Grab The Gold is a delicious protein snack bar that tastes like a no-bake cookie.
Grab The Gold snack bar is amazing in taste, texture and energy level. The customers are loyal fans. It is a small business with a personal touch. The story of how it started, the challenges faced, how it has grown for 20 years is worthy of a must-read book. Below are some highlights…By CEO and Founder, Danielle Ontiveros Dedicated to my mother, Divina Ontiveros, Life Coach and Mentor, who is my Rock as well as my Wings.
“An idea began to form…”
Growing up, I didn’t like typical breakfast food and preferred something lighter because I was never very hungry in the mornings. At the end of the 80s there were not a lot of choices for protein bars and my mother was buying the ones I asked for. I thought the ones in the health food stores were too expensive and didn’t taste good and the ones in the boxes at the grocery store didn’t taste good enough. I was 16 years old and an idea began to form. One night I told my mother I wanted to make my own bar in the kitchen. I knew I could do better. I pulled items out of the cupboards along with a notebook and pen and started measuring, mixing and recording what I did. I tasted and added as I went along. Those first bars were pressed into a pan and cut into squares. I took one to my mother and she loved it and asked for another. When I took her the second one, I announced I was starting a business and going out the very next day to sell these bars! My mother is extremely supportive and off I went to the kitchen to make more.
I was homeschooled for high school so the next morning I dressed up and took my basket of wrapped goodies and walked around the neighborhood to local businesses. I was not prepared for marketing my product, explaining myself or taking into account that I was interrupting people in their busy work day. I went out with boldness and confidence. And I came home crying! It was harder than I thought. I sold some bars but I thought I was going to the moon that day. My mother listened to me as I explained my day and commended me for attempting to conquer the world, unprepared, in one day. The she wiped my tears away and suggested I start by asking friends, family and neighbors to try my product.
“The round “bar” was born…”
I am always concerned with fairness and equality and I didn’t see how it was possible to make sure everyone got the same size bar if I continued to press them into a pan and cut them into squares. Even if I cut the squares perfectly, how could I be consistent in the thickness? So I got the idea to weigh the batter into equal parts and put them in a muffin tin. Then I pressed the mixture down with the bottom of a mixing cup and compressed them until they were tight and flipped them out with a knife. In the quest for equality, the round “bar” was born.
To get a true sense of why I have been successful, I would like to share some of my journey with you from the heart.
“It takes a village…”
Just like every mother who helps their children sell the products for school fundraisers, my mother was constantly sharing about my creation to everyone she knew. She bought many bars and gave them as gifts. Through her, I have been blessed with many people who donated their time and energy for years promoting my product and helping me make the bars and grow the business. Just as with a child…it takes a village. I would not have made it very far without my mother and these wonderful friends who have selflessly contributed their time and energy without asking for a single thing in return. They are all angels and I am deeply grateful.
“Stay small and grow…”
We all have our personality type. Mine is predominantly creative, confident, outgoing. But, at the time, I was not the type who liked to stick with anything for very long due to creativity. I think many ideas have their merit and I saw nothing wrong with jumping to something else. A dozen or more times in the early years, I wanted to quit making these snack bars. I was experiencing a type of burnout from the fortitude it takes to grow something. My mother would gently remind me this was going to be a multi-million dollar business with nationwide distribution. Then she would ask, “If you don’t do this, what else are you going to do?” I would realize that choosing another path would not be easier. It may be new and creative at first but everything takes work and effort to continue onward. At some point, I grew out of the burnout stages and I dedicated my whole life to this business. I love it and enjoy every day and am immensely thankful for it.
“What else are you going to do?”
I love innovation. I love to discover new ideas and processes and machines and software. I am in love with improvement. In the beginning I wanted to grow so quickly. I wanted my own work space, machines, employees and more. And this was at 18 years old. I have never worked for anyone or in a workplace but I knew what I wanted. My mother, once again, provided the best guidance. It has made my business the success that it is. She advised to stay small and grow slowly, never to borrow money and only buy things for the business if I had profit in cash to do so. She pointed out if you take financial risk and don’t succeed, you lose. But if you grow your business through customers and sales, the profits will come naturally. Then take those profits and use them to reinvest in your business. If you don’t have the money to buy what you need, then you haven’t earned it through sales. If I wanted a machine to make the bars faster, she would say “When you have the money, buy it. But until then you don’t need to make the bars faster because you don’t have enough sales.” Time is something an entrepreneur has a lot of. Money is not. At some point, if you invest enough time, you will have the sales, and therefore, the money. But investing money does not always make you more sales. As entrepreneurs, we are our best asset. My mother advised against marketing of any kind and said grassroots business through word of mouth is the best. It’s over 20 years later and that still holds true. We have never done any advertising or marketing. You, our customers, are the engine that drives our business.
