In 2016, I was eating like a snack monster when I started menopause and knew that I had to make some changes as I watched my weight increase. I had been a slim vegetarian most of my life. I was eating healthy foods, so I thought. But, I quickly learned that what I thought was healthy was really snacks full of sugar and loads of sodium along with heavy carbs. My favorite snack at the time was granola bars. My family and I would purchase cases for us to take to school and work. At 50 years old, I decided to become a vegan because I wanted to make better food choices that would alleviate digestive problems along with lose weight and maintain an active lifestyle. For me, this meant making my own granola snacks using natural ingredients. I wanted to create a granola snack that was kind to my digestion, low in fat, sugar, sodium, calories and carbs while giving me pure flavor satisfaction. For me, I wanted a totally reimagined granola snack, so I went for it!
As the only vegan among my family members and friends, I envisioned making a treat we all could enjoy. I also wanted to avoid crumbling, messy granola that dropped half-eaten into the bottom of bags and purses. After hours in the kitchen I found a unique way to turn my toasted granola into balls. My new snack traveled with me to work where I shared small batches each week with hungry college students and faculty. They all liked the uniqueness of my granola balls with their chewy texture and bold flavors with the right amount of sweetness.
I remember bringing a variety of flavors each day to share with them. Over a couple of semesters, the students began asking for more and more granola ball snacks to share with their friends and families. I gave them bags of them, eventually creating ten different flavors. One day, some of my students came to me with files of surveys and dumped them on my desk. They informed me that they'd been giving my granola ball snacks to other students at other colleges and asking them to fill out surveys. I remember feeling so shocked. I couldn't believe it. As I read through the hundreds of surveys (and I still have many of them in a file), I couldn't believe that so many people liked my granola balls. Students had written that they liked the taste and the smallness of them. My students insisted that I should seriously consider starting my own company. But, I wasn't convinced. I didn't know how to run a company and couldn't fathom taking on another job with an already full schedule. The students contacted me often encouraging me to start my company. My daughters and husband also talked to me about starting a snack company. I understood that starting a food company with no experience was going to take a lot of work and commitment.
Slowly, over time, I became comfortable with the idea. I wondered, if it was possible to combine my passion for making healthy snacks and mentoring. I have spent decades mentoring students, faculty and staff and being mentored in return. I believe deeply in these special relationships. So, after much thinking, and talking with professors in the Business Department, I informed my students, family and friends that I would start my own food company with one of its mission goals being: to support community college mentoring programs. I have committed 10% of the profits (once the company is profitable) to community college mentoring programs.
Mentors saved my life, provided guidance and gave me hope. Strong and healthy mentoring relationships can make a significant difference in the healthy choices we make in life. In living my truth, I invited my mentees Mariem Sanoe and Candice Ricks to join the company. I have given them sweat equity, and they are part of this dream to make a difference. This is by no means an easy journey. The road is full of bumps, ditches, hills, holes and smooth asphalt. I cannot tell you how much it means to me when we receive an alert that someone has purchased our snacks on Shopify or someone has sent us a wholesale inquiry to purchase It's Nola granola balls (bites). You are making dreams come true.
Mission Statement: To inspire and promote healthy eating and living.
How? We make snacking healthy by creating delicious and uniquely flavored plant-based snacks. Our first creation is vegan granola ball snacks. Think of us as urban vegan gourmet. With 94%-96% of people snacking 4-6 times a day, we believe that snacking healthy is more important now than ever.
We support mentoring relationships that inspire community college students to follow their dreams. We are strong advocates and grateful benefactors of mentoring relationships.
Core Values: As a company, our values mirror who we are: Caring, Honest, Reliable, Respectful, Hardworking, Accountable, and Committed to creating addictive healthy snacks with attitude and a bold Brooklyn style.
I am Margaret Barrow, Founder and CEO of It's Nola (formerly Brooklyn Granola). I am a college professor, author, and keynote speaker. I am also a mother, sister, daughter, auntie, friend and vegan. Like you, I am complex and full of complexities. One f my greatest passions is reading. A teacher of mine once said that I devoured books. They saved my life, giving me places to travel and escape a very challenging childhood. They also provided a pathway to teaching. I am an educator at heart. I've also been someone who has always been interested in healthy living since I was a young kid. So, it wasn't so strange for me to start cooking healthy foods and snacks to share with my students. Another passion of mine is fostering mentor relationships. Mentoring, like all relationships, requires a deep commitment. One must enter the relationship with purpose and intention to build and guide. Investing time in the growth of another human being requires an invaluable time investment. To me, caring about others means caring about the whole person. As I head into the next phase of my life, one of my top goals is to connect It's Nola with a national mentoring program that mirrors my beliefs in the power of mentoring to save and nurture lives, no matter how young or old.
I am Mariem Sanoe, a mentee of Professor Barrow and a Co-Owner of It's Nola. I am a Rutgers University alumna. Though not a vegan, I am learning how to take better care of my health every day. As an immigrant living in the United States, I am excited to be part of a small and special business like It's Nola since I see this experience teaching me the benefits and challenges of healthy living and entrepreneurial life . I am also learning on this journey the importance of reliability and responsibility. A company cannot thrive without working together as a team, so I'm also learning the importance of team work. I see big things happening for It's Nola. I am inspired by our hard work and commitment to make a difference in the world. It's also exciting to see us grow. I remember our first encounter with our first customer. Professor Barrow was so nervous. I told her to just be herself and people will see her authenticity. We sold almost a thousand dollars worth of our healthy granola snack bites to people who had never ever heard of our company. To me, that was another affirming sign that Professor Barrow had truly created an amazing snack. I was one of those students who had taken her snacks to college and conducted surveys. Seeing all those people buying what she had created to share with the world was such a deeply honoring moment. This journey with It's Nola has also enriched my understanding of how critical mentoring is. I'm not the easiest person to mentor. But, still she sees my potential even if I don't always. For me, It's Nola is very much a story of the journey of a mentor and her mentees.
I am Candice Ricks, a mentee of Professor Barrow and a Co-Owner of It's Nola. I am currently working on my B.A. in English at Brooklyn College. I am a single mom nurturing and guiding the love of my life, my son, Joel who is a Sophomore in high school. I've lived all my life in Brooklyn and feel honored to be part of a company that was conceptualized in my birthplace. To me, being a part of It's Nola teaches me how one's purpose and intention can truly realize one's dreams. This path leads me to creating my own company one day. That I know and feel at the cellular level. I plan on opening my own school with a specialized curriculum in Black culture. I think it's critically important for America's history to be truly understood so that we can all grow in order to meet our greatest potential. It's funny how mentoring is like planting seeds in fertile ground and purposefully attending to the garden with love and deliberation. For me, It's Nola is a critical part of my social, emotional and intellectual growth.