By Alexander Soule The Stamford Advocate, Conn. WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) With a single granola recipe rescued by a friend from a Fairfield store called Health in a Hurry that had closed, Jen Olbrys is now selling her Granola by Jen at farmer's markets in Stratford and Fairfield, as well as online on the website of her startup Holy Macro! A good story for women in business with a focus on the food industry.
The Stamford Advocate, Conn.
Jen Olbrys says she has no aspirations to follow the path of celebrated food entrepreneurs Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott, who in 2007 sold their Bear Naked Granola to Kellogg's for $122 million just five years after launching the brand in Norwalk.
But since it's her name going on each batch of Granola by Jen, the Stratford resident is taking particular pains to build a company that she can take pride in over the long haul -- and has started her journey at a similar trailhead that Flatley and Synnott traversed all those years ago.
With a single granola recipe rescued by a friend from a Fairfield store called Health in a Hurry that had closed, Olbrys is now selling her Granola by Jen at farmer's markets in Stratford and Fairfield, as well as online on the website of her startup Holy Macro! Foods and at a few local stores including Double L Market and The Organic Market in Westport.
Olbrys is in the process of contacting other independent stores locally interested in carrying the granola; in 2002, Flatley and Synnott famously won shelf space at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk by pigeonholing Stew Leonard Jr. for a few hours, then hawking it in the aisles of his store before reaching broader distribution.
For Granola by Jen, Olbrys settled on a recipe that includes gluten-free oats along with pecans, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and maple syrup, focusing on organic ingredients and finishing the concoction off with dried cherries. In time, she is considering other varieties that swap in different ingredients.
"I want to have good snacks for people who are looking for something tasty, something organic," Olbrys said. "I have a pretty solid base of customers who keep coming back."
Her own guilty pleasure growing up was a bowl of Kellogg's Apple Jacks. Olbrys says her Granola by Jen has roped in her two daughters as fans.
Olbrys makes the granola in commercial kitchen space she leases twice a week from Lovely Cakes, owned by cake designer Renata Papadopoulos. Olbrys estimates she can produce about 60 large bags of granola, 12 ounces each, in a single session, with those bags selling for $10 and the six-ounce variety going for $5.
She has yet to launch any kind of a concerted marketing campaign, but plans a postcard campaign to let local stores know "there is something good coming" followed by small sample bags.
Olbrys has yet to envision additional products down the road -- she has been asked about the possibility of producing granola snack bars -- but chose the name Holy Macro Foods in order not to be associated with any one product line.
Olbrys says she has no pretensions for now of getting into a mass-distribution channel like Whole Foods, instead waiting to see where Granola by Jen takes her.
"I like small stores," she said. "There are quite a few around here."