It’s Nola

“Every day is a great opportunity to learn something new and do better.”

Dr. Margaret BarrowFounder

Margaret identifies as a “reluctant entrepreneur”.

“I never dreamed of owning a business”, she shares. Eating healthy is important to Margaret, and she originally made these vegan granola bites as a snack for herself. A tenured English Associate Professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Margaret watched her students eat junk food all day and eventually brought some of her homemade treats in for the class. “The kids thought vegan meant it would be made with sawdust. But vegan food has come a long way, and my students had to be convinced that these were actually vegan!”

Requests for weekly treats quickly expanded to special requests during office hours, and then to bags of food for students to share with their families. With a smile, Margaret remembers, “Word got out, and they started following me around the college.” Students loved her granola bites enough that Margaret didn’t think too much about it when they started asking for them in gallon bags. Months went by like this, until her mentees showed up to office hours with folders of documents. They had been secretly offering her granola around campus, surveying for feedback, and had gotten pages and pages of rave reviews.

As a mentor, Margaret had always encouraged her students to consider their future and possibilities, deeply believing that “If you’re good at something, that creates a possibility.” As a result, when her mentees came to her with the idea of starting a business, she realized they were using her own words to convince her to jump on this opportunity.

It seems that everything Margaret does is intentional, and her business is no different. “If I’m going to start a business, it needs to be meaningful. My goal was healthy eating, but to have a successful business, you need a mission and profits. I wanted to try and marry these ideas.” She consulted with a business professor, saw an opportunity for herself and her students, and dove in.

As she has learned to be a successful business owner, Margaret has brought her mentees along with her. She’s committed to including community college students as interns and encouraging them to participate in any area that they see themselves succeeding in, from product development and email marketing, to simply sitting in on business meetings.

Although she may claim that she’s not a businessperson, Margaret has been skilled at learning entrepreneurship on the job. She shares, “I’m learning to be a better businessperson every day, but my objective is to give consumers the best products possible. As we grow, my commitment is to always find the healthier way.” As she looks to scale with new equipment, recipes, and smart business choices, it’s clear that Margaret has already achieved what many seasoned businesspeople aim for — success with purpose.

Q&A with Dr. Margaret Barrow

What’s your advice to someone starting out in this business?

As you learn about your industry, take the time to reach out to and learn from people in that industry. Don’t be afraid to go to LinkedIn and just reach out to people. Ask questions and if you don’t know where to start, start by asking what questions you should be asking them. Then build those relationships because they will sustain you when you feel like you’re alone. We build each other up.

Who most influenced you?

The National Retail Federation. A huge percentage of black businesses failed in the pandemic, and I feel a responsibility to advocate. Owning a business is not just about how much money you make or your individual business — what matters is our collective contribution and success. It’s about policies, understanding the value of small businesses, and having a fair playing field. The Federation has given me a platform for my advocacy efforts, and I am grateful for it.

What's the best compliment you've received?

It usually goes something like this: "I don’t know what you put in this, but it’s damn good." I'm a vegan and, when I started out, I thought I would build a vegan business for other vegans. After two years, I realized that 75% of our customers are not vegan. I'm proud to be making healthy food for everyone.