Cereal Startup Founder on Business and Breakfast

They launched last month, selling delicious cereal – like an apple and blackcurrant granola inspired by the classic British crumble. We talk to co-founder of Sown & Grown cereals Rachel Toms about mornings, breakfast and work-life balance…

Rachel, 38, lives with her partner Phil and their daughters: Isabella, seven, and Mollie, four, in Cambridgeshire. Their favourite breakfast? Cereal, of course.

What time are you up in the morning?

What wakes you up?
The kids!

How do you feel?
It takes me 10-15 minutes to come round whereas Phil and the girls are always awake and spritely super quickly.

What do you do first thing?
Always a cuppa (brought to me in bed) and cuddle with the girls.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
Breakfast (very important), kids ready for school, school run then work. As well developing and launching Sown & Grown, I now also teach adults about food and run a community kitchen project for older people and teach young mums on a low income about cooking.

Rachel Toms - sown & grown - cereal startup - theearlyhour.com

When did you launch Sown & Grown?
The idea’s been around for a little while and in conversations with Phil but it started to become a live project last summer. Since then it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and we launched exclusively into Sainsbury’s at the start of March.

Before concocting cereal recipes I…

What was your previous food experience?
I developed my passion for food at an early age, learning to cook with my mum and grandma from the age of six. As I got older I would offer to cook a three-course meal for my parents when they had friends over for dinner and it was a subject I thrived in at school. We used to visit France a lot as children and I loved their food and way of life and this ignited my desire to try more foods.

After school and A Levels, I did a food (home economics) degree, worked as home economist doing recipe development, food styling and demonstrating. I developed recipes for magazines and TV advertisements and then styled the food for these making things look as delicious as possible.

I used to attend various food shows demonstrating our recipes for people to learn how to cook them and of course have a sample. I then re-trained as a teacher and taught GCSE and A Level food technology for 12 years.

Since having my children, I have been running some children’s cooking clubs and teaching adults how to cook. I currently run a community kitchen class where older people come and cook together and eat lunch and I also run the cooking class I mentioned earlier – for young single mums on a low budget. Of course, alongside my involvement in Sown & Grown.

What’s different about your product?
Our entire range uses 100% British grains and comes packed in a tube with a re-sealable lid which helps to lock in the freshness. It looks great and tastes fantastic.

Sown & Grown cereal flavours…

Talk us through the various flavours and what research you did to come up with them?
We wanted to use a range of different grains as our base and build upon them with distinctive and interesting flavours. All of our range uses a multigrain base and then we looked to different places for inspiration. For example, our Apple & Blackcurrant granola was inspired by the classic British crumble pudding whereas our Four Grain muesli is a brilliant blend of oats, wheat, barley and spelt with sunflower and pumpkin seeds – super healthy and a great base to personalise your own breakfast choice.

Also in the range are Nuts & Seeds granola, Three Grain granola, Mixed Berry & Nut muesli and Apple & Raspberry muesli.

We’ve undertaken lots of research to get to our launch range. We talked to people in Norwich, Cambridge and London as well as getting feedback about our product from people across the country. Lots of friends and family also gave us their opinions along the way.

How’s business?
We are genuinely only a few weeks old so it is the earliest of early days! We are thrilled with the reaction to Sown & Grown and the product range and look forward to getting as many people to discover and fall in love with the range as possible.

As the owner of a startup, what three things are most important when it comes to taking your product to market?

Passion for what we do – we are a family that loves food and it’s important we have a real passion for building a brand that delivers good nutrition as well as genuine enjoyment.

Not standing still – we are already working on new products, new ideas and different ways of getting the Sown & Grown brand into peoples hands and mouths.

Seizing the opportunity – lots of people talk about trying something different. We’ve been fortunate to find an idea that people respond well to, we now have to seize the moment and try and build a business that can work for the long term and hopefully our daughters can get involved with in due course.

How do you divide work time and family time?
The business is great and we’re loving every minute of it but finding family time is super important to Phil and I. The girls already have opinions on what we are doing but making sure it doesn’t dominate precious family time is key. Weekends in particular are special and we make sure time is spent together outdoors, doing the necessary homework(!) and also sitting down for a roast (normally made by Phil) wherever possible.

What’s the dream for the business?
To grow and flourish.

And for you, in your personal life?
For the girls to grow and flourish.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Honestly doesn’t matter as long as I’m with my family.

As part of the company’s mission to be environmentally conscientious, the tubes Sown & Grown cereal arrives in can be recycled or reused – check out some of the ingenious ideas for reusing them.