Budding Entrepreneurs // Simply Granola
A bon vivant at heart
I first stumbled across Nicola Kok back when the lovely Marize (@sheisvisual) shared a few snapshots of her early design work and brand development for Simply Granola a number of years ago. Since then, I have been following this small business that has slowly but surely blossomed into something amazing. Although we are yet to meet in person, I can't wait for the day when I can share a good cup of coffee and granola-filled breakfast with Nicola to learn all that I can from her experiences as she has navigated the good times and the bad during her journey as an entrepreneur. I'm super excited for you to meet her in today's feature!
So, can you tell us a bit about who you are?
Hmmm at the core of me I’m a wife to Dries, sister to my twin and two older sisters, (not yet mother) yet aunt to 4 adorable littles who I love to bits, daughter to a phenom mom and dad who I am grateful to for so much more than words can say and friend to some epic ladies in my life. Getting active makes my heart sing, I have an eternal sweet tooth and I firmly believe that life is too short to complicate it unnecessarily. Time around a table, lingering longer over good food, fine wine, with great company is one of life’s greatest pleasures and one I’ll never tire of. To know who you are is, in my opinion, integral to inner peace. Knowing who you are full well, allows you to be okay with who you are and who you are in this world. To get to a point in life to be okay with who I am, my decisions (and their consequences) has been the most liberating thing in all of my (almost) 30 years :) Well that and becoming my own boss.
How did you get to where you are today in your career?
My formal education included qualifying as a Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA) and I worked in finance here in South Africa for 5 years before leaving the corporate life for a roundabout way to what I do today. Starting Simply Granola and finally doing it full time was a very unexpected, organic shift in life. I wanted to steer away from a corporate career that I realised I don't have to pursue just because I’m good at it. I saw the sacrifices that were required of women around me who climbed the proverbial corporate ladder and the consequences of their decisions and I simply realised that it is not what I want.
You know sometimes when you’re good at what you do, and you’ve spent a number of years to get to where you are, have parents who made all their support and resources available in order for you to complete a number of degrees…there is a certain unspoken obligation (self-inflicted) to pursue the path that you’re on. In the end it was a decision for me to put my emotional wellbeing and happiness first, and to figure out what the rest will look like from there. Making that decision was the first step towards where I am today.
Has your journey to where you are today inspired you to do anything you never thought you’d be brave enough to do?
I think my journey has taught me that blind oblivion will get you to do anything you figured you’re not brave enough to do :) haha. (Future me will deal with whatever needs to happen kind of attitude?! ) ;) In all seriousness, I have always had a very simplistic approach to things that come my way: there will be no struggling in the season, if I have to struggle to make it happen, it’s not meant for me. So when opportunities come my way, at a time that allows me to pursue it, I simply just do it and rely on the journey then to make me brave enough. Because I know that I am, for that moment, exactly where I need to be, I also know that I have everything that I need to do what needs to be done.
What inspired you to start your small business?
It was chance really. My mom raised us 4 girls on a version of what today is called The Classic . I’ve always made it for our own little housie-for-two and one day a colleague asked if I can bake some for them. That was the slow and steady start to baking and selling granola (no-name packets) and then over time, I felt a stirring in my heart to give my products a little bit more of a platform and identity. And so over the course of about a year. I worked with Marize from She Is Visual and Simply Granola was founded.
What kind of products do you offer?
I have a collection of granolas (4 different flavours) and then also a collection of raw honey. This year I also added some novelty products to the mix, on-the-go snack packs as well as bundling of products to cater for a complete weekend away solution where breakfast is involved.
What do you love most about running your business?
First and foremost there is freedom and TIME. I am able to pull more weight where Dries and our home is concerned, I can take certain things off his plate and am able to add more to our days. Our rhythm has completely changed since I work from home, we don’t set alarms, we wake up on our own accord and we tackle our days together. I am eternally grateful for being able to BE PRESENT - whether it’s for my darling domestic who needs an extra cup of tea or a friend who needs a hand. Being able to design your own work time allows for LIFE to be accommodated just a little bit more fully. Do I miss a salary? Sure, who won’t…Would I be able to pursue Simply Granola if Dries wasn’t supporting our home and lifestyle? Definitely not. But it makes me infinitely more grateful to be doing life the way that I am/we are.
What do you find challenging about running a small business?
As much as I revel in the diversity of tasks that I need to deal with, it can get overwhelming to have to wear all hats at all times. I have chosen to date to grow as fast as my own funding can take us. So there isn’t necessarily the luxury of outsourcing certain tasks, or getting extra hands in. Although this makes the road slower, and harder, I have been forced to learn a lot because you simply have to. I often say to people that with patience, perseverance and Google you really can help yourself to do whatever you set your mind to. Stop finding excuses and start helping yourself - there is a WORLD of resources you simply need to tap into.
Anything exciting in the works for your small business over the next year?
Ah, yes there is :) :) I’m currently busy with a packaging project that will take Simply Granola to retail shelves nationwide. The past two years have been a crazy number of lessons rolled into one sweet mountain of how-not-to’s and the one thing I needed to address before I can (confidently) put my product on a retail shelf, is to address the packaging challenges I have experienced to date. So we’ll be moving from our loved brown craft bags to a custom-designed range of boxes, which I am very excited about. If all goes according to plan we’ll have those live in August.
What are your top tips for staying healthy?
I am a huge advocate of self-awareness - be involved in how you’re feeling, what is draining you, where you’re spending your time vs what you really should be doing with your available time etc. If you aren’t concentrating on how you and life are dealing with each other, you’re utterly incapable of performing your best / making subtle changes to ensure you’re dealing with life the best way possible. For me staying healthy/whole means two things:
Grace. With myself mostly - to be slow, to be weak, to embrace the days where I am less than I want to be and to stop and slow down. I take shameless me days, or moments to myself, often, unplanned and very spontaneously (and shamelessly).
Get out. Make a physical move to get out from behind your desk, laptop and life. Go for a walk, chuck your phone in a corner and look at what’s going on around you. I struggle a LOT to exercise and to not push myself to the point of breaking. This year I have forced myself to incorporate moving, slowly. Deliberate time with no phone, no music, no goal, no activity tracker - simply time to switch off, let my mind wander and breathe.
How can people get hold of your products and keep up with what you’re doing?
The best way to follow along on my little oats-filled journey is to subscribe to our newsletter over on our website - www.simplygranola.co.za - and to follow along on Instagram where I share all things Simply Granola.