Sharon's Granola: Healthy snack hobby becomes successful business

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December 12, 2014

NH SBDC is celebrating its 30th anniversary by highlighting just some of the many small business clients we've had over the years.

Sharon DiRusso, founder of Sharon’s Granola, has worked with an NH SBDC business advisor since late 2013, when an upsurge in her home-based business caused her to seek help. Sharon creates granola bars and snacks that are gluten-free, vegan and organically sweetened, and she is currently selling them in several stores throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Sharon holding bags of granolaThe NH SBDC was recommended to Sharon by a few friends who also owned their own businesses, and Sharon made her way to Andrea O’Brien in the Manchester advising office. “I was really struggling with the numbers—my cost-per-case and cost-per-item. I had no budget. I didn’t know how to market. I didn’t know whether to stay working from my home kitchen or rent commercial kitchen space,” Sharon explains. “Andrea and I really hit it off. She helped me narrow down my options and to really focus on the numbers.”

Sharon’s business began as an effort to help her daughter and husband have healthy snacks that they could take to school and work. Soon, their friends and coworkers were asking for samples and the recipes. Sharon was asked to sell some of the granola at local farmer’s markets, and the business grew from there. In the fall of 2013, she was a guest chef on WMUR’s “Cook’s Corner” segment, which led to a lot of new business for her.

Sharon’s Granola got noticed in the Hippo Press and other media, and she also entered the Tory C. Marandos Entrepreneurship Challenge. For all of that, Andrea helped her prepare. “Andrea gave me that boost to take on these things. I normally shy away from attention, but she gave me confidence in my selling.”

For the Entrepreneurship Challenge, she really had to learn her numbers and be able to present them. “By then I learned that I really did know my numbers and had a plan for how I was going to bring them all up gradually,” Sharon says.

Her products are in the Harvest Market in Bedford, the Whole Foods in Nashua and three of their stores in Massachusetts. At the moment, she’s in the process of renting commercial kitchen space from another business owner and obtaining the appropriate licensing after inspections from the Manchester Health Department. Once that’s secured, she’s confident she will be in other stores very soon. All that will enable her to hire her first employee to help with packaging and shipping.

“It’s hard work, but it’s fun and keeping me busy,” she said. “And I love doing it. I love seeing peoples’ happy faces when they eat my granola.” Will she need help from the NH SBDC again? “I’ll continue working with Andrea or NH SBDC as long as I’ll be in business,” Sharon said. “I have a long way to go in honing in on the financial side of things and I have a lot of growth potential.”