Our show’s hosts, Sarah Masoni and Sarah Marshall, are well connected as you know, and today’s guest is connected with Sarah Masoni as a fellow committee member and attendee at the last Fancy Foods show in Las Vegas. Laura Briscoe of Laura’s Gourmet Granola and Sarah are mutual advocates for promoting crafted, artisan, healthy and delicious new foods and provide incredible support to the industry. After graduating from college as a Poli-Sci major, Laura went to work in the tech industry in sales. The crunch of 2001 convinced her to get away from the hectic tech pace and find a new avenue. It was a movie, “Eat Drink Man Woman” that was the epiphany for Laura. She identified with the daughter in the movie and was inspired to check out the best culinary school in the area. Laura then enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Arizona. It was during school she realized that she did not want a business partner to open a restaurant, she wanted to do it all by herself and began her business plan then. The school allowed her to do her externship to create her business so upon graduation she hit the ground running. Of course, she found out the entrepreneurial path is bumpy. She once cooked for a wedding party of 240 and the only equipment was a grill. Yes, learning to improvise is a mandatory skill. Around 2002-3, Laura began playing with a recipe that eventually became the granola for which she is now famous. But while she let that percolate her private chef and fine dining business really took off. She gained a reputation quickly that not only included running a great business, but led to local news and talk show cooking segments that grew her brand name. But the granola recipe lingered in the back of her mind. She became addicted to granola in college and would stuff herself right out of the box even in the classroom. Then she saw a recipe in a magazine to make granola and decided to make her own with exceptions. Those exceptions were butter, sugar and other ingredients she just would not eat. But she experimented with the recipe substituting ingredients acceptable to her and then one day, her original vanilla crunch granola was born (It is still the flagship flavor of the line). When Laura baked, she baked a bunch and had so much she gave it away. Of course, the rest is a familiar story: Friends loved it, wanted more, gave it to their friends and suddenly Laura was beseeched with offers to pay her, trade her, any compensation to have some of her fabulous granola, and the light went on. A best friend said she should sell it so she started talking to stores but couldn’t get to the decision makers. Then, synchronicity and serendipity, as Laura likes to say, hit. She walked into a store to get some ingredients and noticed a bunch of men in suits holding court. When Laura asked the checker what was going on, she was told the store was going to be turned into a AJs Fine Foods store and pointed out the owner. As soon as the owner broke from the pack, Laura was there pitching him on her product and her plans. He told her he’d give the product a try and, true to his word, she got a call 10 days later saying they would stock the granola on their shelves. That was the start, as the store wanted more flavors and Laura began adding flavors and the line just kept growing from customer demand. Laura’s has grown tremendously and her granola in lots of stores – check out her website – sells online and has Laura’s Gourmet Granola on menus from Florida to Alaska in hotels, restaurants, corporate dining, professional and collegiate sports teams and healthcare food services.