Co Down couple taste success with Just Live a Little granola business
Just Live a Little granola may have become a breakfast must-have in many households across the globe, but it is still lovingly made in a shed just off Strangford Lough.
Entrepreneurial husband and wife team David and Jill Crawford’s journey started a few years ago when they used to sell yoghurt and granola that they had created in the kitchen of their Portaferry farmhouse at local markets.
Now they are the sole granola supplier to Northern Ireland’s most exclusive hotel chain and their products line the shelves of supermarkets located in far-flung places they had only dreamed of visiting before.
“I always get a bit worried when people talk about us making granola in the shed in case they actually think it’s a garden shed, but we have a farmhouse with barns and out-buildings that we’ve converted and it’s in there,” said Jill, whose big break came one weekend at Belfast’s famous St George’s Market.
“A couple of years ago we were selling yoghurt at St George’s Market, and Howard Hastings of Hastings Hotels tried it and liked it. So he invited us to meet with his head chef and shortly after Hastings had dropped all of their other types of granola and they were only serving ours.
“It was all a bit surreal because this was just granola we were coming home from work and making in our kitchen and selling. We weren’t some big company, it was just us doing it all in our kitchen and bagging it up into sandwich bags and taking it to markets and suddenly Howard Hastings is telling us that he likes it and wants to serve it in all of his hotels.”
Since their partnership with Hastings, which owns the plush Culloden and Slieve Donard hotels, the enterprising duo have signed lucrative deals with well-known retail chains Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, Asda and Spar and their products are even stocked in stores in Dubai and Hong Kong.
The 38-year-old mum of two said: “We just wanted some good granola to go with our yoghurt because the ones we’d tried weren’t great — that’s how the whole granola thing started. We wanted real food and that’s what our product is — real food that everyone can enjoy.
“We never imagined that our granola would have taken off the way that it has, though. We knew we had a good product that we liked anyway but we never expected so many other people to like it too.
“It was never our intention for things to happen the way that they had, although obviously we’re so happy that it has worked out the way that it has.”
With the brand’s rapid expansion, Jill revealed that things are “non-stop” in the Crawford household and admits that she is always finding jobs for her family members, including young children Ollie and Mya.
“It’s very much a family thing which is nice. David does all the baking and the kids are always about the place. Our logo is characters of us too and if anyone ever meets David they’ll see that the character is exactly like him, it’s brilliant,” said Jill.
The next few months are expected to be even busier for Just Live a Little as they expand both their range and the number of stores they supply to.
“Last year we only had two products which we made ourselves at home and then spent our time packing the contents into tubs and selling it to shops, but now we now have 13 different products.
“It’s been busy to say the least and there have been a lot of sleepless nights but it has been amazing,” beamed Jill.
“We’re always thinking up new ideas of things we can do and this summer our new range is being launched in Tesco so it’s all happening for us.
“We’re just going keep plugging away and hopefully we’ll get some more distribution across the UK and Ireland. It’s all very exciting.”