Check out that tee! Meet Fearless Fox, Erica Liu Williams, the Owner/Founder of gr8nola. I had the pleasure of working alongside Erica in a previous job where she ran a sales team and later operations (she’s the one who keeps everyone in line). Erica 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.
I think anyone who knows you would agree, you carry yourself like a total boss. Tell us where you find your self-confidence and what that journey has been like for you? I think it starts with how I was raised. My mom always tells me that she intentionally raised us (I am 1 of 3 kids) to be very confident, because it was something she was always lacking from a young age. I remember as a young kid, she used to force me to do cold calls when I had questions and needed to figure something out. I used to HATE talking to strangers! Over the years, I applied myself in academics and athletics (more so in the latter ;), and through the very nature of having to work hard, overcome obstacles and achieve goals, I’ve continued to build my confidence in different arenas of life — whether it’s personal or within business.
We know the story of why you started gr8nola (see how it got started here). Now that you’re years into operating the company, what fuels you to make gr8nola ‘gr8er’? First, gr8nola is my passion! I’m obsessed with food AND health, so the fact that I’m creating not just a product but advocating a lifestyle around delicious & clean eating (and that they don’t need to be mutually exclusive) is what motivates me to keep pushing. Also, my brand is still young and unknown, and I have huge aspirations to share it with the entire world, one person at a time, and make everyone “hungry for gr8ness”
How did you know when you were onto something ‘gr8’ with gr8nola? Did you have some misses along the way? Were you ever met with negativity?
How do you stay positive? With my product, the great thing is that you can get feedback instantly — food is simple and granola doesn’t take much education or behavior change. When I launched my business at the farmers market (which is how it all began), I pretty much knew right away that I had an amazing product—you can just see/hear the feedback. That got further validated once I started getting invited to various snack fairs at tech companies (like Google, Uber, Twitter), when my product actually had to get “voted in” by employees (and I got into all 3!). So gauging based on customer feedback has been key. As far as misses – yes, absolutely! I didn’t “always” get the deal or get in with distributors right away, but persistency and continuing to build the relationship has enabled me to close those deals [sometimes years later].
Amidst your packed schedule, how do you take care of yourself? I work out regularly, eat clean (most of the time) and try to stick to a regular sleep cycle. I feel like if you don’t take care of your health you can’t be your greatest self, so it all starts there. BUT, that’s not to say that the diet doesn’t slip here and there — which is why I do an annual cleanse after every holiday/football season (which is what prompted me to create gr8nola in the first place!) to reset my body, which then resets my mind & motivation!
Tell us what exciting things you’re working on right now. Oh gosh let’s see…this summer I’ll be going through a complete rebrand of my logo, design and packaging, which is super exciting! Also, I’m going to be getting back into the kitchen to come up with new flavors, so I can get ready to get into retail next year!
Name one woman you admire and why?
My Grandma – an immigrant from China who came from nothing, fought relentlessly to establish her career in Accounting in the US with no family support, while raising 2 kids as a young widow. She has left a legacy of hard, honest work, a beautiful family and huge shoes to fill. I hope I am making her proud from up above! Funny story: When I did the local farmers market, she would always come and be a “secret” shopper. Anytime a person came to by booth, she would pretend to be another random customer and go, “Have you ever tried this granola? It’s delicious!” Lol, she was the best.