• Chad

Elevated Oats Interview

Start by telling me a bit about yourself, Elevated Oats, and how you got started?

It’s hard to tell a bit about myself realizing how much I’ve done, and now I’m on to a completely new chapter! I grew up in California and left for the Army at 17 as an Air Traffic Controller (ATC). I was stationed in Hawaii, deployed to Iraq twice, then decided to pursue ATC outside of the military. I worked for the Department of Defense in Hawaii and the Federal Aviation Administration in Northern California, all the while earning a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science. I loved the job and was good at it, but it didn’t fulfill me. After 10 years of ATC, I moved to the Big Island and started an Airbnb. I was working on a plan to do something different; I was certified as a Personal Trainer and was studying to become a Health Coach. Throughout what I learned and through observing people’s behaviors, I was more concerned with what people were consuming and would preach that food is 80% of the healthy lifestyle equation. I started selling pre-made salads, other cooked meals, and coaching co-workers to be more conscious of their food choices. How could I do this on a grand scale? I never intended on moving to Alaska, but an abrupt relationship ended caused me to move into my parent’s basement in Alaska. I had an opportunity and support to create something of my own during this hard time in life. Having discovered what truly brought me joy, I determined a way to share my message — GRANOLA. Two weeks after my entire life flipped upside down, I applied for a business license and founded Elevated Oats. 

Thank you for your service! Was there something about granola in particular that made it jump out at you?

Yes, granola is so versatile! My initial thought was with the versatility of oats. I’ve added granola to protein shakes, fruit smoothies, smoothie bowls, waffles, banana bread, on top of tortes, ice cream, yogurt, as cereal, overnight oats. I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump! It’s been a staple pantry item in my home for years. Once I started making granola at home, I had a hard time finding anything from the stores that I enjoyed — always too sweet or nothing special. Starting a business is about following a passion and having a why — food was it for me, granola is my niche.

When it comes to creating your flavors, what's that process like? How did you decide on what shape those flavors would ultimately take?

All flavors started with color. How could I make granola more interesting, beautiful, and better for you? Incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables!  Let me give you a rundown of what we’ve got:

  • Not Banana Bread: This is the OG recipe, I’ve been making it for years. When I started making it as a manufactured food product in mass, I made a few changes to the original recipe. I removed all the refined sugar (which made me extremely happy) and added banana chips! I was shooting for the fresh banana bread like my grandma makes — and I would say it’s spot on. This is the fan-favorite. 

  • Dark and Salty: This was the second creation. My dad said he would love a chocolate flavor. I even remember reading the label on a bag we had in the kitchen — a chocolate peanut butter. Then I did some searching through Pinterest, read a few recipes. I actually started making this recipe pulsed through the food processor— but that’s a whole extra step! Other accidents have made Dark and Salty into the second fan-favorite of the bunch.

  • Velvet Beet: I had this crazy idea of pink granola. With adding banana already to one recipe I thought, why can’t I do that with beets? I was thinking of a red velvet cake when thinking of what to add in — but never with adding any cocoa powder (one of my best friends is allergic to chocolate!). I wanted to keep it creamy and sweet, with a little frosting on top. I added hemp hearts because I thought it was clever… “heart beet” was the original flavor name. Cashews add creaminess, cranberries add sweetness, and the white chocolate chips remind me of the distinctive frosting on a red velvet cake.

  • Not Creamsicle: Now come to ORANGE — we are changing the name to Coconut Carrot Creamsicle! Again, adding color and sweetness from a root vegetable, carrots. I was in California talking to my family about thinking of another flavor and using orange as the color. Carrot Cake is an easy thought, but then my Aunt Kari suggested creamsicle. EW. I am not a fan. But as I told the story to others, I saw the reaction and had to see if I could pull it off. I thought of a creamsicle and what it would take to re-create the textures and flavors.

I love how the inspiration came from different places and people in your life! And "Heart Beet" would have been great. Have you found, now that you're making a product, that you're sort of always on the lookout for inspiration?

I’m so grateful to have amazing people in my life. Now — I don’t even HAVE to look for inspiration, I’m gifted it all the time!  Fellow business owners will ask if I have granola bars to display or even thoughts on flavor combinations. I’m more on the lookout for time to take action on all that inspiration! I’ve dedicated time to getting creative in the kitchen to make some of those ideas a reality!

I saw the waffle recipe on your website. It looks amazing! Do you plan on doing more blog posts that feature recipes that you can spice up with Elevated Oats?

