Part 2 of Semi-hostile Interview with Keith Cooper

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Okay.You, oh-so-eloquently mentioned “innovations and stuff.”Tell us more.

With business picking up and the gift giving season around the corner, Geoff and I have a few things up our sleeves.We’ve published some new marketing material, so if any of our fans would like to spread the word, we can send you some postcards to hand out.With the help of one of our artistically gifted fans we’re getting close to a new logo along with new packaging that will keep the granola fresher.We’re even about to release a new product called “Providence Muesli.”

Sounds artisanal.Is that really a word, anyway, or did you make it up?You realize, don’t you, that nobody knows how to pronounce it.

The muesli is a bit of an alter-ego to our signature big-chunk, tooth-cracking, snacking style granola.This stuff belongs in a bowl.The recipe’s the same, but the grade is smaller and fits nicely on a spoon.You can think of it as, perhaps, the European version.Refined. Swiss. We’re also mixing it (and lowering the calories) with some straight-up organic oats that have been toasted to bring out the...

Let me guess: the je-ne-sais-quoi quality?

And more economically priced, I might add.

So what else?Dare I ask how business is going?

On the employment side, excellent.Better than imagined.Of the 6 refugees we’ve hired so far, 5 have already moved on to other jobs.Ayenge, our new hire in September, lasted all of 3 weeks before she went out and found herself a job. I don’t want to take too much credit, but she’d been in the US for over 2 years and we were her first employer.After the first work shift she brought a translator in to see me to ask if she was fired.It was great fun to tell her she’d been amazing.By the second week, I think she realized she could do the job as well as anybody.Now she’s gone and I’m hiring someone new.

And I heard you have a manager now.

Yep.Evon, our first employee who now works at a fancy restaurant, has been cut back to weekends, so I invited her back as our manager and switched our work day to Wednesdays.She now oversees the shift and does most of the training.I drop off and pick up, but she does most of the work.

How about sales?Are you making the big bucks yet?

We think we’ve finally started breaking even, so that’s a milestone.This summer we had a successful run at a few farmer’s markets.We’re quite proud of our sample-to-purchase ratio.Also, several very, very fancy RI restaurants have been buying us through Farm Fresh Market Mobile …

"Very" as in you’re very much dying to tell me who they are.

(scowl, short pause)… I admit, we’re impressed.It seems too easy—it makes us realize that if our fans mentioned us to the breakfast places they visit, our granola-domination of Rhode Island might soon be complete.We’ve also contracted with a non-profit, The George Wiley Center, to produce “George Wiley Ginger.” Profits from their sales (mostly through church/temple fundraisers) go toward feeding the hungry.That said, we’re definitely seeing some of the flaws of our business plan.

No kidding. Such as hiring people who don’t speak any English or have any experience in the American job market?Or trying to pay semi-decent wages?Or intentionally losing your best employees?Not to mention setting up as a for-profit LLC because you want people to know that refugees are contributing rather than taking from the local economy?I mean…

If these are questions, they seem rhetorical.In fact, this whole semi-hostile interview thing is becoming so blatantly self-serving that I might as well beg you to ask me about that request for help I mentioned right at the beginning.

Oh yeah.I almost forgot.So is there anything else?Some request you’d like to make?

Come to think of it, yes.Over and over, various faithful granola fans keep asking us what they can do, how they can help—and this got me thinking. It would really help our business if our manager, Evon, could get her driver’s license.Not only would it make her more employable but it would ease the burden of me driving refugees all over town on work days.

So how can we help?

So—I’ve made some arrangements with Joan’s Driving School in Cranston to provide Evon with discounted (thank you Joan!) driving lessons. And you can buy her one.Once you’ve finished buying your bag of Maple Rosemary (which came out awesome, I might add) you can also add on an hour-long driving lesson for only $35.Our goal is to provide 12-15 hours of lessons.If more than that comes in, we’ll either refund the money or offer you the opportunity to donate it towards step two of this plan--to buy a Providence Granola Project used car for Evon to use.

There your have it.End of interview.Thanks for reading, folks.Eat your oats.Keep hostility to a minimum. If you need a great driving teacher, call Joan. (I'll be hiring her myself in about--gasp--a year.) Tune in next time to hear about our newest employee from Burma. Keep a look out for our new muesli.And thanks, as always, for your support of refugees and RI’s best granola.

Ingredients in Maple Rosemary Granola: oats (org), barley (org), Sucanat (minimally processed cane sugar), honey (native RI), canola oil (expeller pressed), prunes (hard to find and overpriced because they don’t have chemicals in them), dates (org), Craisins, raisins, sesame seeds (org), sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oat bran (org), almonds, walnuts, coconut (org), pecan meal, flax seeds (org), maple syrup (authentic and mostly organic, although I ran out halfway through and had to use some conventional), oat fiber, vanilla, sea salt, cinnamon, rosemary (org, hand-picked this week in the rain at 6 AM from my plot at the Foxpoint Community Garden), nutmeg, almond extract.Absolutely no anthrax.