbenefits and perks like you have Kampucha on tap, you get Sushi forlimes. You get endless amazing food for free and a lot of times. Thesecompanies allow employees to democratically vote for what they wantin their Microkitchen, so googles, one of em Google pioneer this culture. Soback when I launched the business, Google had a snack there, so basicallythey have like a little farmers. Market trade show event they market it totheir fiftyhsard employees and everybody gets to come in sampleproducts and basically vote for what they want to have in their ofvice everyday, and so I was randomly connected to the fooddecision maker within Google and he liked my product enough to invite me totheir snack there in two thousand and thirteen, and so this was literallymaybe three months after I launched at the farmers market. So I was still homehome baking, this Brornola and he liked it enough to invite me to the fairwhich me and my mom literally had to hambake out of a commercial kitchen toproduce enough for the event and then from there. I ended up getting votedinto Google. So it's so funny because in a way tied to sports, it was like acompetition and I won, and so Google place there they were theyre. Basicallylike hey, you know you got voted in you're, going to officially become aThwosandan fourteen supplier, and it was you know in paper. It's likeokay awesome, but it was...

...literally. They were asking for fifteenhundred pounds. I maybe four months into entrepreneurship, I'm still baking by hand either mostly out of my home, but you know onetime out of a commecial kitchen and suddenly they're asking for things like.What's your case pack, what's your price per pound, what are your Paletepecks? And I am totally in over my head and I have a full time job so long. Sory short, I had to figure thatout and eventually I started supplying Google and early o thousand andfourteen, and will that sounds like wow? You like got the biggest customer youcould in the tech industry almost overnight like you're talkingabout within six months of launching it was a grind after that to get the nextcustomer to get the twitter to get the dropbox y. u get the link INS Ontethetle world, because there's so much that goes into distribution and supplychain and manufacturing in the food industry, and I had no familiarity withit that I went through a bit of a lull like Ihad google right away, but I was scared shitless because I didn't know what Iwas doing. I didn't know the process for getting into these other companiesand what distribution requirements were, and it took me four and a half yearsfrom when I started to actually quit my fulltime job to pursue great and owfultime, and a lot of that was based on my confidence level andfeeling like I knew what I was doing and also being brave enough t to leavemy career that I had a by the time I quit had built up for ten years andsimilar to sports. You know I had to take myself to that nineteen year oldmoment, except now here I am in my hies with that hindsight of hey, sometimeswhen one door closes more doors open, but I have a lot more data at thispoint to say: Hey remember when I quit swimming, when I was nineteen and allthese doors open up. Well, guess what I've been building this thing for fourand a half years, and I feel like I know I know- and I think I could dothis- there is a chance of failure. But if I don't quit, I'm never going toopen the FO. The door fully and be able to pursue this, and I know that I'msuper passionate about it and I'm less passionate about my tech gre. At thispoint it would be such a shame if I didn't quit and give this my all andthat's what ultimnately got me off the ledge, but it was still a four and ahalf year side, hustle journey and much of it was getting to that mental pointof being okay with quitting and letting something go to pursue something topursue something else. That makes you happy yeah. It's such an interestingthing, because I have learned that there's no such thing as perfect timing,like that just doesn't exist for anything whether it's related to yourpersonal life or your career. You just have to make the decision to jump. Sowhen you say it took you four and a half years to quit your full time jobdid you know that was the right time like did you have this Aha moment oflike Oh, like this makes sense, or were you like, okay, well, itstnow or neverlike? Let's just see if this works I had to get pushed so again. I started the business Junetwo thousand and thirteen I got into Google November two thousand andthirteen to start supplying them in two thousand and fourteen, and I would saythat there was a one and a half to two year lull in the beginning, because itwas really hard to get traction beyond that. I mean this was well before thetime when you could market and sell your brandonline. Obviously, since thenyou know, the rise of allmine shopping has has been a big boom and there'sdifferent ways to mark yoo product. But honestly, I just number one didn'treally know what I was doing and then number two. I was straddling anothercareer that at the time I still was somewhatpassionate about it wasn't like I went in to building Great Mola, knowing thatthe ultimate goal was to build this. Hopefully one dayn national food brand and exit my tec career. It started verymuch as like a very small side project and slowly grew into something that I started tosee could be bigger and bigger. With more effort and more time and moreresources- and so I it was maybe like three years in that Istarted to see how hey, like I kind of know what I should do for the businessto grow it. Yet I'm limited on time, because I'm spending so much of myphysical presence and energy working on my dayjob that if I don't make the decision to quit, Icould see myself in the slimbo forever and I'm just never going to take greatand all little where I want it to be, and I ended up playing mind tricks withmyself wheteer I'm e type of person where, if I commit and say I'm going todo something, I will do it so. The first thing I did was, I told tank.Take I'm going to go full time, I'm going to quit. My job had me to do itby in a year from now. So I gave myself like a year. Were I mean we're talkingabout already three three and a half years doing this as a sidehustleandgrowing, the business on the side of...

