Megan Gordon is a young woman with a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado. She wanted to be a teacher at one point, like her mom, but that didn’t work out the way she had hoped — so she moved from Boston back home to the Bay Area and started baking pies. She took the pies to farmers’ markets in San Francisco, and people liked them, so she rented space in a commercial kitchen, filled out the blizzard of paperwork that presumably guarantees innocent consumers that they are not eating more than the allowable portion of insect parts, and put up a website to advertise her new “bakery” — which existed only online and wherever she set up a card table. She named her business “Marge,” after her grandmother, who knew a thing or two about pies.
And what a great time to start a business! The economy was setting new records. By this, I mean that people were losing jobs at rates unseen since the Depression, housing foreclosures were hitting new highs, people were spending money with the reckless abandon of an Amish aunt, and the government was doing its usual wonderful job of looking after itself. But Marge putted along, doing well enough to keep Megan optimistic that it could be a success.
Not having any connection with green energy or high speed light rail, Marge didn’t qualify for any stimulus assistance. It wasn’t likely that its rates of production could be expanded to any large scale level. A pie is either homemade or it’s not. And the internet did not seem likely to help, as it’s very hard to deliver pies by UPS. Then two things happened.
Before starting Marge, Megan published a cooking/baking blog called A Sweet Spoonful, which combines very well-written short essays with recipes and some marvelous photography. (Go look, or don’t. You’ll get hungry if you do.) A publisher who had been impressed contacted her with a book contract.
Then, her granola took off. That photo up top shows Megan sitting in front of only one-quarter of the orders she had boxed up a few days ago for shipment to a national clientele. Granola, it obtains, can be delivered by UPS.
Granola? You bet. The pies were just fine, but for the last year or so, Marge has been rapidly earning a reputation for making the best damn granola you can find. So Megan dropped the pie, moved to Seattle (boyfriend), and focused on just the granola. What makes it special? Let her tell you:
We specialize in small-batch granolas and cereals using organic olive oil, lots of good nuts and seeds, Vermont maple syrup, and our signature blend of warm spices. We bake each batch at a low temperature for a long time to give it the characteristic toastiness that our customers have come to know and love. We dare you to find another granola like it.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured Marge’s Granola in its “Bits and Bites” section, and the orders really started rolling in. People buy it online, or by phone (Megan answers). Stores are stocking it. Is Marge the next Ben and Jerry’s? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s off to a helluva start.
And there you have it. An overnight success. All it took was years of hard work, gritty determination and an understanding that if you make something really good, people will find a way to buy it, no matter how broke they are. These are things we used to understand in this country. Maybe we will again, if enough Megans start enough Marges and enough people see what it takes to make something out of nothing.