Do you ever have that feeling, “If I don’t start this, I’ll die.” For VentureMom Jerri Graham, that’s how she felt about her “nola”, short for granola. Finding most granolas macerated beyond recognition, she wanted a granola that gave her texture, crunch and flavor – so she created it. “There was nothing out there that satisfied my personal taste and desire for texture, most granolas were all oats and there is so much more to offer.” When I tasted her blueberry, lavender, cashew bar, I knew she was right. And it wasn’t dry, it was moist and yummy and had the consistency she described.
When Jerri talks about her granola bars, she used her mouth to show you how it will feel on your tongue and taste to your brain “the crunch of the nut, the chew of the fruit.” I can’t explain her description, but once I had some, I knew what she meant. She says, “Oats are my canvas and the bars are my edible works of art.” So how did she get into this competitive food product area?
One day when in her 20s, she picked up and moved from rural Ohio to France, and her world travels began. Working for the Navy as a photographer took her around the world, and she experienced the many spices and combinations of flavors that Americans sometimes miss. Teaching English as a second language and with her own radio show in Taiwan, she was not one to shy away from new experiences, but with a small child, education drew her back to the states.
A case of poison ivy in 2009, Jerri couldn’t sleep and began cooking at night to pass the time. First starting with muffins and then pursuing a granola bar with texture and taste. She came up with four varieties and asked a friend to carry them at her coffee shop.
Putting them in a basket at the counter, they were snapped up quickly and customers asked for more. “My bars are a salad of nuts and fruits and grains, a party in your mouth.” From there, Jerri decided to offer her creation at the farmer’s market on weekends and called them “Nothin But” a play on the idea of “be nothing but your authentic self,” the old Sastchi & Saatchi motto.
And she was doing all of this while she had a job at a magazine. “I had worked for others for many years and didn’t like the idea of someone else holding my future in their hands, it was time to do something on my own,” she says. Sometimes, one door closes and another opens and when she was laid off from her magazine job, Jerri knew it was time to go to the next level with her granola.
Maybe it was the coconut, chocolate, almond bar or the ginger, lemon, cashew bar, but whatever the combination, she had a talent for putting the right flavors together and getting the ideal texture of crunch and moistness. She wants people to “smile as the flavors dance on their tongues.”
Going for “honest food”, the timing was right. She found a commercial kitchen and began hiring to ramp up production. Now in several Westport venues, she now has her fabulous granola bars in New York City and the Hamptons.
But what is different about her bars? When you have one you’ll know. With 62 varieties and more on the way, Jerri’s mission is to change the way people snack and offers bars for energy, bars for calmness, even a bar for falling asleep. “This fulfills me, this is what I was meant to do. I know there are other competitors in the granola field, but mine is different.”
Having traveled the world, Jerri sees granola as a whole food group, combing her bars with spreads of yogurts and cheeses, granola is not just a snack food, it’s a meal. “Your tongue is a taste map and my bars help people travel from the salty edge to the sweet taste and everywhere in between.”
Don’t be afraid to enter a saturated market if you feel you have a unique perspective to offer.