We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Lange and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, what do you attribute your success to?
Contrary to popular belief, not all granolas are created equal. I see it in people’s eyes when they walk by our stand at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market–“oh, it’s just granola….” But if you happen to take the time to try our products, you will find that we’ve got something special going on. I come from a pastry background, so flavor is everything. I don’t formulate recipes to cater to a hot trend or to maximize margins. I only want to make products that taste great thanks to a solid recipe and top-notch ingredients. We use organic oats, local wildflower honey from Chaparral Mountain Honey Company in Altadena and organic single-origin maple syrup from Brookfield Maple Products in Pennsylvania. And you can taste the difference. We also use tons of whole nuts and seeds, so although we’re not packing our products with weird protein powders, they’re rich in nutrients and energy. I’m the type of person who is hungry all the time, but whenever I have Bearclaw for breakfast or pop a granola bar during the day, I’m pleasantly (and surprisingly) satisfied.
So I would say that the defining factor behind Bearclaw is staying true to the integrity of our products. As my business grows and I look at the competition in grocery stores, it’s hard not to dream about cutting costs for higher profits–maybe taking out some nuts or subbing in some cheaper ingredients. But I just have to remind myself that we’ve earned our fans by making a superior product, and we can’t let them down at this point.
What should our readers know about your business?
Bearclaw Kitchen is a granola and snack company that I started in 2014. We have five flavors of granola, two types of granola bars and a trail mix. Oh, and our newest product–granola butter! Our granola is always freshly baked–we sell out pretty much every week, which is by design because I don’t want it sitting around. Our products contain whole ingredients for lots of healthy energy, but they also have a touch of decadence. Remember, I’m a pastry chef, not a nutritionist. (That said, the nutritional info is very close to most granolas on the market.) I’m most proud of the fact that I developed something truly delicious and people seem to really love it.
I got to where I am today by being patient and taking things one day at a time. I definitely didn’t jump in head first with investors and plans for huge growth. I let the business grow at it’s own pace, and I really had no choice because I had two babies along the way. Things definitely got harder then! How did I overcome the challenges? Childcare! No really, I think it’s so important to get the help that you need, and I’m talking about personally and professionally. For Bearclaw, I’m blessed to have a super team of hard-working ladies who bake perfect granola and keep our customers happy at the markets. They keep Bearclaw chugging away while I’m doing any number of tasks, from balancing the books, to researching new recipes, to shipping orders, to the odd attempts at sales and marketing.
I’ve learned that you should always trust your gut and be willing to say NO if an opportunity isn’t right for you. You have to stay true to yourself and your product every step of the way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The diverse and delicious food scene is obviously a huge reason I love LA. Some of my favorite food experiences to share with visitors are Korean BBQ, street tacos, and farm-to-table restaurants like Friends and Family that use the best California produce. It’s fun to introduce vegan friends to restaurants they don’t have at home like Gracias Madre, or my favorite–the vegan sandwiches at Wax Paper like the Lakshmi Singh and the Hettie Lynne Hurtes. I’m not a vegan but I’m obsessed with those sandwiches. I also make a point to take friends to the Hollywood or Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets because we are so lucky to have them. Even a simple Mexican fruit salad from a stand is a local treat I love to share.
As far as experiences, my tastes have changed over the years, but some of my favorites are the Magic Castle, the Frederick Weisman Art Foundation, improv comedy, or a drive west on Sunset from Hollywood to the ocean to see so many different parts of the city. For kids, I recently visited the Stoneview Nature Center and we took a quick stroll on the Park to Playa Trail. It is a treasure to have green spaces like that in a city like LA. Catalina Island is another place I love–it is so beautiful and it’s the shortest distance you can travel to feel like you’re in a very different place. I’m sure I’m missing so many things, but that is a start!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am so grateful to call Roxana Jullapat of Friends and Family a mentor and a friend. She is the beating heart of the LA pastry community, and I was so flattered when she noticed my pastries at the Hart & the Hunter back in 2012. Since then, she has been such an amazing supporter and even invited me to be featured one night in a pastry chef dinner series at Elysian in 2015. It was seriously one of the best nights of my life.
She is so busy running her restaurant (and she just released a fantastic cookbook called Mother Grains!), but she will drop everything to help me run numbers on some business venture I’m dreaming about at the moment. She’s also a big advocate for bakers valuing their work and getting paid what they deserve, which is so important in the restaurant world. She is such a star and I appreciate her so much.
Granola bowl by Rachael Narins, Coconut Grove by Cathy Chaplin, Assorted bags by Julianne Hartman