...my tech job and yet I'm still givingmyself three hundred sixty five days to finally quit and it slowly kind of justlike I had to work backwards from there, which was it's a pretty liberaltimeline and I ended up making the jump in ten months versus twelve months,which lands me at approximately four and a half years of Great Knollid Banga sidehustle phase, but I would say I'm on the Mer conservative side, I'm alittle bit less aggressive than I think many typical entrepreneur.Entrepreneurs are and I'm just very u'mfrugal, I'mmeasured. I overanalyze, I get analysis pralysis, and so I also you know. I think that, havingall the experience that I was able to obtain in my career, so much of thatapplies to me running a business now that I really think that if I wouldhave quit earlier like if I would have quit my job right when I got thatGoogle deal, I think I would have quit the business because it takes a bit tofigure things out and I think there's different people. There's some peoplewhore like well, I'm not going to stop until I figure it out in the fact thatI have no extra cushion salary job. As like stability beneath me, it's goingto create more urgency for me to figure this out, but knowing myself, I thinkthat I probably would have ended up quittingthe business, because I didn't get traction as quickly as I wanted toafter that initial google, when, where I'm really grateful that I ended upsticking it out as long as I did yeah, I feel like there are so many valuablelessons that you learn in the beginning. I mean constantly as an entrepreneuryour learning, but I feel like in the beginning. No one knows what they'redoing right, like everyone just kind of like figuring it out on the fly,whether you're an entrepreneur or you're working for someone else, butbeing your own boss. Obviously there are pros and cons. One of the things Iimagine you like is coming up with new recipes. You get to be so creative andexperimental. How do you come up with that? Like? What's your process forthat? Aside from allowing tank your husband to taste, test everything whichI'm very jealous of Oh yeah, Heis, that's his first job, wathquality appearance unless Grenela many batches. So I I work a lot out of just number one likeme being that first customer and like what are my personal and dietarylifestyle values, and then it translates very much into the business.So you know, as you know, the firstproduct was, I didn't develop it to go, fill avoid in the market. I developedit because I personally was a consumer that couldn't find healthy, delicioussnacks and I ended up making one that qualified as one and it would happen tobe Gronola, and so that was my first flavor and that's my original now when I decided to come up with mynext couple flavors, I ended up watching some pretty unique superfoodflavors that you don't often see in Grenolla, so I have a match of ibes, agolden spice which has tumorik in it and then the next one that I launchedafterwards was cacow. And so a lot of these I had personalexperiences with so much as a flavor or it's a it's a you know. It's a superfood that I was already integrating in my daily life in the form of a beveragewhich I think many people are familiar with: Macha greenty in the form of abeverage, and I thought well how cool would it be if you could get thesesuper foods that usually you have to supplement with or it's in the form ofa drink? But you can get it in the form of Gonola, which is highly approachable.It could be just as delicious and then it's just easy to eat and it could justbecome a daily ritual and you can mindlessly get your super foods inwhile you're eating R, your Gronola and so timrick and Macha and Kakal werejust things that I already were inmegrating kind of in, like late orbeverage form and then the next flavors that I launch so thenext one is kind of the most unique and different jated. But it's probablyeverybody's favorite when it comes to tape. So I have black COKOCHIA, whichis a black Cornolla ind fuse with activated charcoal powder, so activatedcharcoal is known for aiding digestion and helping with dtolk, but it has notase, so it essentially gives color to the FTO the product and then, of course,some of the functional benefits and it tases a little bit more like coconut,because my product has coconut. Oil has coconut flakes and it's sweetened withcocoanut sugar, and I did that one just to be radicallydifferent, and I thought well activated charcoal- is kind of similar to theseother superfood powders, and how bold and fun would it be to just dosomething that was completely different, looking in the form of black Bernolaand that's quickly become like one of my top sellers, and that was just arandom idea. It wasn't like I went out and did market research. I just I knewimmediately. I wanted to do something different and of course it has to betasty, and then I could test by selling it online and and get data, and ifpeople don't like it or people are put off by it and it doesn't sell, I couldeasily just kill it because I could do it with like a very kind of lean testmindset, because I coul just sell it...

