Singing Bowl Granola - The Feeding My Friends Era

Posted by Jessica Duncan on

Dear friends,
As the saying goes, shift happens, and as we start to wrap up another market season, I’m making some big changes in the granola aspect of my life.  This isn’t exactly sudden as I have been wanting/needing to wind things down for awhile, but now the planets seem to have aligned to make it a reality.  Before you get too excited and start worrying about suffering granola withdrawals, let me assure you that I will be continuing to make and sell Singing Bowl Granola for the foreseeable future, but I am going to do it in a way that is more sustainable for both my own health and the health of the planet.  As of September 1st, I will start phasing out my small retail boxes and will now focus on selling direct to customer in the reusable buckets.  By late fall you will no longer find my products in stores, but you can continue to order online.
When I started Singing Bowl Granola in 2011, I was enthralled with the creative outlet it provided me, and the community that grew around it.  I loved selling it at farmers’ markets and engaging with the individuals who stopped by my table for a chat, many of whom have become good friends. But we have a crazy need in our society for ‘growth’ and so I jumped on the growth bandwagon and hustled hard to get my granola into stores. It may come as a surprise, but other than a few diehard supporters of local products, most grocery managers are unenthusiastic at best, insulting and rude at the worst.  The bigger the chain, the harder they make it for small scale food processors to land some precious shelf space in their stores.  Marketing your beloved creations is not for the faint of heart.
Of course, with each stage of growth, comes an onslaught of hurdles. New confusing regulations, increased insurance coverage, professionally printed everything, meticulous record keeping, licenses for this and that, endless inspections, and extra expenses up the yin yang.  Needless to say, because every growth step required more money, I had to sell more granola, which meant more hustling - ugh.  And when I was actually successful in convincing a grocery manager that their store needed to carry Singing Bowl Granola, it would lead to increased production which meant hiring more staff, which is a full-time job unto itself.  Ultimately, I ended up being a sales person, a number cruncher, and a master of human resources just to pay the ever increasing bills.  Over the past few years, as my costs rose at an eye watering rate, I found myself doing all these tasks and not even making enough to pay the bills, let alone show any profit.  Sadly, I believe that most small businesses are experiencing some version of this saga.
In the spring I decided to pack it all in and try to sell the whole business.  If you’re a regular customer you know that profit has never been my main goal and I tend to give most of it away to my community.  As a result, I quickly realized that my sweet little business wasn’t worth bupkis and, at best, I’d walk away with mere pennies if I actually even found a buyer (which didn’t seem likely).  But I knew I needed to make some big changes as I became increasingly exhausted and disheartened.  It was my very clever husband who suggested I keep the brand but sell the kitchen, let go of the staff, and seriously downscale production.  And that is exactly what is happening as I write.  I have found some lovely buyers who require a bakery space, and part of the sale agreement is that I still get to use the kitchen one day a week to produce granola for my community.  This arrangement means that I can remove all of the frustrating parts of running the business that were no longer sustainable, and that I am able to return to doing what I love most - feeding my friends!  And, if you are a customer, I definitely consider you a friend.
So, starting in September, my friend Miles and I will go to the kitchen every Tuesday where we'll whip up a whack of granola and package it in our reusable buckets and deliver it to your doorstep (or ship it if you’re out of town).  Someone recently pointed out that I am starting ‘casual retirement’, and I kind of like the sound of this.  I will be taking the rest of the week to take care of my health, do some writing, and try to restore balance to my life.
Running and growing Singing Bowl Granola these past twelve years has been an incredible adventure.  It has brought so many wonderful people into my life and allowed me the opportunity to give back to my community.  Miles and I fully intend to continue making REALITY BITES for our unhoused neighbours and organic porridge for the school breakfast programs.  And we will make granola for you. I am really looking forward to getting my apron back on and making granola on a sustainable level again.
Thank you for supporting me throughout this journey.   
Love & light, 
Jessica (she/her)
p.s. If you happen to have some empty buckets lying around, please let me know and I will be happy to come collect them. I am now going to need all the granola buckets that I can get back.

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