Katrina survivor strikes gold in Nashville
Wednesday, August 29th, marks the 13th anniversary of the costliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Katrina destroyed nearly everything in its path and it also redirected one business woman’s path here to Nashville where she found the support to start over.
Danielle Ontiveros was just 16 in her mom’s New Orleans kitchen when she invented her famous “Grab The Gold” recipe. She says she’d never really liked breakfast food and tried nutrition bars, but there weren’t a lot on the market back in 1990. So, she created her own. She adds, “I went out the next day with a picnic basket selling my product.”
Ontiveros was 15 years into her business when Hurricane Katrina hit. She evacuated at the last moment. Ontiveros watched all she’d worked for wash away. She says, “What I carried out was what I was left with. I had never felt that afraid before. I had never felt depressed.” She says she wondered if she even started her business back up, would the customers come back? She knew she had to start over though.ADVERTISING
Willi Rueda who works for Ontiveros in the Franklin factory remarks, “It is not a surprise knowing the way she is. She’s very tough.”
That’s when emails from Nashville started pouring in. Ontiveros shares, “The hearts of people in Nashville were amazing. That’s why I knew it was the right place to live because this community of people who didn’t know me were caring so much that they were offering money a place to live, whatever I needed.”
So, the Grab The Gold founder stirred up some courage and started over here in Music City. Since making this a Tennessee brand, she’s experienced explosive growth and gone national in Smoothie King, Kroger, Walgreens all by word of mouth.
All organic ingredients and organic growth. Ontiveros divulges, “We were making in a month what we used to make in a year. We still don’t have a salesperson.” She’s never even bought an ad or a commercial.
So, when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the US last fall, Ontiveros donated four tons of Grab The Gold bars. She says, “I was crying. I was devastated. It put me right back to the moment in my life where I had lost everything. All I could think was to give and give more.”
When most companies are lucky to have 3 to 5 percent growth year over year, Grab The Gold is enjoying a tasty 10 to 20% growth. Ontiveros says she still eats one for breakfast every morning with her coffee.
Grab The Gold is in its 28th year and because Nashville has helped her so much, Ontiveros also gives a portion of every bar sold to Second Harvest Food Bank.