Award Winner: Hannah Barnstable of Seven Sundays Muesli

2015 WomenVenture Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Expanding Business Award

Imagine how you feel on a relaxed Sunday morning without obligations. You might have a nourishing, leisurely breakfast, read a newspaper, sip some coffee, lounge around with a loved one. 

That’s the feeling Hannah Barnstable wanted to capture with her start-up company, Seven Sundays. "It's this whole concept of simplicity, starting your day right, all these things that seemed missing in the U.S." 

It’s a feeling she experienced often during her honeymoon to New Zealand in December 2009, where she and husband Brady would enjoy leisurely multi-course breakfasts that started with simple, tasty muesli. When they returned to their fast-paced New York lives, Hannah went on a hunt for good muesli and came up short. As an investment banker who worked with food companies, she started researching the market and experimenting with batches of New Zealand-style muesli in her kitchen. Within six months, she decided to quit her job. "I had just been promoted to VP and I liked what I was doing, but I could see how I could get really wrapped up in this investment banker thing," she says. "I was 28 or 29 maybe, and I thought, 'If you’re going to start a company, Hannah, it's now or never.'"

There were a few naysayers who questioned giving up her well-paying career to work in the kitchen, but Hannah had always envisioned starting her own company someday. She decided now was better than never. What followed was a whirlwind year: leaving her job, moving back to Minnesota with Brady, starting a new business, and getting pregnant with their first child.

That fast-paced growth is something Hannah is quite familiar with these days, as Seven Sundays has grown from a little farmers' market stand to being in Target stores and Sun Country planes nationwide. She has gone from shuttling muesli on her Raleigh bike and trailer to ramping up production for some 4,000 stores by the end of 2015. 

It was during one such ramp-up in 2013 that Hannah turned to WomenVenture for help. Seven Sundays was in maybe 100 stores when, out of the blue, Hannah received an email from Target. A 15-minute meeting led to Target wanting to test her muesli in its Minnesota stores. "That was a game-changer, and that's when I came to WomenVenture, because I thought, 'Oh man, this is great news, but I feel like I need to formalize some things. I’m still working in my basement. I need some expertise."

WomenVenture became an important sounding board, helping Hannah flesh out her business plan and financials and feel more confident in the direction her business was heading. A 2013 loan also helped her meet the growing demand—particularly as Target decided to take Seven Sundays chainwide into 1,800 stores. "That was the only outside funding I'd received at that point," she says. "I knew from my finance background, no one else is going to give me a loan right now, I'm a start-up. …So it was the perfect match at the time."

These days, Seven Sundays continues to grow and shift, including launching new products and going gluten-free. The company now has a full-time team of five people (including Brady, who joined at the end of 2013), and Hannah finally started taking a salary.  

Through it all, she remains committed to the original mission: to reclaim breakfast and capture that feeling of a relaxed, nourishing Sunday morning. "When I was an investment banker, it was all about finding the money or the value," she says. "That's no longer how we think of our life or Seven Sundays. It's about paving the way and introducing a new thing to people that betters their life. And that is the coolest thing to me."