Cancer survivor chef launches healthy homemade granola business in lockdown

A Bangor chef who survived breast cancer has launched her own range of granola breakfast cereals, thanks to help from the Go For It Programme in association with Ards and North Down Borough Council.

By Claire Cartmill
Sunday, 14th February 2021, 6:00 am
Nina Cristinacce, Owner of Morning Glory Granola Company, Emma Pearson, Business Development Manager at North Down Development Organisation Limited; Councillor Trevor Cummings, Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council and Marianne Hood, Business Advisor at North Down Development Organisation
Nina Cristinacce, Owner of Morning Glory Granola Company, Emma Pearson, Business Development Manager at North Down Development Organisation Limited; Councillor Trevor Cummings, Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council and Marianne Hood, Business Advisor at North Down Development Organisation

A Bangor chef who survived breast cancer has launched her own range of granola breakfast cereals, thanks to help from the Go For It Programme in association with Ards and North Down Borough Council.

The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.

Nina Cristinacce (48), who works full time as a chef in The Guillemot Deli in Bangor, began making her own granola when she was being treated for breast cancer and was making sure she had a healthy diet.

“I became a lot more aware of the ingredients in breakfast cereals and the amount of sugar they contain. Making my own granola meant I knew exactly what I was eating in the morning and it was a good start to the day,” the mum of three said.

“Then, about two years ago, I started thinking about doing something with it and making it into a viable business. I started experimenting with different recipes for granola, looking at making granolas that were really low in sugar or had no nuts in them. I’m a big advocate of local ingredients and supporting small local businesses and I was trying to put together different combinations using local ingredients.”

There was a favourable response from friends and family who tried the granolas, but it was only when Nina was furloughed during the spring lockdown that she took the leap and launched the Morning Glory Granola Company in June.

“I was furloughed for five weeks at the beginning of the pandemic and I got to the point where I thought I needed to go and try it. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” she explained.

“I was lucky to have a lot of friends who supported me - Rachel Armstrong at The Guillemot Deli stocked it right from the word go and then a box delivery scheme in Belfast contacted me on social media about supplying it.”

One recipe, called Wild at Heart, includes dulse combined with apple and honey, while Morning After features grain from the Bullhouse Brewing Company, a byproduct of the brewing process, along with ingredients that are great for anyone who has over-indulged the night before, such as banana, blueberry and coconut oil. She now supplies a number of coffee shops and makes a bespoke granola for Guillemot Deli. Most recently she has just launched two bespoke granolas for Corries Farm Shop.

Nina says the business plan produced as part of the support from the Go For It scheme was invaluable: “It’s something I struggle with - putting things down on paper - but they were absolutely fantastic,” she continued.

The Go For It Programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 Council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.

“The advisor made me think about the process of what you are making - you can get caught up in the excitement of making a product and seeing it out there, but you also need to think about how much it costs to make it, package it and get it to the end user,” Nina added.

“There’s a lot of really practical information that you don’t necessarily think of. Because I’m doing this on my own, it’s really good to have someone you can ask questions of or run ideas by.”

Councillor Trevor Cummings, Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council praised: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Ards and North Down Borough Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running. I wish Nina every continued success in developing and growing her enterprise and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”

Marianne Hood, Business Advisor at North Down Development Organisation added: “It has been a pleasure mentoring Nina through the Go For It Programme that has culminated in the launch of her very own granola brand that’s available across a range of local stockists and online.

“Nina is a very talented chef and came to the Go For It Programme with her very own range of delicious granola and simply needed the support to turn these tried and tested recipes into a business venture. We worked with her to develop a business plan, defining her brand concept, sales strategy, sourcing ingredients and packaging, marketing and a two-year financial forecast.”

If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.

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