Sarah Lanphier was a sophomore at Elizabethtown College competing on the triathlon team. When the squad needed to raise money to attend a national meet, she thought outside the (cookie) box. “Instead of selling cookies or something like that, I had this recipe for granola. So I packaged it and sold it. And it was very successful.”
Since then there’s been no stopping her. By the time she graduated from Elizabethtown in 2009, she and her mother, Gayle, had turned a one-time fundraising scheme into Sarah’s Snacks, selling hand-made granola at farmers’ markets throughout South Central Pennsylvania and online, at www.nutsaboutgranola.com.
Sarah was still in college when she decided to get serious about granola as a business. In December 2007, she realized she needed a business plan. “The purpose of my plan was not to take to a bank. It was more to gather my thoughts and try to lay them out — to organize my thoughts and put them on paper.” It was a somewhat daunting
prospect, she remembers. As a business major, she was aware of a course called New Venture Creation, which took students through the process of writing a business plan.
“I thought… I have to write this 30-page document [for my business], I might as well get credit for it. Plus, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to write a business plan. I didn’t even know what all was in a business plan!”
So she signed up for the class and discovered Business Plan Pro. “We used the program as a step-by-step tool to guide us through the entire process. It made it easy; you’re not just pulling things out of thin air.”
Sarah says the examples found throughout the software were particularly helpful. “You could see the general descriptions that the software gave you. But it was sometimes difficult to… translate that into your business. Then you read a couple of examples of other businesses and how they interpreted the guidelines and it was really easy to then write it for your business.”
Fresh, local, and real
Part of Nuts About Granola’s mission is to support local businesses and farmers. In addition to selling their products at farmer’s markets and online, they do sell their products wholesale. But the company requires vendors to be independently-owned businesses — no big corporate chains for Nuts About Granola, says Sarah. “It’s very locally focused.” As supporters of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement, Nuts About Granola products contain only all-natural, local ingredients and have earned the “PA Preferred” seal from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Sarah creates all the granola recipes herself, and one of her favorite parts of the business is interacting with her customers at the farmers’ markets. “It’s fun for me to develop those recipes and test them out. I really enjoy that aspect of it.” With flavors including “College Staple,” “Lover’s Combo,” and “Orange Creamsicle,” her goal is to create unique flavor combinations that are delicious served with milk or on top of yogurt or ice cream, or eaten right out of the bag.
Nuts About Granola seeks to create support for local businesses and bring healthy, natural products to consumers who might be used to something more processed and artificial. “We’re trying to bring back the local bakeries and the local stores by offering fresh product. We serve real food. We don’t use preservatives and artificial ingredients. It’s just food. We want to bring back real food!”