Friday, March 30, 2012
It’s a story we hear a lot lately; after 20 years as an independent construction worker laying fiber optic cable, Brad Gruno found himself struggling to find work in the over-crowded telco industry. Gruno describes himself as being depressed, forty pounds overweight, and unhealthy. He knew he needed to get healthy, and he knew he needed to find a new career. But having previously found success working for himself, this entrepreneur simply couldn’t fathom going to work every day for someone else.
Knowing that he needed to reinvent himself, Gruno took two simple steps: he moved back “home” to Buck’s County Pennsylvania, and he made the decision to get back in shape and eat healthy foods. He started researching and learning about vegan diets and raw foods. Eating only raw foods, Gruno lost 40 pounds, brought his cholesterol down, and felt better than ever.
A raw foods diet is one made up of what Gruno calls “live” foods, rather than cooked, and with no animal-based products. It is an extreme vegan diet where none of the food is processed or cooked. According to Gruno, “When you cook food you kill the enzymes and lose the nutrients.”
When Gruno wanted a food with some crunch to it – something like a chip – he started experimenting, and created a raw chip from kale. Instead of baking the kale in the oven, he dried the kale to create the chips, and flavored them with other natural ingredients. Gruno converted a garage into a small chip factory and Brad’s Raw Chips was started – the first raw chip company on the East Coast.
Two and a half years later, Gruno has fifty employees, continues to create more jobs, and he is expanding distribution. The business brought in $2 million in revenue in 2011, and Gruno expects to end 2012 at $10 million.
Brad’s Raw Foods product line includes kale chips and leafy kale, and Gruno continues to innovate and find new flavors. Most recently he introduced a nut-free version of his chips. All of the products are gluten-free, vegan, and free of many common food allergens.
Gruno describes his business as having, “happened totally organically,” and I believe the pun is intended. “I fell into something I was really passionate about.” Passion, after all, is Gruno’s fuel. When he’s not on the farm or in the factory, he likes to get out and share that passion with customers – at trade shows, expos, and in the stores.
The next phase of Gruno’s reinvention will come to life this spring when the Chip Factory and Education Center opens May 12th at his new fourteen-thousand-square-foot facility in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. It will feature a raw juice bar, coaching, and workshops.
Happy. Healthy. Inspired. Now that’s the way to start a new career!