Thank you — you’ve got to try it! I would love to do more recipes and blog posts. There’s even way more that I’d like to do on top of that too, but I only have so much time. I’m learning it’s all about balance with this new venture as an entrepreneur. I blocked off two days a month for creative cooking. I’m excited about this since it’s easy to get carried away with all the other roles of starting a business. PLUS — I’m all about versatility, I want to show you different things you can do with granola, not just Elevated Oats. I’m the type that whips stuff together like I’m on Chopped and I love sharing that wisdom. 

That makes a lot of sense regarding finding time and all the different roles. Entrepreneurs can definitely end up wearing a lot of hats. What has been your method to help balance everything?

I feel like I do not have a method — but that can’t be true since things have gotten easier. It all started with being aware that this is a marathon and not a sprint. I was being hard on myself and not taking time for self-care; it was a recipe for burnout — which happened — several times. With the help of my therapist, I’m learning from those mistakes; taking time to enjoy the summer, scheduling my workday out, and ACTUALLY started taking a day off (that was a big one!). I also have found tools that make tracking all the roles easier. My team uses Asana, it’s a program managing app. It was a considerable improvement that allowed us to be intentional with our company roadmap, social media outreach, and track the financials and wholesale accounts. 

I saw that you started doing tradeshows last year as well as wholesale, and your post about businesses that you're working with within Anchorage and outside of it. That's awesome! I imagine it's pretty exciting to have other businesses featuring your product. What's your favorite part about the business to business connections that you've made since you started?

In air traffic control it was all about what was on your resume, not how well you worked with others. Overcoming the fear of putting my professional self forward and networking was challenging, and I definitely still have moments where I feel like a complete imposter. I feel like an entirely new person in this industry, doing nothing I’ve ever had to do. The best part—  I’ve never worked with so many others, with a majority being women, that want each other to succeed. The entrepreneurs I’ve met genuinely want to help you, freely give you ideas, and are the least cutthroat people I’ve dealt with in life — probably because we are in Alaska. It’s very community-based, which allows me to feel more free expressing myself and ideas too.

I definitely know what you mean about the imposter syndrome side of things. It can be difficult to deal with, but it sounds like having everyone be so supportive definitely helped a lot with that. Alaska has a different feel for sure. Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs and business owners that might be facing those same issues?

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I can feel the anxiety come over me — then I tell myself I’m capable, and it HAS to be done. It’s like a video game; you need to accomplish the mission to move to the next level. Make a goal and figure out how to reach it — take action. EDMR therapy, great books, and supportive friends and family helped me get over a lot of fears. This last year has been surreal— I still have a hard time believing it. AND it’s been getting more comfortable to push through those things that are terrifying — especially knowing that something else is going to challenge me and be terrifying again. 

This isn't business-related, but I have half sleeves with plans to eventually get more tattoos. I was on the website and saw a picture of you with sleeves. I'm always interested in hearing tattoo stories and the why behind them. It'd be too much to share them all I'm sure, but do you have one that you could share?

I have a lot of tattoos and they mostly all hurt. Everything on me has a story behind it — multiple are break-up tattoos! The ones that I love the most are the Polynesian Tribal pieces. There’s a lot of little things within those that have deep meaning.

Do you have a favorite flavor?

I have a favorite flavor depending on how and where I’m eating it. Straight from the bag or as a breakfast/dessert addition, Dark and Salty. As cereal or on top of ice cream, Not Banana Bread. On the trails, Velvet Beet. As overnight oats, Coconut Carrot Creamsicle.

Is there anything new that you're working on that you can tease?

The newest thing we will be releasing are the custom bags. It’s going to give our brand a new look and be WAY more efficient for our process. I don’t know how much time we’ve spent printing labels and sticking stickers — but I can’t wait to give it up. I’d love to add another color/flavor to the lineup! I’ve been dreaming of green granola; I have one test in the books and know it’s going to be different from anything on the market.

What was it about The Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?

I started Elevated Oats under cottage food laws with the aspirations of becoming a food manufacturer. As the company progressed, we added to the team, acquired a location, and now have a factory. I love that the Bear Box features Alaskan Made products and shares local goodies with people from the lower 48 states.  So as we pivoted to wholesale manufacturing, we also looked for opportunities to share our product with other markets. Bear Box is perfect for that!

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote and why?

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” — Oprah Winfrey

I’m terrified of most of the things that I do. I would say it gets more manageable; however, the challenges are always more significant, so I lean into the fear all over again. We can all talk a big game, but how many people are actually DOING something. At Elevated Oats, we are all about action, learning from each other and our mistakes, and becoming a better version of ourselves every day.

Is there anything else that you haven't mentioned yet that you'd like to share?

We don’t like labels, but for those who do, Elevated Oats is owned and operated by a team of two LBGTQ+ disabled-veteran women, lol.

A big thanks to Megan for being in our box and taking the time for this interview! Make sure to check out the Elevated Oats website and connect with Megan on Facebook and Instagram.