Myra Hallman, new owner of Not Yer Momma’s Granola, popped up on my screen amid a field of lavender the likes of which you’d see in the south of France.
I almost giggled when I saw all those flowers, not realizing it was a virtual background. In the wake of Covid-mania news updates and the shelter-in-place order, we did what everybody’s gotta do now—we met online.
“It just started as a marketing project,” Hallman tells me, sounding not a little surprised that after running the numbers in her MBA program at San Francisco State University (SFSU), she realized, “I can do this.” Hallman moved to Sebastopol with her partner, a Sonoma County native and nephew of one of the original owners. She bought the company in the summer of 2019 from “Aunt Susie” and co-owners Whitney and Irene. “These three women are a hoot,” she says. “They bring a firestorm of laughter and good times.”
The original Mommas started by sending batches of granola to their combined eight children away at college. “Friends kept asking for ‘yer momma’s granola,’” explains Hallman, who is committed to “keeping the family legacy going.” So they decided to up production, making their organic granola by hand in an industrial kitchen in Sebastopol. Their desire to bring healthy, nutritious food to their local community is kept alive by Hallman, who explains, “I wanna make sure I keep it as local as possible. I feel like I can see a bigger impact if I see it here.” She’s also keen on seeing the impact of women-run businesses on the local economy.
“There just aren’t enough women,” she says when asked about the challenges of being a female business owner. “When you’re talking to a man, he leads the conversation. Seriously, the mansplaining is real.” For her, this is nothing new. During her seven years as a munitions specialist in the Air Force, Hallman felt what it was like to be in the minority. She tells me, “In a squadron of 250, there would be 10 women, and the competition was so high.”
Still, it’s clear that she values her military experience. “I’m mission-driven, consistent and persistent, and I know how to work in high stress situations,” Hallman says, enumerating the qualities the Air Force hammered home. One of her best experiences was a conference for women student veterans through Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute. “They offered this program as a way for women to connect. It was a safe space to be vulnerable” she says, explaining that it gave her a strong desire to support and mentor women in the community—like her current intern and fellow business student at SFSU.
It also gave her the confidence to “not be afraid of [her] own superpowers.” You can feel this in the surety of her answers, the lack of apologies in her story. When Hallman speaks you can tell she has given her ideas a lot of thought. So as a nutrition-savvy mom and socially conscious shopper, I had to ask about the ethics of her product in terms of production and packaging.
She knows her supply chain well, is acutely aware of our global plastic problem, and is in the process of researching alternate packaging. “My degree at Humboldt focused a lot on sustainability, and I feel that responsibility as a small business owner in a big way,” Hallman says. For now, she offers up her 56-ounce bag in their online store as a way to reduce waste.
“Ours is an experiential product. We sell a lot through demos, and right now, nobody can do demos,” she says, lamenting the effects of a pandemic on a small business. Normally you could make a trip out to the Sebastopol farmers’ market and meet Hallman, but as she learned a few weeks ago, “People just aren’t coming out in the same numbers.” As is becoming normal for everyone, it’s a game of wait and see.
Still, the quality of her product belies longevity: all organic ingredients, sweetened only with honey, and bold, unexpected flavors that juxtapose sweet and spice (like Hallman’s and my daughter’s favorite, blueberry ginger). Other flavors include apple cinnamon and apricot cardamom, which is chock full of crispy pepitas, almonds and fat coconut slivers. These are snacks I can feel good about handing to my kids. And a woman whose mission I can feel good about supporting.