If necessity is the mother of invention, survival may well be credited with the birth of the best granola to roll its oats into the Cincinnati region. As a cash-strapped graduate student at UC, entrepreneur Marie McCabe's reputation among friends for her delectable homemade granola became the essential ingredient in her own survival, which she cleverly bartered for goods and services such as a new bike and the occasional computer repair.
Among McCabe's granola devotees was her former University of Dayton roommate Kate Desmond. Recognizing the business potential in McCabe's popular snack mix, Desmond teamed up with her friend to parlay the tasty treat into real profits.
Following many months of market research and brainstorming, and endless hours perfecting recipes, the two budding entrepreneurs admit to being caught completely off-guard by the overwhelming response they received the first day they launched the McCabe's Granola website.
While orders tumbled in, the two enjoyed a brief moment of celebration . . . until reality set in. With hundreds of orders to fill and no product prepared, the two made a frenzied dash out to buy ingredients followed by a long night spent baking and packaging in their own kitchens. By sunup, from a trailer hitched to the back of their cars, the granola girls were making their first deliveries. Their exhaustive efforts were rewarded with their first batch of loyal customers and the granola-preneurs were off and running.
Three years and three kitchens later, McCabe's is a "growing, thriving granola machine" with national distribution. The original plastic baggie has been replaced by a whimsical and eye-catching package designed by Traction
, a Cincinnati design firm, and the co-founders now have their own Walnut Hills bakery crew, a website specialist, and professional distributors to make those deliveries for them.
Now the #2 selling granola in the Cincinnati market, co-founder Desmond reveals the secret ingredients to McCabe's success: "A great product combined with hard work, a little luck and a community that is particularly sensitive to entrepreneurs and more than willing to give them a chance."
Though still carried in several small local coffee shops (which Desmond credits with giving McCabe's their start), the granola is now available at most area grocers, including Biggs, Whole Foods, Kroger, Remke, Wegmans and Jungle Jims. They have also recently partnered with Heinen's of Cleveland as well as KeHE, a national distributor.
Last year, McCabe's True Original granola was joined by a new line of flavors including PB & Chocolate, Delta Blueberry and Cran with a Twist, each uniquely represented by a quippy character on the face of every package.
With plans already in the works to "take it to the next level" and demand increasing with each batch, the granola gurus are poised for future growth. "After all," says Desmond, "we have a whole arsenal of characters just waiting to be introduced!"
Writer: Alyce Vilines
Source: Marie McCabe, co-founder McCabe's Granola
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