Q&A: Ganola’s Heather Gray and Jared McCollough

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From the March 6, 2014 edition

Heather Gray and Jared McCollough knew going in granola bars had been done. They also knew granola bars had yet to be done their way. After meeting at the gym, the duo made it their mission to create an on-the-go snack that tasted as good as it sounded on the label. Thus, Ganola, a boutique granola bar company that emphasizes natural ingredients and bold flavors, was born. Seven months later, national retailers are asking the duo to share the Ohio pride on their shelves.

Nobody was doing anything funky with the idea of the portable snack, so we decided to. We didn’t see anybody in the industry doing anything interesting with flavor when it came to healthy snacks. I met Heather while I was personal training her, so being active and healthy is important to both of us. I don’t think people are always cognizant of how many preservatives are in their food, they just care how it tastes. And we get that. We wanted to make flavors nobody had tried before, while using all natural ingredients. The market was already pretty saturated, but we knew if we did it well, we could really stand out. I still don’t know of anyone else doing a green tea/whole coffee bean granola bar. —Jared

We are kind of the underdogs in this whole thing, but we like it that way. People had doubts, but we were confident in our product, and now retailers like Williams-Sonoma are approaching us. It’s one thing when all your friends and family are telling you how good your product is, but when a serious retailer asks to carry it on their shelves, that’s a whole other thing. —Heather

When we started last July, we were totally new to the food industry. Jared has lots of experience starting and running small businesses, and I used to co-own a Massage Envy, but neither of us had worked with food specifically. We hit some speed bumps, and there was a lot of beta testing, but the experienced people we worked with were really eager to help. Columbus is a great place to start a business because people want to support each other. —Heather

Our main goal was to be a brand people wanted to buy. We do everything from Columbus. Our distribution is local, and all of our production is in-house. We get as many ingredients as we can from Ohio, and the ones we can’t, we’ve actually travelled and met the suppliers in person. I think it’s really important to know exactly what we’re putting in Ganola, and where it comes from. Even as we grow with these national retailers, we want to keep everything in Columbus. —Jared

We love having a female/male business partner dynamic. We have this balanced work flow, where I take care of the details and Jared makes the grand plans. It also kind of mixes things up for our business associates. The vast majority of people we deal with professionally are men. I like being the only girl at the meeting. Plus, Jared thinks that the people we are meeting with tend to be a little nicer when I’m in the room. —Heather

You need to be irrationally optimistic to make a business work. Every business is different, but there are definite similarities. We know we’re going to make mistakes while we are feeling things out, the key is to let those mistakes teach you. You come out on the other end completely changed. —Jared

Photo by Meghan Ralston