Sue Graziano Adams
Founder & CEO
Joining us today is Sue Graziano Adams, the CEO and founder of Blossom Foods, from Oakland, CA. Blossom Foods provides soft textured meals to those that have difficulty with eating/swallowing so that they can continue to enjoy healthy, delicious meals and maintain their dignity with dining.
Being inspired by her patients and loved ones, Sue believed that soft textured meals should, and can, be as delicious and nutritious as their regular textured counterparts and that’s when she started Blossom Foods.
Read on to find out more about her inspiring story.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.
Growing up on a small farm in Washington state, I learned early on about food insecurity, cooking with minimal ingredients, and special food programs. I also learned I needed to become educated as a way out. The first in my family to go to college let alone graduate school, I received a Master’s Degree in Speech and Hearing Science.
As a Speech Pathologist for almost 20 years, I worked primarily in healthcare. My job included diagnosing and treating adults that had swallowing difficulties due to health issues such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, general fatigue, etc. Recommending a soft diet texture often meant watching the joy of enjoying a meal leave their face. What family event, social event, the home routine would they be giving up now that they may be forced to eat Pureed, ground or a soft chopped diet. Most days revolve around the dining table.
I wasn’t business-driven, I was human-driven. In 2006 the pull to start a company that returned these people to the table and the enjoyment of eating again was all-consuming. Hiring a Swiss Chef and securing a USDA kitchen, Blossom Foods began.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?
A typical day involves meeting with various team members, returning emails and phone calls to customers, tasting and evaluating our menu items, making sure we are doing what we say we do and keeping it profitable.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.
Blossom Foods literally “popped” in my head. It was my true “AHA” moment and once I said it, I was consumed. Hiring and working side by side with our original Swiss Chef, Juerg, we created an initial menu of 18 Pureed items. Presenting these to the last hospital I worked at, Summit Sutter Health, they then became my first customer. Realizing that tasting with Dietitians, Speech Pathologists, Physicians, and Patients, our meals were in fact what they were supposed to be – delicious and nutritious – we began to create the next levels so that those that need additional soft textures, Ground and Chopped, could also continue to enjoy their meals.
Initially, there were three textures of food. With the introduction of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative or IDDSI, Blossom Foods offers four textures of food: Pureed, Minced and Moist, Soft Chop/Bite Size, and Regular Renal.
Beginning in a shared 4500 square foot USDA space using $150,000, we eventually grew to our own leased facility of 25,000 square feet, with the need for more. There are no other partners.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
My biggest achievement was to secure the business and trust of some of the most respected healthcare institutions in the United States including the VA, Kaiser Permanente, and Cedars Sinai to name a few. Having a Michelin star chef taste and praise our meals, bringing them into his facility, was also extremely humbling.
My ultimate challenge has been to get people to get rid of the notion that Pureed food, or the other textured meals, are “mush” and not to be liked. There have been professionals in my field that refuse to taste the meals because of perception and that says a lot for the person/human that will be eating these meals because of their recommendations. Makes me mad every time.
WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?
My strategy has been a controlled growth. Once we got the business we went after, we slowed down to assure we could keep up with demand. I have also tried to control finances and even if something were pennies more if we couldn’t pay for it and use it, we didn’t buy it.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?
To be the biggest provider of soft textured meals nationally and then internationally. I’d like to eventually get a strategic partner to help with rapid growth. I do understand where my weaknesses are and will need help in those areas.
RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS
ARE THERE ANY RESOURCES OR TOOLS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS?
Instinct. If you understand where you want to be and why, go for it.
WHAT OR WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE IN BUSINESS AND WHY?
I read a lot about what others have done and think about how that impacts me. I do follow Howard Schultz and hope one day to meet him.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Trust that you can do it. Women are so smart. A failure is an option and many times it’s because of timing. If at first you don’t succeed, try-try-try again. I’m a perfect example of the success that can happen to anyone, seriously.
WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
I want to start a Podcast and talk to people from all walks of life. In these hard times, my travels have taken me to some very small, flyover states and I get to see Vets and people that wave flags I’d never dream to do. And interestingly enough, some of these people I have more in common with than not.
Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!
If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.
By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.
If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!