...direct consumer and then from there. I came up with cinnamon, Chy and Chiwas again another kind of beverage base of spices that tank and I were drinkingevery single day and like these lates that we would make in the morning, andthen I get these epitheny moments to just see if this flavor or these spicescould work wel with Cornola and sure enough, it did, and it's become one ofmy top sellers as well, but there's many ways to approach it. Iwould say that I now, when I think about flavors, I dothink about okay. What do I think would do really well for the mass market, andwhile I have some really edgy nique flavors, like Matchan Tumrick, I'velearned that things like cinnamon and things that you know black Cokochia,even though it's so different. It has an approachable flavor of being morecoconuty. I do try to lean in more with what do I feel will appeal to themasses, but then there needs to be a functional superfood element behind it, but it wasn't like I started first withlike. Let me go look at the Grinola Shelf at whole foods and see whatpeople are doing and what's missing. I usually start from like personalinspiration. First, I think that's a great place to start, especiallybecause that's how this all started- and I think that's how great ideas cometo life is basically just from your own creative mind of like I loved this, soI'm assuming other people will love it too, because you kind of alude thisbefore like getting in your own head. There are so many different reasons foryou to say: Ol No one's going to want charcoal and they're granola. Why wouldI do this? And so that would have stopped you from producing something?That's been a success for you, so you know you kind of it's a balance ofhaving an open mind, but also allowing yourself to be creative and reallytrust your instincts for sure, and I think the the main thing is being ableto test. So, even when I launched my business, I decided to sell up thefarmers market and I didn't overthink it because I knew that by nature of it being a farmer's market,it was going to be pretty lean and not super resource intense. So you know,maybe I had to file for my LLC trademark. My name get, you know, getsupplies and materials for my booth, but it wasn't like. I was doing thismassive launch right where I'm committing to tons of inventory or spending thousands of dollars on awebsite design- or I was literally going in as scrappy as possible just totest and see if people would like it and put money towards it, and then I'vetaken that mindset with every single faver that I've launched. where,because I have an online consumer base- and I saw an Amazon I saw on my website-you know when I launch anew flavor, I'm not going out and saying hey, there's anew flavor, I'm going to put it everywhere and, like you know, investin these large production runs and get tons of packaging and get it outeverywhere. I can I start small, I just take it to my online community and myonline customer base. I just order a little bit of packaging. Maybe I'mspending a little bit more per unit, but I know that the whole goal is tosee hey howis this product how's, this flavor going to do. Is it going to win?If it does, then I know to kind of take that next step and invest a little bitmore into it and get it out there into other channels or by more packaging.But I always approach it with this mindset of just test small and just getsome Dita. And then, if you start to get data that balodate sat hey, keepgoing, then you can invest more, and so you start with the hunch. Butthen you go get you go, get feedback right away and then you iterate fromthere it's so smart. It's! It sounds likesuch a simple concept that makes sense that people can get wrong because youmentioned launching. I think people get this in their mind that, like I, haveto have this huge amazing launch in order to introduce something to mypotential customers, but it sounds like you've got it down, pat in terms of thetesting phase, and it sounds like it's working, which is awesome. That bringsme to this. What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs in any genre inany space in any industry? What kind of advice do you have? I would say, numberone don't get in your own head. So, first of all, I never really grew upthinking of myself as bank super career, orientid oriented oreven one day being an entrepreneur and as I started, to get more experienceprofessionally or just as I started to see others around me. Men and women pursue their passion and start you knowtheir own businesses. That made me realize hey. Maybe I could do it too,and I have to say that being actually like a woman and beingasiaan American, I wouldn't say that growing up. I had a lot of female rolemodels when it came to business entrepreneurship and like professionalcareer, so it took a bit for me to even seemyself being that kind of persona and...

