When life hands you challenges, make granola.
When Genevieve Lee's father had a heart attack, it made her question everything — even the food they ate together.
Before his heart attack and triple bypass surgery, Genevieve's family never thought too much about what they ate. While her mother is a good cook, their meals were supplemented with highly processed food and loaded with extra sugar, salt, and preservatives. Delicious, but not the best idea for a diabetic recovering from major heart surgery.
With her dad on two months of bed rest, Genevieve took a leave of absence from her film editing job to care for him, immersing herself in learning to cook whole-food versions of his favorite meals. One of the biggest challenges was finding a nutrient-rich, low-sugar replacement for the cereal he liked to snack on throughout the day.
She decided on homemade granola. It was an instant hit.
Helping her father change his diet changed her life. And her career path.
Once Genevieve started making healthy food, she couldn't stop. Soon her friends were receiving gifts of homemade granola during the holidays. Her dad saw her enthusiasm and encouraged her to take the next logical step: If you like it so much, why not sell it?
"My initial challenge is that I wasn't a risk-taker. Leaving a comfortable job with decent pay was really daunting. After giving much thought and talking to my dad, he gave me this advice: He said, 'Don't worry so much. Just do it. Things will sort of work out.'"
— Genevieve Lee
With just $500 in seed money, Genevieve started small. She sold her granola at farmers markets, then online. Her family helped every step of the way, even spending afternoons portioning and labeling packages.
Now, four years in, The Edible Company has a mail-order program, a Singapore storefront, and a strong social media presence — even if teaching people what granola is can sometimes be a challenge.
"People have a very sweet and savory tooth here, and most healthier options of anything is neither of that. So the first buy in is always our popular Coconut Gula Melaka flavor. It's connectable, sweeter, and has the essence of a Southeast Asian flavor. All of our products are gently sweetened, but I still get people who asked me to make it sweeter. I'm standing my ground."
— Genevieve Lee
In a 2014 interview, Genevieve acknowledged that her company would have failed immediately had she started it 10 years ago. Products like granola and muesli are now becoming mainstream in Singapore — and social media has played a big part in that.
There are 3.5 million active Facebook users in Singapore, and mentions from famous, popular users can make a big difference for a small business like Genevieve's.
"Now, social media makes all the difference. If a friend who has 24,000 followers posts a photo of my granola, I'll get 20 to 30 new followers and lots of people asking where to buy it within a few hours," she told an interviewer last year.
Many entrepreneurs sacrifice their personal relationships when they start their businesses. Genevieve has worked hard to be the exception.
She makes a point of carving out time in her schedule to spend with family, and she never works on Sundays. It's a refreshingly healthy approach. More than a decade after the health scare that started it all, Genevieve's father — and the business he convinced her to start — are doing well. And her family has never been stronger — even as they prepare to get a little larger next month when Genevieve and her husband welcome their first child.
Being an entrepreneur and a new mom will be a huge challenge, but Genevieve is ready for whatever happens.
"Running a business alone is one tough journey. Every thing and every day is a challenge. What keeps me going is that I refuse to give up on this dream until I have exhausted all possible options. I don't want to live my life with regrets."