Granola Fit for a Goddess
By Bruce Freeman
Andrea Lyons’ parents had no idea they were raising the chief executive goddess of a granola cereal company, but that’s exactly who their daughter grew up to be. Of course, becoming a goddess is a process; it doesn’t just happen overnight! Lyons started her career after graduating from the Katherine Gibbs School in1980. She went to work as an executive assistant and over seven years she worked for three different small businesses, experiencing senior level management of all aspects of running a business.
Realizing she had potential, Lyons earned her MBA from the all women’s Simmons School of Management in Boston. After spending three years as a commercial banker at Bank of New England, Lyons joined the tumultuous world of internet startups, as vice president of finance and administration, where she experienced the rapid rise and even faster decent of a venture backed company in California.
By the fall in 2001, Lyons was back in Boston and looking to rejoin the professional workforce after a motherhood break, but finding a job proved elusive, considering the country’s economic situation post 9/11. Lyons’ family had narrowly escaped the 9/11 tragedy; her husband Chet was on a flight from Boston to LaGuardia earlier that morning and witnessed the crashes into the towers from a taxi on his way into Manhattan. Lyons didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew how she wanted to feel, so she wrote down all of her goals, ceremoniously burned the paper, and buried it in her garden.
Not long after, Lyons got a craving for granola. She looked for granola that was wheat-free as mature women metabolize wheat differently and she wanted something that was high in protein. Unable to find what she wanted, Lyons went to a health food store, bought ingredients that appealed to her and stopped by the library to look for a book with a recipe for baking granola.
By Thanksgiving, Lyons was regularly baking the yummy granola for her family. A visiting friend tried it and told her she should name it. Lyons thought of Goddess Granola and realized that this might be a business opportunity. On her first phone call, she got connected to an industrial bakery with idle oven time and the possibilities bloomed. Lyons immediately went to the computer and incorporated online in an hour for less than $400. Then she purchased the internet domain name, but hit a snag when it came to trade marking as the name Goddess Granola was already taken. Not knowing what to do, she called Washington, DC and the trademark office advised her to ask the owner if her product could co–exist. Luckily, she and the owner were able to come to agreement and Lyons was on her way.
Knowing little about the food industry, Lyons reached out and formed an advisory board as a resource, and to help keep her from making mistakes. She became certified as a woman owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council ( www.wbenc.org ). This certification allowed her to approach large food providers and receive consideration under diversity laws regarding women and minority owned businesses.
Goddess Granola was invited to exhibit at a food fair and was voted the third most popular item. This gave Lyons credibility with SODEXHO, the second largest food service provider in the world, to colleges, corporations, and government institutions. Lyons happened to be visiting her chiropractor and was talking about her need for investors when she ran into someone who knew an angel investor. The rest, as they say, is history and Goddess Granola is currently selling 3000 lbs of granola a month in over 200 locations... specialty foods stores, cafes, and through foodservice providers as both bulk cereal and grab-and-go bags as a healthy snack.
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
Andrea Lyons experience shows that you don’t have to have a fortune to get a business started. By using the Internet and setting up the business herself, Lyons was able to get started on a shoe-string budget. Reaching out to others for advice and help also put her on the right track for finding a market and financing. In addition, Lyons started GoddessGood Fund, and a periodic newsletter which promotes women who are unsung heroes giving back to their communities, a bottom line contribution Lyons believes all businesses should make to our economy.
Set up the business yourself to keep costs low. Take advantage of government and private programs to help you get started.
Could This Work For Me?
Resources are out there – from the Small Business Administration to private grants – all you have to do is look.