Rheem Gourmet Granola – a brand of granola made in TT – has just been added to the concessions at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
What's so special about that?
Well, every year, the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, welcomes an estimated four million visitors, making it one of the most popular sites in the city.
Since its opening in 1927, the theatre has premiered blockbuster Hollywood movies and has hosted three Academy Awards ceremonies. In 1968, it was designated a historical landmark in LA.
Business Day recently spoke with Steven M Taylor, a co-owner of the Rheem Gourmet Granola, about how the brand came to be and its journey from TT to the historic LA theatre.
A film director and special effects makeup artist, Taylor is the owner of Steven M Taylor Film Limited. The company produces things like music videos and commercials, for example.
In October 2019, after a visit to the doctor, Taylor was diagnosed with high cholesterol. To bring his cholesterol levels down, he had to improve his diet. He hired a health coach who put him on the prowl for healthier food and snack options.
“One day, my wife suggested that I should start eating granola and nuts," Taylor said.
“But the granola and options we were getting were less than tasty…they were dry, they were hard, they were processed, they contained dry fruits and not real fruits.
“If you were getting granola, it has one raisin and one peanut in it.”
Less than impressed, Taylor, and his wife, Rheem, researched how to make granola and began experimenting with the formula for different granolas.
In a few weeks, Rheem had come up with a homemade granola blend Taylor enjoyed.
This happened shortly after the first round of covid19 lockdowns last March, so Taylor and his wife began to stock up on their homemade granola.
To store their haul, the pair recycled old glass jars at home like jam jars and kombucha bottles.
With time on his hands, Taylor decided to do something to thank his wife.
“In a show of gratitude, I went into our little home office to create a label (for the jars of granola).
“I put her name on it and I wrote ‘Rheem Gourmet Granola: Feed Your Heart’ because essentially that it was the granola was doing for me, it was feeding my heart.”
In September, the couple toyed with the idea of selling the granola.
Taylor posted on Instagram that a jar of the granola was available for sale, but he wasn’t expecting the reaction he got to the post.
“I posted it on my Instagram account, Steven Taylor Film, and I was blown away that people wanted to buy the granola.
“In fact, the same night (after posting), someone came and bought that bottle that I had in the post. They, my friends Keston and Amanda, drove to my house and bought that bottle at 10 pm that night.
“In a couple of hours, before you know it, we had over 100 orders for the granola.”
What began as an experiment, quickly turned into a full-fledged business opportunity for the Taylors.
Rheem Granola is made of 13 gourmet ingredients including pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, coconut shavings, agave, roasted peanuts, olive oil, cranberries, and sea salt.
“Essentially, everything we get is from local suppliers. Of course, we don’t grow things like oats and cranberries in TT, so those things are imported...(but) we’ve partnered with a lot of local suppliers.
“What we have done on special occasions, like last Christmas for example, we introduced sorrel in our granola.
“So, we did do a local version where we removed the cranberries and we put sorrel in it.”
In the initial stages of bringing the granola brand to life, Taylor sought and received assistance from several friends were supportive of the idea.
“Rheem wasn’t a plan so, we didn’t have a business plan or said we were going to launch it.
“So, it was something we put out (by experiment in September) and a post of Instagram would have turned into a business launch. A lot of people came to our help.”
From product pricing to properly evaluating the granola’s nutritional content and producing a consistent recipe, the Taylors got help every step of the way.
They also paid to have the product and its production process assessed by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri).
At Cariri, Taylor was assisted in developing proper contract processing methods, taught how to maintain proper standards for food creation workspaces and advised on other steps he can take to develop the product’s quality control.
“A lot of people helped us. Apart from Cariri, all the other people that helped us did it for absolutely free because they loved the movement.
“They also loved that it was way I was pivoting in a time where film productions weren’t really happening (because of covid19).”
When it came to marketing of the brand, Taylor has used his skills as a creative in the film industry.
To date, he has produced several visual ads for the brand which have been posted online.
Rheem Granola is now available in several groceries and stores across TT.
But while Taylor’s brand has been gaining steam locally, it’s also been catching the eyes of consumers abroad.
“People from abroad have also started ordering it. Right now, the shipping situation is a bit expensive but that didn’t deter folks from Florida, LA, and all over from ordering.
“That inspired us to look outside and see if there’ll be a life outside of the shores of TT for Rheem. And, on further inspection, we realised yes there was.
“We want to expand (the brand beyond TT) and the first place we are going to expand it to is my second home which is California. So, that’s where we are looking to push Rheem in the next phase of expansion.”
With Taylor’s involvement in film and video production, he has networked with numerous individuals both foreign and abroad.
So, it’s no surprise that one of the managers at LA’s historic TCL Chinese Theatre saw Taylor’s granola being advertised online and liked its look.
“They (at the theatre) saw the whole buzz behind Rheem on social media and the management reached out.
“They asked us if we would have been interested because they were looking to get some new suppliers for their concessions,” said Taylor.
In no time, Taylor was offered an opportunity to sell the granola in the theatre’s concessions.
“The management never tasted it, but they love what they saw. They loved the energy, community and that it was a hip, fresh product.
“Because California is a very forward state, they were excited about trying to include healthier options in the theatre’s concession.”
Taylor said the brand meets the basic requirements for export as it has a bar code, expiration date and labels inclusive of a visible nutritional content table.
As he’s looking towards scaling up his exports, Taylor is currently in the process of researching and working on any other paperwork which may need to be done to ensure that everything is done above board.
The brand’s inclusion at the theatre’s concession section is an indicator to Taylor that the brand is growing.
As he continues to expand the brand’s portfolio, he is currently experimenting with other products like granola bars and granola cereals.
Taylor’s business journey has been a fulfilling one.
In the end, he wasn’t only able to bring down his cholesterol levels by making his own homemade granola, but he was also able to begin a new journey in the world of entrepreneurship.
Given the financial struggles he faced to pay for his studies as a creative, Taylor also wants the brand to take on a bigger purpose.
“Rheem is me creating a corporate entity that is bigger than me so that I can now, in the future, not only create something as a creative but also be able to help other creatives be creative.
“My hope is that Rheem, in the near future, will be able to provide scholarships for creatives and being able to provide craft services like providing a bunch of Rheem Granola for students film sets when they need to have snacks on set.”
“My hope is Rheem is not just granola bars or granola snacks but to create an entity for creatives and by creatives. That’s not just film creatives but anybody who’s creative and need to come to a space or company that supports them in their endeavours.”
If you are interested in Taylor’s brand visit www.rheemgranola.com, follow the brand on Instagram @rheem_granola or send an email to email@example.com