Nana Joes Granola: 10 Years of Learning, Adapting, and Growing with SFMade
Michelle Pusateri credits SFMade for her successful transition from pastry chef to business owner and community leader.
Michelle Pusateri started her company, Nana Joes Granola, around the same time that SFMade came into being. Both organizations share in the belief that building a strong manufacturing community can help create a more diverse and equitable local economy.
Pusateri began making granola because she wanted a healthy gluten-free breakfast option (she has celiac disease) that could fuel her surf obsession. Today, her company has grown into a ten-person operation that manufactures award-winning products that are available at grocery chains like Whole Foods and local farmers markets, and before the pandemic hit, in the kitchens of the hottest tech companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
A former pastry chef, Pusateri had the culinary chops, but the operational and management side were completely new to her.
“At first I think I wasn’t a good owner and manager because I didn’t know how to be one,” she said. “It’s taken some time to learn, but now I’m all about uplifting employees, finding where their strengths are, and making them feel valued.”
Early in her business journey, Pusateri took advantage of the educational workshops that SFMade offers on a range of topics such as hiring, real estate, raising capital, and marketing. She also participated in SFMade’s Holiday Fairs to market her granola to new customers. After becoming more established, she called on SFMade to provide process efficiency reviews for the kitchen facility she built in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood.
“The staff at SFMade will bend over backwards to help us, get answers, and enable us to continue to manufacture within the city limits,” said Pusateri. “Their help has been instrumental to our growth.”
“Team Nana Joes Granola is one of the most fun and excited and motivated groups of people,” said Pierre Coeurdeuil, Director of Advising and Education at SFMade. “I’ve seen how Michelle has evolved as an owner throughout the years, and I’ve always been impressed with the way she changes. She keeps getting better!”
As a sign of her growth as a business leader, Pusateri was invited to join SFMade’s California Manufacturers Accelerator Program, a peer advising group that includes leaders from approximately 90 local manufacturing companies.
“With the Accelerator Program, I have other manufacturers I can call on as a sounding board and talk to about problems,” she said. “It gives me a broader understanding of how to do business.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, having that network of local business owners and SFMade’s expert staff to call on was crucial to her company’s survival.
Deeply committed to her employees, Pusateri kept the Nana Joes Granola team working during the pandemic –they are considered an essential business– and maintained their pay at the same, pre-pandemic level, even before she received a PPP loan.
“Being able to talk with SFMade staff and other business owners about public health policies and safety protocols was so important,” said Pusateri. “And the PPP loan–I never would have gotten it without them. It is such a blessing to have SFMade in my corner.”
After ten years, Pusateri is now a seasoned business owner and has learned from experience that although business may be slowing due to the pandemic, she can survive. Staying focused and having a strong community on which to rely makes all the difference.
“Community Before Profit is our motto,” said Pusateri. “We lift up our community one person and one breakfast at a time.”
As a business leader, she has demonstrated her commitment to community by hiring people from Potrero Hill and the Bayview who live within walking distance to her Dogpatch kitchen and might not have access to other career opportunities. She’s been a champion for the celiac community, creating gluten-free products for people who share a passion for healthy, organic food. And she’s been an active and enthusiastic community leader, generously sharing her time and talents with non-profit boards, including SFMade’s.
“Supporting our community is key to a thriving city,” said Pusateri. “We need to start to focus on the people and not just the profit.”