HANAPEPE — Becky Burns of Anahola Granola was thrilled when John Pia invited her to have the company’s 35th-anniversary celebration at the Anahola Taro Patch.
“It made me so happy to be in this valley where it all began,” Burns said. “I lived just a few houses away from Johnny. This is a perfect spot that brings me back to the Anahola days, 35 years ago.”
Those Anahola days were a simple time of life when you could start a business with no financial backing, and you could start a business by just making something you believe in, she said.
“The heart and soul of Anahola Granola is island style,” Burns said. “This is a business that never could have had these roots on the mainland. It is not a pushy business. I have cared for this company with so much love, caring for it when young, and watching it grow and prosper.”
“The word ‘granola’ wasn’t even popular,” Burns said. “I was just making something that’s good for you and tastes good. This was granola, but people hadn’t heard of it.”
Today, 35 years later, Burns and the Anahola Granola ‘ohana operates out of a facility in Hanapepe that contains the company’s offices, kitchen, packing, and shipping areas producing nearly five tons (yes, that is 10,000 pounds!) of granola, weekly.
“When I started, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to business,” Burns said. “I had no idea how to write a business plan, I had no idea what a balance sheet was, I had no business education. All I knew was how to make damn good granola. From there, this all started.”
The short line of Anahola Granola includes three different granolas in varying-sized packages, a trail mix, and four different flavored bars. These are shipped to destinations primarily in Hawai‘i, and to other places based on website sales.
“We’ve already outgrown our space in Hanapepe,” Burns said. “We have the kitchen and the packing area in one building. We rent out a portion of the building Aaron’s Kitchen is in to take care of all of the shipping.”
It is one thing to make a product, and it’s another to sell it, the granola queen said.
“I am a humble person who carries a passionate belief that anyone who tries my granola will love it,” she said. “The first times I met with the chef at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, I pulled bags of samples from my briefcase and talked with them about me and healthy eating, and knowing how amazing it tasted. I just knew that once he tasted it, it was a done deal.”
That was the birth of Trail Mix.
Burns needed a certified kitchen to produce the granola, and that was the birth of Deco Gecko.
“The Bubby Girl, Malia (Burns’ daughter) was 2 years old when I started the company,” Burns said. “She and Anahola Granola are like siblings, having grown up side by side. Malia is the young toddler who rode in the back of my car in her car seat 35 years ago while I delivered bags all over the island from Princeville to Po‘ipu. This is the tow-headed girl who charged around the Deco Gecko delivering heaping plates with salad, David Grande’s tamale, and rice and beans. This is my grade school daughter who cut hundreds of cello bags on a paper cutter when I couldn’t afford to buy multiple-sized bags. This is the teenager who input all my sales from my carbon copy receipt books into online Quickbooks, and this is the smart woman with an amazing eye for quality who pushed me to re-brand our logo in 2015. This is now a brilliant woman who is easing into Anahola Granola.”
Burns said Anahola Granola has always been more than just about food.
“To me, the beauty of having a business is about relationships,” she said. “Relationship with the chefs who trusted me enough to try this young woman’s product — before granola was even a thing. Relationships with folks who helped me get a load to start the cafe in the heart of Kapa‘a. I have met so many business people and treasure my relationships with them…Robbie Melton with the Small Business Development Center whom I only started working with…I wish I knew you 35 years ago.”
Relationships like the ones she formed with Rehabilitation Unlimited Kaua‘i (now the home of the Ho‘omana Thrift Store that continues to help people) whose employees used Magic Markers to color in rainbows on white labels on the early bags of granola developed because Burns used to work with people having challenges.
And the relationships go beyond to her ‘ohana circle of employees, like Linda Gamoso whose sons Abner and Dennis work for Anahola Granola in different departments.
“I can’t thank my employees enough for the many years of dedication and caring about putting out a quality product,” Burns said. “We have gone through so much together — COVID-19 when we had too many orders and had to work long shifts because we didn’t have all the raw goods to fill the orders. You have been with me for many years. You are truly a part of my ‘ohana, and I love you all.”
And, the support for Anahola Granola extends to that from her husband, Stewart.
“Stewart came into my life and took the business to a different level,” Burns said. “He used my vision as the foundation, and together, he helped Anahola Granola get into some of the big stores, and onto the other islands. Stewart had this amazing way of making sense out of my accounting books, developing formulas, and systems. We grew to become a team, and I believe it was our work together that helped to push the growth of the business. He was the guy who was in the background. He never doubted my vision, he never wanted to take credit for all that he contributed, he always kept me front and center. Honestly, I don’t know anyone else who could have been all these things for me, and for Anahola Granola.”
From the humble beginnings of the night Burns and her friend Nancy came up with the iconic Anahola Granola, through trusting instincts of what seemed “just right,” and her friend Terry who encouraged Burns to get the certified kitchen and beyond that, purchased her first bags of granola, to the bustling Hanapepe facility, Anahola Granola lives on, outlasting a competitive granola operation and becoming stronger with just a handful of granola products.
“You should be here when everything is going at once,” Burns said. “I had to give my employees lunch because they work so hard. But, it’s hard to beat the aroma of cooking material, the sound of packing machines, and customers trying to jockey parking spaces with delivery trucks.”