Woman Crush Wednesday.
We love to celebrate female movers and shakers who are successful locally, nationally, internationally, and most importantly, personally.
This week, we are so excited to highlight Erica Liu Williams, founder of gr8nola, a healthy granola company supplied at Google, Dropbox, Uber, and other Bay Area tech companies.
We asked her to share with us her story and her thoughts on success.
How did you get started in your career/field?
I graduated Stanford in 2008 and started a career in tech. From my experience working for large and small companies, I discovered my love for startups: being able to learn and build from the ground up—be it process, a product, or team—and having lots of space to impact and drive value for your company and customers. This, in conjunction with my passion for healthy living, led me to launch my own granola "startup" when I couldn't find healthy options in stores (granolas without added refined sugars, GMO-oil, etc).
I started the business out of my home kitchen while working a tech job 9-5, baking and packaging 5-9, and doing the farmers market every weekend. People loved my granola, and today gr8nola is supplied at tech companies like Google, Dropbox, Uber and more. While gr8nola is still a side business, I hope to do this full time soon and one day become a popular and preferred brand of healthy snacks that the modern, health-conscious consumer can enjoy every day.
Biggest "break" thus far and how were you able to achieve it?
Landing Google as gr8nola's first customer (outside of my farmer's market customers:). Since my network is in tech, I had a friend at Google who offered to introduce me to the food team there. I sent them a sample of gr8nola, and they liked it so much they invited me to participate in their annual micro kitchen fair where Googlers got to sample and vote for snacks they wanted in their kitchens. gr8nola ended up winning the granola category by popular vote and became an official Google supplier in 2014. I've been supplying them ever since.
Biggest roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Fear of failure, which I am still overcoming. I haven't taken the "leap" to pursue gr8nola full time, though it's my passion and what I ultimately want to do. I've set a date that to make the jump by Jan 1, 2018, and I've started to share this publicly with others. That's the first step. Now I need to work backwards and figure out my path to get there, so it's not just an irrational leap of faith and there are actual milestones and building blocks that are put in place first.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you find him/her? If not, who do you model your professional goals after?
No one mentor in particular, but I have met so many amazing people who have helped guide and advise me along the way. When starting a business by yourself in a new industry, your most valuable asset in the beginning is your network. There have been SO many people—old friends and people I've met since launching my business—who have been so helpful, supportive and encouraging. I would NOT be where I would be today without them.
If you could tell your younger self one thing to jumpstart her career, what would it be?
Take risks when you're young —you have less to lose!
Erica Liu Williams graduated Stanford in 2008 with her BA and MA from Stanford University where she also competed on the Women's Swim Team. Growing up in Silicon Valley, she started her career in tech. Her love for startups, combined with her passion for healthy living & food, led her to start her own healthy granola company, gr8nola, which is supplied at Google, Dropbox and Uber and other Bay Area tech companies. During her free time, you can find her lifting heavy weights at the gym or planning her next international getaway.