Hi faithful and most patient granola friends.Contrary to any rumors or assumptions based on our hiatus in communication, the Providence Granola Project is very much alive.It was an exceptionally busy summer for me and Geoff—both in our regular jobs and with the Granola Project—and updating our blog was one of the first things to go… but we are still here and kicking.Here’s a little update on what’s happening:

September’s recipe of the month is Salted Mango Pomegranate.No doubt, a granola-maker may love all his children, but I think this one is especially wonderful.Pomegranates are supposed to be like the holy grail of healthy fruit (I’ll let you google the benefits yourself) so it made sense to cram as much concentrated pomegranate juice (called molasses) into our recipe as we could.I was a bit worried that it would turn out too tangy as a result.Actually, right out of the oven it was pretty sour, but within a day it mellowed so that the pomegranate seeds now stand out as distinct little bursts of flavor.The unsulphured mango looks beautiful.And don’t be fooled by the salt in the title. The larger grains of Tripani salt we used don’t dissolve completely, so you’ll occasionally taste the concentrated flavor—but overall it has less salt than our regular granola.We just made it last week, so it’s fresh and waiting to jump in a mailer so you can dive into your bowla granola.

Ingredients: oats (org), barley (org), Sucanat (org minimally processed cane sugar), honey (Native, RI), canola oil (org), raisins, sesame seeds(org), sunflower seeds (org), wheat germ, oat bran (org), almonds, cashews, dried mango (w/sugar, unsulphured), coconut (org), flax seeds (org), pecan meal, dried pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses, oat fiber, course sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, almond extract.

Production: We’ve been holding steady at slightly above 500 pounds a month.500 is an important number because it is about the maximum we can produce per month under our present operational set-up.This is one reason marketing’s been on a back burner.We knew we needed to get our infrastructure in place to produce should sales increase.We’ve been arranging to use a separate packing /shipping facility and at this point a sudden spike in sales would be okay.

A growing team: We’re pleased to have hired Krystal Alves as our accountant/shipping/customer service manager.She’s great—smart, fast, efficient, and able to pick up the pieces we’ve dropped.She’s helping us get more organized.Please feel free to address customer service questions directly to her using our providencegranola@gmail.com account.(But please don’t swamp her with special requests either—one realization of the last few months is that in trying to accommodate too many requests, we started to drop balls.)Also, we’re very thankful for Marie Kaziunas, who, on a volunteer basis, is representing us at a local farmer’s market, and will be the face of PGP at the upcoming Winter Market at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.She’s been amazing and so generous with her time—even spending an evening helping make the granola in order to better understand our process and mission and get to know our employees.

Refugees: Our mission continues to be what we are most proud of—and it’s been a successful summer.The three Burmese men who worked for us this spring are now all employed full time.Even Christopher Dusengimana, a high school student who worked for us this summer, found a steady part-time job. And just this month Fatu Kollie, a young woman from Liberia started a steady job at a sport’s club.Our latest hire, Habtom Beyene (from Eritrea) started last week. When I paid him with his (first ever!) paycheck he had no idea what it was.Now he knows.He’s been to the bank and Western Untion.When I asked what he did with his first pay check, he said he’d sent some back to his sister and brother who are suffering in a camp in Ethiopia.He works hard and will probably move on soon.So we’re thankful.Our two regular production staff are making progress is learning how to provide constructive feedback to new hires to better equip them for success when offered other jobs.

Sales: The bulk of our orders has been shifting to local hotels and restaurants.This is a pleasure for us, in part because most are buying (we have data to prove this) with no knowledge of our mission.They just like the granola.It’s also helping us establish more of a presence in the state, which should come in handy when we develop a retail outlet.Not that we’re giving up on direct internet orders.With Krystal’s help, we’re ready to expand.

Serious Business: This summer a group of 4 MBA students assisted us with our short-term business plan. And wow, were they intense.They took the time to understand our mission and grapple with our multiple goals of helping refugees, making great granola, and becoming profitable (while working other full-time jobs).They collected data by running surveys, visiting our customers, and assessing our operations.They printed out an entire book of data and analysis.Geoff and I had extra meetings, conference calls.Two of them even listened in on an excruciatingly long phone call as Geoff and I balanced our accounts.Although sometimes embarrassing, their involvement was tremendously helpful and helped pave the way for forward movement.You may already be seeing the results in improved packaging and better customer service, and this is just the beginning.A big thank you to Denise, Elizabeth, Nichole, Sharra andthe Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Evon and her driver’s license: Evon, our production manager and chief granola chef, is now finishing a series of road-driving lessons and plans to take the driving test in November.This has been a greater challenge than any of us expected, but we know it’s important.We are all thankful for those of you who helped make it possible.One of our goals for the next year is to hire Evon half-time, so her ability to drive is a key step towards this becoming a reality.

And just for the record: Our summer offerings included Pistachio Rose Cardamon, Pina Colola, and Maple Rosemary.Alas, they have gone the way of all our best granola—sold out and eaten.

That should do it for now along with a big thanks from Keith and Geoff.

Written by Keith and Geoff

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