“I was going to steal your recipe…”
People are not always what they seem. I met an older gentleman in his office. He sold mixing equipment. He was a grandfatherly type, retired from a major bread manufacturing company and doing sales to fill his time. I wanted a mixer with programmed settings that changed speed and paused while you added ingredients. (I was young and dreaming again! We still don’t have that. And don’t need it either!). So at 19 years old, I was still very naive and sat on the other side of the desk from Bob as he asked about my needs. I felt very grown up and business like. I shook his hand and gave him a sample as an introduction which he ate on the spot and raved about. He said he needed to know what I was mixing. I told him the basic ingredients. Then he explained he needed to know exactly how much of every ingredient went into a batch to get an idea of density so he could make sure I had the right mixer with enough horsepower. I immediately got a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was evasive with him. He kept at the questioning which was becoming more like interrogation. I spoke up and said “Bob, I feel very uncomfortable. You seem like a nice man who is trying to help me. But I feel uneasy with your questions and I’m not going to tell you my recipe.” He paused and nodded his head. Then he leaned forward in his chair and said “Good girl. Your product is amazing. I was in the food manufacturing business for over 30 years and I have tons of connections. I was going to steal your recipe and do it myself and make myself a millionaire. What you have is one of the best products I’ve ever tasted. I know gold when I see it.” I was completely stunned and walked out of his office having learned a lesson in trust and following your instincts.
“I ate life up like a giant cake…”
During these years of growing the business, I had many ambitions that I fulfilled. I illustrated corporate training manuals and flipcharts. At 19, I got my pilot’s license with instrument rating in anticipation of flying private charter jets. Then I decided it was too impersonal so I became a sports massage therapist for the NFL, working with the New Orleans Saints players and coaches for 10 seasons. During this time I studied aromatherapy and developed dozens of natural formulas that people loved so I began making and packing those. That evolved into making private label spa products. I designed formulas, custom scents and packaging just for them, made and delivered them myself. Many times I was sleeping only 2-4 hours a day because while I was making my snack bars and filling orders, I was creating and pursuing these other businesses. I would also write stories and poetry and threw myself into tap dancing, martial arts training, swimming, aerobics, oil painting. And I liked to read, often a book or two a week, sometimes a book a day if I had more time. I was aware that I was spreading myself between too many activities and knew if you really want to succeed, you need to do one thing really well. But at the time I wanted to dive into every idea I had. I don’t regret a minute of my life. I loved everything I did and I was well balanced and ate life up like a giant cake! I was in Saint’s training camp when Hurricane Katrina came in August 2005. The team evacuated New Orleans but I didn’t go with them. I left with my mother and friends just as the outer bands of the hurricane were reaching us.
“You don’t know me but…”
We did lose our home in Katrina and though my business was untouched, there was no place to live at the time. So we all found homes in beautiful small-town Franklin. Many customers networked to help get Grab The Gold back in business and to restore as much of our previous way of life. Finding out about my work with the Saint’s, one new friend offered to introduce me to the Tennessee Titans and start my sports massage therapy work up here. It was very rewarding work and I am a NFL fan so I struggled with letting it go. I found peace when I decided to change my life completely. I made a decision to dedicate myself to Grab The Gold. I find joy and fulfillment every day. Everyone who works with Grab The Gold say their favorite thing is when they get a chance to talk to the customers who are positive, enthusiastic and excited.
“I made a decision to dedicate myself…”
We ended up in a hotel in Little Rock and saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I worried about our home and my business but there was nothing left to do but wait. Presuming everything was gone, we wondered where we would relocate to. It was a matter of starting over and choosing a city. No one had preferences and it was gave a floating, untethered feeling to not know where home would be. I sat at the desk in the hotel room to check my emails and my inbox was full. I had only clicked on a few when I began crying. Tears streaming down my face, I turned to my mother and began to share dozens of emails. These were not from family or friends. They were all from customers of Grab The Gold! There were prayers and offers of assistance and stories to uplift and all expressed great concern for my well being as well as that of my family, pets and business. I didn’t know any of these customers directly. If fact many of the emails began, “You don’t know me but I buy your product at…”. These emails that touched my heart and gave me hope had something in common. The customers were from the greater Nashville area. It was the sign we were looking for. We knew we wanted to live among people with a generous heart and we packed up and left for Nashville.
“Who you are comes through in what you do…”
We are so much more than what we do. We are how we do it. Be kind to every person. Live with gentleness and generosity of spirit.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. No matter what happens in life, we always live with ourselves.
Find the dreams nestled in your heart, whatever they may be, and give them wings.
“Give them wings…”
Bigger is not always better. I am in no hurry to grow this business to a certain level. It has grown nicely on its own. The truth is we manage and direct our talents, thoughts and actions. But we are not wholly responsible for their creation. I know it is impossible for a 16 year old to come up with a recipe in one night that grows as a business for 20 years amongst hundreds of products in the same category. Sports nutritionists from major universities contact us raving about the nutrition, ingredients and taste and purchase Grab The Gold for their sports teams. That just doesn’t happen by accident. I recognize the recipe was a divine gift and I treat my business as a vehicle to reach others, to inspire, encourage and assist. I am a steward and my mission is to manage what I was given with integrity. I love life and people and animals and embrace all that life has to offer. I believe in helping others and giving time, attention, respect, a positive attitude and a warm smile to every person each and every time. Life is about connecting and that is what fulfills us. I spoke with a gentleman from California when he called after tasting the bar and he said “Who you are comes through in what you do because I feel better when I eat Grab The Gold. It is not just the nutrition but the intention.”
I am deeply grateful every day. I am blessed with loyal customers and an awesome team. Thank each and every one of you. We will grow and spread more happiness and goodness, year by year. Here are some words of inspiration from my heart.