So, the other day I drove to Vancouver to stand in front of a panel of seven judges and give a four-minute pitch to convince them that Singing Bowl Granola should win the BC Food Production Association’s “Product of the Year” award. That four-minute pitch not only took an entire day of travel, but also a week of reflecting on the past six years of business and figuring out what the heck I’m actually doing here. I got up at 4:30am, pumped and empowered. The travel gods were with me. Every time I doubted my route, a low-flying eagle would swoop down close to ensure me I was on the right path. I arrived at the event in plenty of time, set up my lovely display and psyched myself up to face the judges. Like most of humanity, public speaking is not necessarily my strong point, (though I’ve been known to stand in front of college marketing classes and wax lyrical for forty minutes straight about my beloved business). I do believe the four-minute time constraint was the real stressor. However, I spewed out my well-prepared pitch while the judges tucked into the granola I’d given them and smiled and nodded kindly in my direction. At the end of the allotted time, only one judge had a question for me: “There are delicious artisan granolas in lovely packaging everywhere, how would you market this in Boise, Idaho?” Whoa! Nothing personal, Boise, but you just were never a part of my business plan. In retrospect, I think this judge really wanted to know how I plan to turn Singing Bowl Granola into a multinational company and just suggested Boise as an example.
That moment when you let go of the balloon and the air comes rushing out with funny noises, and, moments later, the deflated piece of rubber that was once a globe of glory lies pathetically on the floor. Mmm-hmm. That was me after this judge’s question. Fortunately, I had about a five-hour journey home to mull this over and dissect my reaction. Upon reflection, I would have liked to have responded with a question of my own – “What makes you think that I want to grow my business to a multinational level?” That was a very bold presumption on his part, but I think it is the natural presumption in this day and age of Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank. It seems that the philosophy of ‘go big or go home’ predominates the world of business. Always tending away from the norm, this is really not what we have planned for Singing Bowl Granola, and I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify my business goals.
In a nutshell, Singing Bowl Granola's top priority is caring for people and the planet.
Yep, money is a pretty useful thing. Money allows me to support my family. Money allows me to look after myself and do nice things. Money allows me to donate to organizations that are fighting injustices. Money allows me to shop ethically. Make no bones about it, I want Singing Bowl Granola to be a profitable business, but this does not necessarily equate to multinational fame and glory. My goal is to sell enough of our award-worthy granola and specialty porridge within Canada (sorry Rest-of-the-World, export rules and regulations make my head explode) to be able to afford to care for myself and others. I want to sell enough product to be able to continue donating organic porridge to school breakfast programs through our SBG Porridge Project. I want to always buy my oats from the Farmer Direct Co-op. I want to make sure we can always send money to the women in Colombia who work at Fruandes to help with their housing needs. I want to keep baking cookies for the homeless to enjoy when they wake up on the streets at the crack of dawn. These are my goals, not convincing the fine denizens of Boise, Idaho that they should buy Singing Bowl Granola from Victoria BC. And, I know that, despite what the media wants us to believe, most humans have similar compassion-driven goals. Looking after each other. I think we call this community.
In order to meet these goals, we absolutely do need to keep growing the business, selling more and more products (to Canadians so we don’t have to deal with export regulations), expanding our reach. In order to meet these goals, we need you and your friends to find a store near you and buy a bag or two of our granola or specialty porridge. And if you don’t live in Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo or Vancouver BC, don’t worry, you can order from our on-line store. Every time you buy something from us, you are feeding hungry students, you are helping Colombian women improve their housing, you are supporting family run organic farms in Saskatchewan, you are donating freshly baked cookies to the homeless members of our community. And, you are nourishing yourself with some amazing food. Every bag we sell has a connection to a wider community and every bag you buy makes you an integral part of it.
Lucero, a single mum, works at Fruandes in Colombia. We were able to help her buy a house for herself and her children from the sales of our Giving Granola.
Is Singing Bowl Granola going places? The answer is, of course, yes (but not Boise). We’re headed directly towards the heart of our extended community. Singing Bowl Granola is our vehicle for social justice and we are driving forward with our commitment to care for people and planet. There’s plenty of room on board for those folk who not only love great granola, but also share our values.
I think it is important for all entrepreneurs to turn off the ‘reality’ TV and tune in with themselves to see just where they want their business to go and why. I also think it is high time that the business world starts to embrace the spectrum of how success is defined and dump the assumption that big is best. The dollar is mighty and I appreciate it as much as the next guy, but it is not always the primary driving force for running a business. Shout out to the BC Food Producers Association and the people who nominated Singing Bowl Granola for Product of the Year, as well as the judge who presumed that all small businesses long to be big. Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to clarify what we’re about and where we’re headed.
My early morning sailing on BC Ferries was stunningly beautiful.