Every family’s got one: A recipe that is so good and so celebrated that every member of the family swears selling it would make them rich. What doesn’t always happen? Actually selling it. But that’s exactly what the creator of this homemade snack, Susan Varilias, did about 3 years ago.
She baked up some granola using the same recipe she used when she made it for her children, brought it to local farmers’ markets, and unleashed it on the world. And she’s never looked back.
“I’ve always been a baker and cook for my family, so it was sort of a natural thing to transition to,” Varilias said.
Varilias’ background wasn’t in the food industry – far from it, in accounting. But she left her accounting job to take care of a family member, and still felt the drive to work. Enter the granola.
“I wanted to make a product that I felt was missing,” Varilias said. “Every piece of feedback was positive, which encouraged me to keep going.”
Varilias started Lazy Susan’s Granola with the Cranberry Almond flavor (which is still the bestseller today), and everything caught on from there. Many of the flavors have grown from the feedback from customers. The only thing that has changed about Lazy Susan’s Granola over the years is the additives, Varilias said – the base recipe is still the one she used for her own kids.
Fans of Varilias’ product wanted to keep buying it when the farmers’ markets were closed, so she expanded into local stores. And she’s now added seasonal flavors, granola without nuts and gluten-free granola – all from listening to what her customers wanted.
She said that while she was surprised by the degree of enthusiasm her product received, she knew that her granola was unique. Lazy Susan’s Granola uses maple syrup for sweetening instead of honey, and is baked in larger clumps that makes snacking easy.
“It’s like a combination of a granola bar and granola that you’d sprinkle over something else,” Varilias said. “I see people buy the bag and then I see them eating it as they walk around.”
While Varilias clearly has developed a winning product, there were plenty of challenges when it came to the logistics of building her brand. She said it would have been helpful to have someone along the way to consult about aspects like buying in bulk or getting suppliers. She had to learn everything as she went.
“When I wanted to be in stores they said they needed barcodes – so I had to figure out how to do barcodes,” Varilias said. “It was a big learning curve. But I really feel we did everything right along the way.”
While Varilias had to figure things out on the fly, she didn’t do it alone – her whole family helped her out using their own skills. Her son helped with research, her daughter helped design the labels for the granola, and her other daughter helped build the website. And that’s only made the whole thing more fun, Varilias said.
Even though it’s been 3 years since Varilias started selling her granola, she still bakes it herself every week. She’s graduated from a mixing bowl to a large standing mixer, but every piece of Lazy Susan’s granola a customer eats is still crafted by the founder.
Varilias said she’s excited about the success of Lazy Susan’s Granola, but she added that building the brand enough to gett into local stores was her goal.
“When I set a goal I’m usually pretty good at reaching it,” Varilias said. “I had to take it slowly, but it was always my goal.”
And just because she’s reached that goal doesn’t mean she’s standing still – she’s always setting more goals for herself as a snack maker, like expanding the company’s online ordering and getting the product into name-brand stores nationwide.
Varilias said she’s never regretted her decision to build a food brand. The slow times can make things seem a little daunting (and make her remember that she left a steady paying job) but in the end the rough times just motivate her more.
Her advice to anyone thinking about founding their own brand? Just do it.
“For many years before I did this, I’d always talked about starting some sort of bakery or food business. I could have done it sooner,” Varilias said. “Don’t keep talking about it, don’t keep thinking about it. Just do it.
We’re excited to feature a product by this homemade snack maker, Lazy Susan’s Cranberry Almond granola, in our December box – and if you’d like to try some (or more) for yourself, order some from our Love With Food shop!