In 1981, Mona Gale was a Florida housewife and college student with a good recipe, lots of energy, persistence and a desire to be in business for herself. She knew she had a good product because of how many times her friends and neighbors uttered these five simple words, “Have you tried Mona’s granola?”
Gale set out on a mission to propel her homemade concoction onto the shelves of the popular grocery stores. Some 30 years ago, the young stay-at-home mother of two young boys found herself in the office of the CEO of a popular grocery store chain, pitching her hand-made product from a glass jar. At first the answer was no; but after she insisted he taste her granola on her second visit, things changed in a big way. Unfortunately, the lid of the jar was jammed a bit, so Gale twisted a bit harder . . . and harder. It finally popped off and the granola went everywhere — onto the executive, his desk, chair and floor. But he tasted it and promptly ordered 25 cases. With that simple order, the door opened for Mona’s Granola.
Slow & Steady Growth
At the time, Gale wasn’t even set up for the order from the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based grocery store chain. She immediately contacted the owner of a small bakery and persuaded them to bake the granola, using her recipe. She wasn’t about to blow her big break. Mona used $3,000 of her savings to start her company years ago. She’s since parlayed that money into a successful business, beyond her wildest dreams.
Over the years, some things have changed. Production grew along with the sales, moving to bigger bakeries to keep up with the requests. New and improved packaging was designed. What began with a glass mason jar and an oval family picture label transitioned to the custom stand-up bags with a clear window so it is easy to see the quality of the actual granola, rather than just a picture.
After 30 years, there’s also a lot that’s still the same when it comes to Gale’s philosophy of creating a wholesome product with simple, high-quality ingredients. Another thing that hasn’t changed is that photo on her label. It still features a photo of Gale with her two sons, who are now grown and off on their own in the business world. Her children were, and still are, a big part of her story. They both have contributed to the products’ success in establishing the mail order side of the business as well as helping out with promotion.
Gale recently offered some insight behind her grassroots success story and her product that features sunflower seeds as one of the major ingredients.
— Sonia Mullally
How did the idea behind Mona’s Granola originate?
I had been studying nutrition books for years and biology since I was a child — how fabulous the multiple layers of the skin and complexity of the human body! As I learned about deficiency symptoms and the connection to the healing through vitamins and minerals, I researched the foods with those nutrients. From there I created a very sunflower-rich healthy cereal and called it the familiar name “granola.” I ate it all the time, shared it, and requests led to the plan to put it in the stores. When Publix Markets tested it, it sold out!
How would you describe your company and product philosophy?
Always knowing how everything we do begins with the energy of feeling good, I insist on only using the best-quality ingredients available. I have a new foundation called SuperStars, with our motto [being] SuperStars Today – Leaders Tomorrow! Its mission is to provide guidance, resources and education for improving health through physical fitness and nutrition.
How did you progress from your homemade kitchen recipe to where you are today?
It begins with a vision, ignoring any negative comments from others who can't see my own vision. Still, I listen to my own inspiration. I had a formula, decided on the image, created the product — then followed every door that opened! The first major door that opened was when someone suggested Publix. With that chance, everything began!
What led you to see a need for something different in the granola marketplace almost 30 years ago?
There was no healthy, tasty granola on the shelf at the time.
How do you stand out from the General Mills, Kelloggs, Quaker of the cereal aisle?
Better quality — with 40% sunflower seeds, rich with nuts and no sugar, yet still taste delicious!
I am a real person. People can talk to me. Who can a consumer talk to at the big companies? There is no Mr. or Ms. General Mills. With our new box about to go into production, new nutritional video series and children’s foundation, the way we stand out is only beginning.
Why sunflower kernels?
They are so rich in protein, vitamins and minerals — especially the trace mineral zinc — so important, for example, to healing and the prostate.
You use sunflower and/or soy oil? Why sunflower oil?
Sunflower is high in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that must be consumed for proper health. It is exceptionally important to the health of the skin, hair and attributed to things like proper wound healing.
Can you describe the production process comparing the startup to how things are done now?
Much of our process remains the same, by hand mixing. But we are about to go to a much larger production capacity using much higher technology this year.
Cost for your most popular size package?
Our 11 oz packages are $3.99 in the store or $5.99 delivered anywhere in the U.S. and Canada by mail order.
Where is your product available?
Our product is available in the Publix supermarket chain in the five southeastern states only at this time. We are speaking to many new accounts, but getting appointments is a challenge. It’s also available through Amazon.com and our own website at www.monasinc.com.
What’s on the horizon for your company?
We have several things coming up. I have a new line of cookies. One is rich in sunflower seeds, for breakfast on the go. I am searching for a new co-packer who has the capacity for a multi-pack that is compatible with a grocery store.
In terms of promotions, we have a series of nutritional videos on our website. We’re also working with SuperStars Foundation with pro athletes giving sports tips. Another thing we’re working on is new packaging in recycled paper cereal style-box with a sealed bag inside.
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