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Small Business Story – Granola Snacks

by mike

“Tell your tech department they are awesome!”

There’s a certain element of sunshine and laughter in the way Sue Van Fossen speaks. It comes through on the phone and you find yourself smiling almost immediately. And to be honest, it’s the exact feeling you get when you taste her Granola Snacks.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sue and her team on a Friday. They had just confirmed getting their snacks into a local winery, The Terra Cotta Vineyards, so they were celebrating a win. Champagne was flowing while we chatted a bit about the background of her company to go along with our review of her delicious snacks.

“I made my first sale to friends and family in 2008. I made $700 in the first month!”  Sue’s friends knew she had a gift. And as friends and family do, they encouraged her to turn what she was doing for free into a business. And if all that encouragement didn’t get her motivated, that first sale of her granola snacks sure did.

Sue quickly realized that working out of her own kitchen wasn’t going to work. Overrun with orders, she needed a better commercial kitchen and more help to keep it going.

Randy Baker brought an extra pair of hands and strong marketing to the business. He saw that they were “maxed out” production wise. They couldn’t make enough granola snacks to keep up with the demand of them.  Randy knew they needed to expand to keep up, but they couldn’t keep funding the expansion with credit cards.

In the middle of this, they realized they wanted to relocate and in their research, realized Columbus, Ohio had stimulus money still available to small businesses. But to access it, they knew they needed a plan. So Randy started a new search, this time for business planning software.

“I love the software for this reason,” Sue breaks in. “The software helped me get a broad view of everything we needed to present as a company.  A real high view of everything. And I realized I could get a high level view of what we were doing and then change it to see everything on a more granular level. What Business Plan Pro did was help me get down on paper what we were doing and which directions we were going that we never stopped to think about before. We had to stop and think about the why and where of our business. Then we could look and see the whole plan which helped us move forward.”

That Friday, as Granola Snacks was celebrating, the three of them, Sue, Randy and Kate Olkonnen, their production manager (aka the Boss) all gathered there, happy and enthusiastic about the business and the possibilities that were coming. It seemed that taking the time to put their plan down and make sure it was the right one was a strategy that was really working.

I didn’t want to take them from their celebration for too much longer,  so I asked what it was that Business Plan Pro had helped with specifically.

It was Sue that answered.

“It helped us see how great of a company we really are! We could see everything we accomplshed in a year. It was so exciting! As I was writing it all out on paper, I’d show it to Randy and say, ‘We look so great!'”

There was that sunshine again.

“I was going through a divorce and feeling that I couldn’t keep up. I told my neighbor that I wanted to quit. She said, ‘No! You can’t! Tell me what your next step is? You have to take your next step!’. When I think now that I can’t do this, I remind myself that I can just take one more step. I can take one.”

Walk on, because you can’t go back now, Sue. We’re depending on that sunshine and those delicious treats.


**Update** We recieved the following email from Sue last week.

We were approved to apply for the money from the city of Columbus!
We will know 100% in 30 days but pretty much it’s a done deal.

The approval was based solely on our business plan!! Thank you and please thank Josh. We are huge fans of Palo Alto!!



Company:  Granola Snacks
Founded: 2008
Owned by:  Sue Van Fossen
Description:Granola Snacks is a company comprised of individuals who love to eat, listen to music, and are huge OSU Buckeye fans. We think having a business should be a ton of fun and that’s pretty much our first vocational rule. We are simply what our name says we are.  We believe Granola Snacks should come in delicious crunchewy chunks that are broken by hand and tasted a lot before they are bagged.