Ten reasons why PGP should fail (and why we don't intend to).

Goliath.jpg

This is from Osmar Schindler.  It ain't Santa Claus. But you gotta love the scoffers in the background.

Providence Granola had better watch out!  Why?  Well here are 10 good reasons.  (But stay tuned.  We've got 10 of our own!)

1.    Anyone heard of Kellogg's or Post?  These Goliaths of corporate cereal buy oats by the warehouse and then mix them with a lot of cheap sugar and expensive marketing.  Have you ventured through the cereal aisle?  (Those boxes can't really be laughing since they don't know we exist.  It just makes us feel small.)

2.    Start-ups fail.  Frequently.  In fact, the failure rate for startup businesses is about 25% for the first year.  Within three years, it's closer to 45%.

3.    We are not a typical cutting-edge start-up.  We're not making the granola virtual cereal Iphone app*.  We're making breakfast cereal.  The failure rate for new consumer products is about 80%;  for grocery products launched by smaller business it's a whopping 89%.

4.    We started out as 100% self (and family) financed.  We used to wonder if some starry-eyed Venture Capitalist might try to snatch us up.  Then it dawned on us:  the wealth we've set out to generate involves our mission, not our revenue. That's not the what VC's are after.

5.    Cash flow!  With 7 employees and a half-ton of granola to produce every month, navigating the interplay of supplies and orders and inventory and payroll is a growing challenge. 

6.    Our employees have significant barriers to performance.  Most are learning English. Some are not literate in their mother language.  Some are unfamiliar with math and numbers.  None of our new hires have any experience in the American job market. 

7.    We still pack and seal every bag by hand as part of our “Made in America by International Refugees” strategy to increase employment opportunities right here in Providence. That doesn't outsource.  Eventually we'll get a packing machine, but for now labor is a big part of our costs and we're proud of that.

8.    We encourage our best, most-competent employees to move on into full time jobs--and then retrain new arrivals to take their place.

9.    We're not set up (yet!) to accommodate the niche markets of special needs such as gluten free, nut-free, vegan, or Kosher. (Ah, some day!)

10.    Economic downturn? Low interest rates?  Did you know that in the middle of this the cost of our ingredients keep going up!

But just in case you think we're going to cry, here are our 10 even better reasons for why we have every intention of sticking around.

1.    Our employees love their jobs. They look out for each other  They're grateful. They laugh.  They figure out how to make themselves understood despite the language barriers between them. And they work really hard to keep us profitable.

2.    We still haven't found another granola that tastes as good as ours.  Have you?

3.    Considering what we put in it, our granola is actually a great value.  If you don't believe us, take the Providence Granola VALUE THROW DOWN**

4.    We've believed in what we're doing-enough that Geoff and I have volunteered our efforts towards it for 4 years!  The model is effective, efficient, and mostly self-sustaining.  It crosses boundaries.  It enables the entire community to connect with refugees via a product. We think the model has wide applications and could be replicable to serve other at-risk communities.  So we think it's worth our time.

5.    And we're not the only believers. A growing cadre of volunteers and advisors keeps supporting us through crucial decisions, opening new markets, encouraging us, and keeping us focused.

6.    While we've given up looking for a VC, we think we'd be perfect for the kind of SVI (Social Venture Investor) who's interested in a whole different kind of wealth.  People wealth!  Refugee wealth!  (Want to help us build a kitchen?)

7.    Launching our parent non-profit, Beautiful Day, will allow us to cover training through grants, which in turn should make us more competitive, enable growth, open up new opportunities (like micro-business incubation) and broaden our impact.

8.    One thing we love about our model is how accessible it is across so many boundaries including blue/red and religious/secular.  Anyone who cares about refugees becoming self-sufficient can get involved and support it. You don't even have to like gourmet granola.

9.    Did you ever wonder about the size of our chunks?  They're actually just about perfect size to fit a little slingshot.  Goliaths beware! 

10.    But of course, the big one--our ace in the hole--is YOU!  Every time you buy a bag of granola you are making an impact.  Every time you stop by a farmer's market and chat with one of our employees you are extending hospitality and helping teach English.  The donations, the encouragement, the tweets, the referrals, the advice, the gifts (like free table space at the Holiday Market), the access to resources (like Amos House), the Facebook mentions, the articles (and reporters who seek us out) and blog posts, big and small.  We've wanted to grow and move forward in a way that keeps us connected to the people who make it possible.  Talk about "watching out"!  Your involvement is watching out for us.

This has been an encouraging week for us.  Holiday orders are coming in.  We continue to receive gifts towards the launch of BD.  The Providence Journal plans to put us in their famous food column next week.  A huge thanks to all.

*Though we'd be interested.  It would be like virtual eating.  You virtually feed your phone avatar things like granola and spinach and tiramisu and pop-tarts and earn points.  Play against your friends.  Use slingshots in food fights.  If anyone would like to help us develop this, we could probably teach a lot of job skills along the way.

**Here's how it works.  You try making--or at least pricing out-our granola.  For 3 pounds you're going to need about 3 cups of oats, a cup of cranberries, a cup of coconut, and about a half cup of everything else--pecans, flax, sunflower seeds, oat bran, sesame seeds, oil, honey, Sucanat, raisins.)  Please feel free to use the bulk bins at a health food store (we'd recommend  Eastside Market who now stocks us), but don't forget to use organic grains, seeds, coconut, and oil.  Use dehydrated cane juice rather than processed brown sugar.  And use local honey and Cape Cod cranberries.  Now add in the value of your time and a bit for gas for your stove.  Then divide by 4 to get a 12 oz bag.  How did you come out?  (Feel free to email back or post your answer.)  And that doesn't even include the value of helping someone in need.