The Day I Stopped Being A CEO Business Owner
I am no longer the CEO owner of my business. I willingly gave up that title.
When I first began the steps to transition my passion in making a handcrafted granola into a viable business, it was a necessity to aggressively market my product (mind you, it was just one flavor at the time) to a wide audience. The recommended suggestions from people who've done this before included selling at farmers markets, flea markets, special events and offering giveaways. This was and in many ways still common practice in launching similar products. The thinking was to be in as many places as possible to get customers. This turned out to be not a good strategy for me or my business. In fact it was the exact opposite. At one huge holiday show with a hefty table fee, I sold exactly one bag of product. The coordinator of the show told me I needed to show people how to "use" my granola. Ouch! The people attending this show weren’t interested in buying granola, just inexpensive gifts. Lesson to self: do more research to determine the buying audience.
Maya Angelou has said:
"Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, you do better."
I had to do better and did.
Pat's Granola began as a food that I created in my tiny kitchen to feed my school age son who was an athlete. The WHY seemed simple. Executing this was another story that took damn near thirty years to turn into a viable business. Stay with me on this point.
Ideas for great businesses are generated every day by smart, savvy, hardworking and lucky people. I've had a a few great ideas that I didn't do a thing with. Shame on me as I watched other people leapfrog to success. They executed and I didn't. C'est la vie.
The truth is I was a fearful of trying to steal second without having taken my foot off first. I'd worked my entire adult life for many notable companies, raised a family and had what many would consider a good life. But there was always something missing. A nagging little voice in my head and heart about what else could truly be my calling. Was I destined to work behind a desk, be a salesperson, or manage other people? Some of the jobs I held were better than others, however, I just knew there was something more I needed to do in this life. Every job had its pluses and minuses and I took invaluable learning away from each experience. Grateful to have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly smart people, find great mentors and make good friends along the way.
When I finally made the decision to devote myself full-time to building my business, it was if the anchors released from my feet. I was working at a hospice and I'd had countless conversations with patients who waited lifetimes to fulfill their dreams (travel more, spend more time with family, garden, ride a motorcycle, learn an instrument...you know, dreams). Some of their stories were beautiful, some tragically sad. Time isn't always fair in how long one gets to live. I didn't want that to be me. My friend Wendy (God bless her) came over to hospice one day and stated emphatically that if ever I was going to get the business off the ground I had to do it without reservation. Every day I waited was another day I wasn't going to get it back. Ironically, I made this decision in January of 2020 right as the pandemic was unleashing. Talk about timing.
So after having worked almost 50 years, I took a nose dive into the deep end of the pool, and I don't know how to swim. Years worth of "stuff" that was holding me down started to disintegrate and float away. And to the point of waiting almost thirty years to start Pat's, well, that was a necessary part of my life long learning and part of the winding path to business ownership. In my quietest moments I knew that if I didn't find the courage to take this leap at fulfilling my dream, I’d live with regret. Pandemic or not, I went for it.
Business ownership has changed my outlook on what meaningful work is, for me. What I now know to be true is that I am a connector, a builder of some pretty stellar relationships and a strong collaborator--which artfully melds it all together. These are my superpowers. If you know me, you'll understand that It has never just been about granola. Granola was the vehicle to help get me to where I'm going. And I'm going places I've never been.
You might be wondering why I'm no longer the CEO Business Owner of Pat's Granola. Because I'm not Chasing Every Opportunity that comes my way. A friend of mine used to like to say "there's a cover for every pot." Pat's is a uniquely delicious handcrafted product that isn't your run of the mill granola. It is painstakingly made by hand in small batches in a facility in Northeast Ohio. I’ve choosen to sell it through selected business partners in Northeast Ohio as well as online. Chasing everything that comes my way is akin to a dog chasing every car that passes. Not smart or strategic.
Much to my surprise and delight, customers and fans have been instrumental in helping me grow my small business. They seek Pat's out and patronize our business partners, as well as suggest other businesses for us to distribute at. What a powerful testimony this has been. It's brought me into this sixth decade of life with many unexpected blessings, including the ability to donate Pat's to people in need of food as well as address issues around food insecurity and food deserts in communities here in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere.
My twin sister, Susan, tells me to stop referring to my business as small. “It’s anything but small.” She’s right. This year I am deepening the mission of Pat’s Granola through collaborations and initiatives that will help fuel the belly and souls of people in our community. The company won't just be about granola.
Getting to know and work with some of the incredibly talented artisans here in Northeast Ohio has provided us with unique collaborations. I love sharing these stories. Read about these fabulous businesses and their owners here. And there are more on the horizon which I can't wait to share. Cheering on other artisans to believe in themselves and their dreams will be woven into the fabric of Pat's. It's what will keep our community strong, viable and sustainable.
To every single person and business who's been on this journey with me for any length of time, thank you for believing in me. It's enabled me to build something extraordinary which is the ability to plant seeds for trees I may never see but future generations will benefit. Stay tuned!
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and collaborative lifestyle brand. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Nature's Oasis Lakewood www.naturesoasis.com
Happy Cows Group Share Happy Cows Group Share
Sweet Bean Candies Sweet Bean Candies
The Corner at The Van Aken District The Corner at The Van Aken District
Pat's October 29 appearance on New Day Cleveland
Hear Pat's story on:
Read about Pat's story:
Launching a Granola Business at Age 61
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