Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Briscoe.
Laura, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2001 I was working as a sales executive in the tech industry. At that point I was a nearly 15 year veteran. Unfortunately, the .com “fiasco” happened and I was downsized with the rest of the company. Having already been suffering from burnout, I knew I didn’t want to go back into high tech in another job. A fortuitous trip to the movies (Tortilla Soup) led me to question why I wasn’t cooking (something I always loved to do) so I called Scottsdale Culinary Institute from the parking lot of the theatre after the movie was over. One tour and I was all in.
I attended culinary school to partner with a chef and open a restaurant, but after a mere few days, I realized I wanted to be the chef and I didn’t want a 24 x 7 restaurant commitment (small children at home). As such, upon completion of school, my externship was spent starting my first business, Celebrated Cuisine, private fine dining (upscale catering) and culinary instruction.
About a year after finishing school, I was playing with a magazine recipe for granola, something I always loved. After making the recipe once, I knew I never would make it again: it had so much butter and white sugar, things I don’t care for, nor does my body handle well. For whatever reason, I kept remaking and revising the recipe, documenting everything along the way and created what is now known as Vanilla Almond Crunch – our flagship flavor and bestseller. Given you always have more of what you want for yourself when you bake, I would give granola away. It got to a point where people starting asking for it in small bags (or baggies) and would even get offers to trade services for it. Finally, my best friend Kathleena said that I should think about selling it.
With that in mind, I scoured the shelves at AJs Fine Foods and studied what made a product upscale on the outside. I created the first (rudimentary) labels that I printed on my printer at home and placed them on Kraft bags and called it Laura’s Gourmet Granola. I visited every AJs to get buy in from the grocery managers and kept sending things to corporate with no response. Then one day, en route to teach a cooking class, I ran into Eddie Basha, of Basha’s Grocery Store fame, outside what has become AJs on 44th street and Camelback. I introduced myself and told him what I was trying to do and he responded with “we support Local” and promised to make a call on my behalf.
Ten days later I received a call letting me know they would try us on the shelf. 15 years later, all seven flavors are represented and remain their best sellers in the category.
I thought that was going to be it and went back to focusing on Celebrated Cuisine, but Laura’s Gourmet Granola kept asking for attention. Yes, I was still baking and packaging it myself, hosting bag labeling parties with my friends and delivering to every AJs store.
Our next retailer was Whole Foods, then we got a request to do foodservice for Fox Restaurant Concepts for a new concept they were opening. So every week I would head to Kierland with a Lexan of granola, dump it into their Lexan and collect a check. Again, I didn’t think more of it, until we added another restaurant, and then the airport (as in Terminal 4). We got picked up by Shamrock for distribution for the airport at that point (no, I am no longer baking it myself, I had a couple of people helping). A year later we got picked up by Sysco for national drop ship distribution, then into Sysco Arizona, plus additional distributors for foodservice.
In 2019, after moving our facility into much bigger digs (now I have an actual production and packaging team), we got picked up by a large specialty retail distributor which has brought us into markets outside Arizona, including Texas, Chicago and Milwaukee, among others.
Has it been a smooth road?
The road is never smooth. Struggles include contractors and employees in the past, technology requirements unique to every supplier, cash flow (we are self-funded), new packaging, bad labels, growing too fast, not growing fast enough, human error, self faith, learning as you go.
Please tell us about your business.
Our sole focus is to make unparalleled, classic granola using only all natural ingredients and prove that healthy and delicious CAN coexist, in every artisan crafted gluten-free bite.
I am exceptionally proud of our product, its texture and flavor. There is nothing like it on the market in terms of a classic. We are not going to be keto or paleo or grain-free because that’s what a trend is doing. We ARE always going to be all natural, with no fillers, no rice, nothing “weird”. We are super clean in our ingredients and they are all recognizable. The flavor speaks for itself – we are not a processed product, but a baked product, by artisans in our own facility.
I have an awesome team and some incredible partners. All of this combined contributes to the excellence of our products.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The Phoenix metro area and Tempe are awesome places to incubate and grow one’s business. There are talented individuals to bring on board, rents are not ridiculous and the weather couldn’t be better to introduce snowbirds from around the country to our products so they can find them when they get “home” or order them online.
I have been in AZ for 31 years and while I love to travel, I will always call AZ home. My two beautiful daughters were born here and it’s where I met my amazing husband. You can’t beat the weather, the culinary scene is always on the rise and people are generally friendly. Love the mountains for hiking and the weather for all types of outdoor activities.
Least? the heat of summer– but hey, after 31 years, I am used to it and it sure beats an east coast winter, plus you can always escape it without leaving the state, whether a trip up north or a staycation and pool time at any of the amazing resort properties throughout the city.
- Website: https://www.laurasgourmet.com/
- Phone: 4804602102
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: laurasgourmetgranola
- Facebook: lauragourmetgranola
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