...if you have a feeling or hunch or adesire to want to pursue that next step or do something that you're just notsure that you ever saw yourself doing, because maybe it wasn't role modeledfor you, don't let that get in the way. There's, no reason why you can't. Secondly, I would say that networking has been vital in not justthe success in my business, but just being able to start and take that nextstep. So the fact that I formally worked in tech and had no experiencenumber one owning or starting a business or to working in the foodindustry, I had zero knowledge for how to start all. I had was a desire tolaunch to launch this product and sell it, but I didn't know anything around.You know where to buy supplies, how to sell the farmers market. Where do Iproduce it? What are the rules and regulations? How do the channels work?I knew nothing about the industry, and so the business has forced me in thebeginning to network and find others that have started businesses in thespace just to get that first, the first stepson what to do so. Initially networking will start as hey. I need answers and Ican't necessarily find them by googling them. So I need to go: Ask someone whocould maybe help advice, who has maybe been there and done that later? What I've learned is that, asyou start to network, you get a lot of opportunities from it as well, so youmight network with someone, because you need to learn something you need it aquestion answered, but over time, as you start, building relationships bynetworking you'll find that you're often getting connected to more andmore people which can lead to more opportunities and sales. So I wouldreally advise to just meet as many people as you can, that are in yourindustry that are a step ahead and have conversations, and even if you don'thave an initial need, reach out to someone and just say, Hey, like I'msuper interested, an learning more about how you got started and well loveto hear about your story and- and you know maybe down the road- we could seehow we can support each other, and I'm doing this all the time with otherfounders. Absolutely no agenda in our conversations and then we end up notonly becoming you know, help support supportive of each other, but you mayeven be passing opportunities to one another and you might be able to getmore sales from it too. Yeah. Absolutely the no agenda thing is agreat point. Just creating community, I think, is- is kind of underrated. It'sso important to just be surrounded, even virtually especially these daysjust to be surrounded by people who are like you who can ser experiences with,and you know just kind of create friendships and go from there. So Ericayou're. My first episode of Two Thousand and twenty one, which isreally exciting, so I don't want to put you on the spot, but do you have abusiness or a personal goal for the year that you can share, even if it'snot for the whole year, just like this quarter this month this week, can youshare sure for business and to get more specific, I would say, really pushing Directaoconsumer, so online sales is a high priority. This is something that, inlight of covid is really, I would say, has been, has shifted so when covid hit. First ofall, all the offices that I supplied the googles of the world all wentremote so that channel essentially dried up overnight and tlet's force meto pivot and react and try to find other ways to build up opportunities,and I do sell online and I do sell into some grocery stores and there's otherplaces that I could sell. Mi Grenola that aren't necessarily these corporateoffices. But, as we all know, the the rise of online shopping has beenaccelerated due to Covid, and it's not somewhere that I've really focused aton of my resources in that I now want to prioritize and see, first andforemost, if I can build a very meaningful kind of subscribe and save program. So again, if you're buyinggranola something that people eat daily, you probably commit to the same brand.It's part of your daily ritual, it's a perfect item to kind of to getautomatically every single month via the male. So that's one tactical goalthat I have for this first quarter is really build out the subscriptionprogram to be somewhat of more like this VIPprogram, I would say, broadly speaking, for the business I, as you have heard from my story- ampretty conservative when it comes to making big decisions such as quittingmy career to pursue my business full time and I've been bootsswrapping itsince I've started, which has been awesome, but I think that it'simportant to know and realize that you have to have certain resources to growright. You can't really grow without spending money and I have a hard time,sometimes spending money. So I and you...

