Success Story: Hannah Barnstable, Owner of Seven Sundays Muesli

WomenVenture Entrepreneur of the Month for November

We’ve all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but for Hannah Barnstable it became even more than that. While on her honeymoon in New Zealand, she and her husband Brady spent their mornings eating muesli—a breakfast staple full of oats, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit—with high nutritional value. This cherished time, along with her new favorite meal of the day, inspired Hannah to pursue her dream of owning a business.

An investment banker who had years of experience working with food companies, Hannah knew she wanted to create her own muesli. She saw what it took to run a business from her family of entrepreneurs. Hannah struggled when deciding if she should leave the security of a regular pay check to take the plunge into small business ownership.  "Sometimes the easiest way to make a decision is to back into it—when you realize that something can’t continue on in the same way, that prompts you to make a change," Hannah said.

In 2011, one year after her honeymoon, Hannah quit her job to launch Seven Sundays Muesli. She had researched breakfast foods, visited grocery stores and sought advice from other local food entrepreneurs. She spent hours looking at what already existed, and discovered that in the United States there was a hole in the market for muesli. "I thought of my business as a solution, not a product," Hannah said.

Hannah first introduced Seven Sundays to the public at local farmers markets. In 2012, she partnered with a local distributor that placed the product in 40 Twin Cities area stores. "I thought creating our muesli and getting it on the shelf would be the hardest part," Hannah said, "but really, getting people to try it and buy it has been the biggest challenge."

A year after Seven Sundays launched, Hannah's hard work began to pay off—more people were trying her muesli and loving it. Distribution outside of Minnesota had begun and in May 2013, she got a call from Target Corporation. The national store wanted to carry Seven Sundays in 70 of their locations. "We quickly went from an office to a warehouse mentality!" Hannah said.

It was during that time that Hannah came to WomenVenture for a loan to help with the growth of her company. "The loan officer we worked with really went to bat for our business. That gave me so much confidence," she said. "Many people think you are a lunatic for quitting your job and starting your own business."

The support Hannah received from WomenVenture was critical to the success of her business particularly because one of her biggest challenges has been not having access to the same resources as large companies. "It is way more expensive than you imagine and takes longer than you envision," she said.

Seven Sundays has plans for growth—more employees, a bigger space, expanding into more locations, and Hannah hopes to launch other breakfast foods as well. She sees herself as a completely different person since starting her business. "My whole concept of work has changed—it’s about building something. And to see our product carving out a space on the shelves at Target, that is pretty cool!