Hannah Barnstable of Seven Sundays Muesli On Entrepreneurship

Hannah Barnstable makes every day a Sunday. 

Hannah Barnstable makes every day a Sunday. 

Hannah & Brady Barnstable celebrated their marriage with an epic honeymoon in New Zealand (just like my hubby and I did earlier this year!). Though in addition to coming home with stories about mean sandflies and adrenaline sports, these two returned to the states with a vision: to recreate New Zealand's breakfast staple, muesli. I know what you're thinking: what in the hell is moose-lee and where do I get it. I'll let Hannah explain muesli, but I'll go ahead and thank her & Brady for selling this delicious stuff over the place, including Target!

Of course, a lot happened between New Zealand and Target. Here's the story.

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Have you always had an “entrepreneurial spirit”? What did you do prior to starting Seven Sundays?

I did. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My dad owned his own business and had us kids helping out at a very young age. Prior to founding Seven Sundays, I was an investment banker. Quite a contrast for sure, but I worked with food companies which is a big reason why I wanted to start my own.

Why did you decide to go to New Zealand for your honeymoon (we did too, BTW!)? What about that place seemed especially intriguing?

Awesome that you went there as well! We need to share stories! Brady actually chose New Zealand based off a suggestion from a pal from work. We love to hike, camp and eat wonderful food. New Zealand offered the perfect adventure!

I was amazed at how great the breakfasts were in New Zealand (amazing coffee, fruit, yogurt, milk, muesli, everything!). Do you remember your first breakfast with muesli? What did you like so much about it?

I don’t remember my first muesli, but there is one breakfast that stood out to me. We were staying at a sheep-farm-turned-B&B. Our host started our morning off by offering us homemade toasted muesli from large glass jars. I remember admiring the shear quantity of stuff in the muesli – pepitas, flax seeds, coconut chips, sultanas, cinnamon, Brazil nuts – so many delicious things, combined perfectly together. This was actually the muesli that I tried to recreate in our NYC apartment upon returning home. It is also the basis for our Original Toasted muesli that is sold nationwide today!

What exactly is muesli?

Muesli is actually a Swiss word for “mix”.  How wonderful is that?  No processing, just mixing – very unique for a cereal in the U.S.  Typically, mueslis contain various whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits and are either untoasted or very lightly toasted.  Muesli is often served soaked in milk and topped with yogurt and fresh fruit.

If you started every morning with healthy muesli, you'd probably look this good, too. 

If you started every morning with healthy muesli, you'd probably look this good, too. 

When did you and your husband start talking about starting a muesli company stateside? When did those conversations get serious?

We began talking about muesli immediately upon returning home. I believe we were trying desperately to hold onto anything “New Zealand” that we could!  I remember going to several grocery stores to pick up any mueslis I could find, but none of them came close to what we enjoyed in New Zealand, so we started making our own! The conversations around launching a muesli brand in the U.S. happened quickly. Within six months of returning home, I put in my notice at my job. Six months after that, we moved to Minneapolis and I started Seven Sundays in a friend’s restaurant kitchen.

What does Seven Sundays mean? What does the brand stand for?

Treat every morning like a Sunday morning. Take your time, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and the company of your family before the hectic day takes hold. We like to inspire people to enjoy their mornings and have a proper “mealtime”.

I think a lot of potential entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by how many things go into starting their own business. Where did you start?

I started from scratch. I wrote a business plan, developed some recipes in my kitchen, packed muesli up in tin-tie coffee bags and headed to a nearby farmers market. 

That's what a healthy breakfast looks like, folks!

That's what a healthy breakfast looks like, folks!

From idea conception to having an actual product in your hand—how long did the process take?

The idea came together in February 2011 and I was selling products four months later at a farmer's market. By August, we were selling muesli in a handful of grocery stores, and about a year in, we had upgraded our packaging to something more scalable. In other words, we started small with minimal investment, tweaked our products as needed, before getting to a larger scale.

Do you and your husband do this full-time? When did you take that leap?

We do both work for Seven Sundays full-time. Brady joined at the end of 2013. It was scary, but very clear when we made the decision to go “all in”. We had grown a lot in the fall of 2013 and there was no way I could keep up on my own.

Who was the first person you hired to help?

Just before we had or first son, Louis, I hired a young guy from a Craigslist ad to help with grocery store demos. Without really any maternity leave, I continued to run things from my laptop with baby-in-arms, but figured toting little Louis to grocery stores to sling muesli would not be effective…for anyone.

Cute family alert!

Cute family alert!

Asking for a loan can be a challenge. What 3 tips do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to finance projects?

1) Come prepared with detailed historical and forecasted financial statements; 2) Do NOT sell yourself short – be your biggest fan; 3) Show that you have “skin in the game” – either your own money, sweat equity or both.

Most exciting thing to happen to you since starting Seven Sundays? Most frustrating?

My proudest moment was walking into Target and seeing our muesli on the shelf. Going nationwide with Target was a big deal for our company, and especially exciting because it made our products “available everywhere.” The most frustrating thing would have to be when an Australian company launched a “Seven Sundays Muesli” in 2014. We get a ton of consumer confusion now, but because we didn’t file a trademark in Australia, there isn’t much we can do!

Advice for someone wanting to start their own company/brand?

Grit and patience are essential.  You won’t fail unless you quit.  But do look at your venture as a long-term commitment – at least 5 to 10 years – because it takes time (and love and nurturing).

How do you eat your muesli?

Oh how do I count the ways! Soaked overnight in almond milk, steeped in hot water, with cold milk and fresh berries, scooped into my favorite pancake mix and baked into scones and muffins.  I eat a lot of muesli. :)

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Thanks to Hannah for sharing her story. For more info, check out the Seven Sundays website (includes recipes, too!). Follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Want to taste some of this delicious stuff for yourself? You can buy it online, at a bunch of stores or TARGET!

Love food entrepreneurs? Then you're sure to love this article about starting a private supper club. Also, why it's important to eat outside your comfort zone



(plus a FREE copy of 107 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone)