Two summers ago, as we prepared to open Thirst’s first location, we tried a lot of different granola. We knew that whatever granola we selected had to be vegan and gluten-free, and we wanted it to contain limited added sugar. We also preferred to purchase granola from a local company, though we tried granola from all over the United States. When we tried Bola, which is made with all organic grains in small batches in the Berkshires, we immediately knew we had a winner. All Bola granola is vegan, and they sell a delicious gluten-free line that we use at Thirst on all of our acai and smoothie bowls. When we added the option to our menu for “extra granola,” it quickly became one of our most popular “boosts”.
Recently, I talked to the founder Michele about what makes Bola so special (other than the obvious fact that it tastes amazing!). Some of the highlights of our conversation are below.
The Beginning of Bola
I asked Michele about the start of Bola granola, and she explained that creating a granola company was not always in her plans. She spent years running restaurants, but it wasn’t until after she’d left the restaurant industry that the idea of starting a granola company occurred to her. Michele had left the food business to “follow [her] dream” of “being an artist,” and had no plans of returning to the food industry.
Even after she stopped running restaurants, however, Michele regularly made granola at home, and her husband was a big fan. When she reached a point in her life where she was looking for ways to increase her income beyond what she was making as an artist, her granola provided the answer. She thought about making the granola that would eventually be named “Bola” granola into a business and decided that she “just had to jump in and do it.”
Explaining the early days of Bola, Michele told me, “it was all I did. It’s basically all I do. It’s taking care of the baby.” She acknowledged thankfully that these days, “it’s working out very well.”
The Growth of Bola Granola
Starting from a small production facility in the Berkshires, Michele has grown her granola company into a household name in New England. You can find it on the shelves at Whole Foods and many local markets, at grocery stores nationwide, and Bola ships directly to consumers, too. I asked Michele about how she was able to grow her company and she explained some of what’s made Bola the huge success that it is today.
It is clearly a business driven by passion. Michele told me that “I used to think when I taste this and I’m not excited anymore, that’s when I have to stop. But I still have it every morning for breakfast.”
It’s not only Michele who is excited about Bola – her employees play an integral part too. Part of Michele’s role is “making sure everybody’s happy here at the bakery.” She explained, “I’m very grateful. I’ve had a lot of good luck, a lot of great support, a lot of great employees.”
Customers, of course, are what keeps a business open. “I love that it means so much to people. We get really wonderful letters, some of them very emotionally connected with their parents who are gone, or a special occasion or trip.”
She is thankful for the journey so far. “If I hadn’t had to earn money again, I would not have gone back into business,” she told me. “But as it turned out, it’s been an amazing ride. Meeting all kinds of great people.”
Part of what Michele has focused on with Bola is keeping it healthy, and she tries to get her employees to eat better too. Bola has limited added sugar and comes in a less sweet variety. When I asked her what’s next for her and for Bola, she told me Bola would keep expanding and that she might go back to school in order to gain more of a scientific background on nutrition. We can’t wait to see what’s next!
Finding MORE Bola granola outside of Thirst
For those of you who want more Bola granola than you get on your acai bowls, on the Bola granola website, there’s an updated list of all the stores that Bola supplies (available here, and including local favorites like American Provisions and Formaggio) . And Bola also does a tremendous amount of mail order.
Thanks to Michele for her time and for making sure amazing granola!
To read more about Bola or to place an order, you can visit their website: https://bolagranola.com/. You can also keep up with Bola happenings by following them on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bolagranola/.