Today we’d like to introduce you to Alicia Gray.
Alicia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have a background in baking and pastry; I attended culinary school and started working in professional kitchens when I was 18 or 19. After several years in the industry, I started to hear a lot of “Oh I love you but I hate you” from friends through muffled bites of a brownie or cookie or tart I whipped up.
I understood what they were half-joking/ half-griping about; all that processed sugar and butter and decadence are bad for you after a while. I have such a love and appreciation for playing with flavors and I wasn’t quite ready to quit creating just yet so I decided to take on a new challenge: How could I still combine unexpected flavors and create something my friends (even the vegan ones!) could enjoy a little more regularly? Enter the granola business.
I started tinkering with a few recipes and kept tweaking them until I achieved the right crunch and perfectly balanced flavor. Granola has become such a fun vehicle for me to play with flavor expressions. I use various combinations of coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, and/or applesauce to lightly sweeten my blends. It’s still a treat but a far less decadent treat than my old desserts laden with butter and refined white sugar.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
If anyone that’s in business for themselves says it’s a smooth road, they’ve either got superhuman powers or they’re delusional. There have been a few hurdles but I’ll choose just one. One of my biggest struggles is setting up mental roadblocks. Because my business is mostly online and through wholesale accounts, I rarely get to interact with customers.
Sometimes I get into my head too much-thinking everything I make is frivolous and pointless but then I’ll work a pop-up market and I’ll talk to customers face to face which makes me feel better. It’s fun having repeat customers tell me how they use their granola and incorporate it into their daily routines. It’s so flattering and fulfilling to bring people joy in this way.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Gray Gardens – what should we know?
Gray Gardens is a small batch granola company in Houston. We are known for our unexpected flavor combinations like Lapsang Souchong tea paired with galangal or Bulleit bourbon paired with Texas pecans and coriander. We have partnered with a few other independent businesses on collaboration blends and are currently working on expanding our signature blends. We’re not afraid to try new blends and have fun with it!
I’m very excited to say that we recently launched our subscription service where you can sign up to receive two 8-ounce bags of granola a month. We send out some of our regular flavors but also send out experimental blends that are not a part of our regular lineup.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’ve been so fortunate to have found some really amazing women that have become part of a growing tribe I can turn to for inspiration and support. My insanely talented and patient friend Carissa Hempton and I have worked together on several projects and she’s really set the tone for the signature line I’m slowly rolling out.
We did most of our work together when she was Creative Director of A Civil Fox; she’s now Design Director at Nuu Group. Dylan Carnes from Sinfull Bakery is a great taste tester and critic; she has really helped me out in countless ways from the beginning. Ashley Barber from Simply Maven is also a great taste tester and sounding board.
Having a chat with her always helps me clear my head, ready to tackle whatever’s next.
Trang and Chau from Myth & Symbol are great role models for how to be kind, thoughtful, empathetic entrepreneurs. Also: they gave me my first pop-up opportunity! There are so many other women that have stood by my side and been there for the ups and downs of life and business; I’m thankful for each of their gifts.
- 5 O’Clock Blend granola: $12
- Daytripper, Hometown, other blends of granola: $12-18
- Granola subscription: two 8-ounce bags a month for $20
- Website: graygardenshtx.com
- Instagram: @graygardenshtx
SGGardens: Sidney Mori, Alicia Gray