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Tracey Solomon was never really a granola fanatic, but growing up as an outdoors-lover who worked in KOA Campgrounds as a college student, she always knew granola and camping were a perfect match. When she started making her own and gifting it to friends in charming glass mason jars, people raved. So she decided to start selling it and Flatbush Granola was born.
As a Black-owned female business owner, starting a food company in addition to breaking into the outdoor market has had its challenges. We sat down with Tracey over Zoom to learn about her journey and what it means to serve the outdoor community.
What challenges did you face as you were launching your business?
There are many challenges that come to mind. From selling food at the market to breaking into the food industry, people place Black entrepreneurs in specific boxes of what you should look like, what you should be eating, and what food you should be making. When people think of granola, they don’t think of Black people. We’re assumed to make savory food instead of healthy snacks or breakfast food.
These perceptions alongside the coronavirus pandemic has also made it hard to build the connections needed to get my products to distributors. I can’t just cold call someone and expect a deal to be made. Not being able to do customer-facing events or meet with distribution heads to try my granola has been a struggle to navigate through.
Granola has long been a staple for hikers and campers. What makes Flatbush special?
Yes, granola has long been associated with hiking and the outdoors, but Black people still aren’t. To be the Black face of a brand that makes a healthy, high protein, flavorful granola and to break into the outdoor space is challenging.
As for my product, I try to infuse culture into my flavor profiles. For instance, Chai Time is an ode to India, so I combine ingredients like cardamom, ginger, pistachios, and cashews, all of which are prolific in that food culture. Bananas and peanuts are major crops in Mexico, so I combine those flavors (along with Mexican rum) for my tribute to that country: !Say Olé! I also want to show people that outdoor enthusiasts of all types can come from many different backgrounds.
What are your aspirations when it comes to serving the outdoor market and building relationships with outdoor retailers?
People don’t think of granola as a cultural connector, but I want to be a cultural ambassador through my food products. I know that there are a lot of organizations in the outdoor space that are trying to embrace the BIPOC community which starts with making the outdoors safe and comfortable for people like me. That’s why I reached out to Earl B. Hunter, Jr. of Black Folks Camp Too. We had the opportunity to learn about each other’s missions towards creating space for Black people to safely enjoy nature. Earl valued my mission of producing cultural competency through food and encouraged me to serve the outdoor community. Flatbush Granola strives to be the Black female-owned business that closes the gap between the market and retailers.
Sustainability is a huge initiative in the outdoor industry. How have you taken that into consideration with your packaging?
I package my granola in mason jars and encourage customers to keep the jar and reuse them. Reusing mason jars for things like small plants, pencil holders, or drinking cups helps us to think creatively when reducing our carbon footprint.
I’m still learning about different forms of composting and hope to create pouches in the future that are reusable and easily recyclable. Imagine being able to pour milk into a bag of granola while outdoors. This would be a quick and easy fix for the morning or when needing an energy boost for the journey ahead.
What’s next for Flatbush Granola?
I’m inspired by mission driven companies like The North Face and Patagonia. Outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with these brands because of their values and their push towards making the outdoors beneficial for all. I see Flatbush Granola as a brand that also brings more people together and creates spaces where people can embrace themselves and nature.
I would love to partner with retailers to give my brand a wider reach. To have my products at independent specialty outdoor retailers or at Dick’s Sporting Goods or REI would be amazing! As a Black female entrepreneur in the food industry, I share stories through flavor. Having the opportunity to help people share their stories while eating is a way that Flatbush Granola can be at the forefront of creating diverse affinity spaces.
If you’re a retailer interested in stocking Flatbush Granola, please reach out to Solomon at email@example.com.