...want to do it wisely. Of course, everydollar needs to yield, hopefully greater dividends than what you'respending, but I think I just need to be a little bit more bullish and a littlebit more bold, with my decisions around how I think about investing towards mybusiness, because I can always operate a small little lifestyle business on myown as a sole founder, but in order to truly step function, I'm going to needto invest in probably hiring more people. Media spend to accelerate and get to the point towhere I want to be, and that could take me ten years or if I could be a littlebit more bullish and bold. I could learn that faster in two years, and soI need to find a healthier balance towards moving towards being a littlebit more aggressive about growth, while still being wise about spend andprofitability, but to get that get my business to the next level. So it's notjust this o. You know I'm building this over a little bit every single yearover a decade, so that is what I'm hopefully going tocommit to, and I think that really pertains to my personal life as well,where I'm usually tentative and I'm more conservative. But sometimes youjust have to be bullish and pull the trigger, because what you find as theThame of a lot of the things that have happened in my life, all the dots endup connecting and you always end up in a spot where you look back and you'relike gosh it. As so glad I threw in the tall herup so glad. I did this because,if I didn't n wouldn't have led this definitely you have to have thattrustfall with yourself yeah and that it's not easy to do, and I also thinkit's important to set attainable goals as well. Some people aren't goalsettersand that's fine, but other people are- and I think sometimes we get caught up,especially when we start a new year, no matter what New Year it is. I thinkthis year, more so than any other year, because we're coming off of such acrazy insane period of time where everyone is setting goals, and theyjust want to accomplish things this year and and really like just admittingto certain things or just like putting yourself in a specific mindset, I think,is helpful to get to where you want to be so, even if you're not setting likeI'm going to get a hundred new followers- or you know whatever, Ithink just having the mindset of like being open to specific growth is reallyimportant. You brought up something about your subscription, which soundsamazing. Even if this isn't up and running it. Where can we go to buy agreat nola online? And I'm not just saying this to like pump Erica up justbecause she's on my show, this Grinola is like unbelievable, like if you thinkRinolas, just like. Oh just Grinalla, like how good can it be? Okay, fine,try this and I'm telling you your mind, will jage I'm not just saying it IHA toTTHEAS N. I haven't even tried the black one yet actually that one, thebest one I'm going to have to send you some okay, I've only tried the originaltank and my mom's favorite. Actually so it's like Ol genres, my mom who's,sixty my husband who's, a male and then me definitely my favorite flavor to so.You could buy it on my website, which is Great Nola, that's Gr, the numbereight n Olacom or you can scoop some up on Amazon, prime and yeah I meansubscription is available. You do get ten percent off in perpetuity, but I'mgoing to be building that out to have some fun perks as well, so that will berolled out soon. Hopefully whool. I actually realize we're running op time,but I never even asked you how the name came about. Can you share that reallyquickly? Soi, I'm a I'm Chinese American. So thenumber eight is highly auspicious. It means prosperity, so you may have remembered in two thousandand eight the Olympics were in China and they you know, I have to go validate, butyou can assume that it was on August, eighth, two thousand and eight andstarted at eight am because eht is just a very lucky number for Chinese people.So initially I just knew I wanted to have the number eight in my name- and Ithought great was Gr. Eight was a fun play on words, and initially I was justgoing to call it great Grenola. Two words with the number eight and it justwas meaning full to me for my heritage with the number eight, but it was superboring from. Like a consumer perspective, I tried to Trademart GreatBenola, ran into some issues and then not me, someone else that was way morecreative was like. Why don't you try to do great Nola instead of great branolaand again one of those best like connea dot things? Well, I didn't try totrademark the first one and I didn't get rejected. I wouldn't have come upwith great Nolo, which I'm personally love the name. So I love it too. That'sawesome. I love happy accidents like that at ment to be it's sorigt and it'sso catchy and it sticks with you and it's so good. I love it. I'm so excitedthat you know, even though two thousand and twenty wasn't what any of usexpected, but especially for you having to pivid an in different ways and nowheading into a new year, focusing on...

...new avenues for growth, I'm so excitedfor you and I'm just thankful that you came on to share your story with USErica, so cheers to a New Year of growth and health and happiness, andmaybe even a new flavor or two right. I am loing in Ye flavor in January, sowe'relte o stay tune, O appreiure, you having me, show good left witheverything this year, and you know, I think it all starts with a positive,optimistic mindset and then your behavior follows aymen to that. I hope you were taking notes becauseshe dropped quite a few truth bombs in there trusting yourself. Even when youdon't learning that doth connect, even when you can't see into the future andloving the process or jumping to something else, but finding the processyou love in the end is important. Also, aside from her advice, I hope sheinspired you to support her business. Her GRONOLA is insanely insanely good.As she said you can order yours on Amazon or you can go to her websitegreat nolacom and that spelled Gr. The number eight Nola Great Nola followalong with her journey at Greenola on Instagram, and you can follow alongwith this show at, and so she goes pot thanks for listening.

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