Yolanda Bravo grew her baking business in the most organic way possible.

A stay-at-home mother, she had some extra time and started baking granola for her husband and young daughter as a hobby. Soon, the pastime grew into a brand carried by Whole Foods and The Fresh Market.

Bravo said the idea presented itself to her and she immediately begin to synergize and work with it — it almost grew on it own.

Little Red Wagon Granola is based in Chapel Hill, where Bravo bakes her fresh granola. The granola is mixed with dried fruits, whole nuts or chocolate in any one of five varieties. Bravo sources the ingredients from local suppliers whenever possible.

“I really enjoyed cooking and baking and making things,” she said. “And I was committed to doing it without a lot of preservatives or without ingredients that you wouldn’t find normally in your own home or that your grandmother wouldn’t use.”

Little Red Wagon Granola differs from other granolas in that it is a robust mix that can be eaten straight from the bag or added to breakfast and lunch recipes for an added crunch.

The original variety of granola, cinnamon raisin, is still the most popular product today. Bravo developed it for her husband, a pharmaceutical sales representative who needed a tasty snack that was nutritious and filling while he traveled.

From that need came Little Red Wagon Granola, which first took the form of a stall at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in 2004. Bravo brought all sorts of baked goods to that original stall, but the granola generated the most positive customer response. The customers brought Bravo requests, asking for versions without raisins (meet the Crunchy Monkey), and she happily created for them.

Eventually, the business outgrew the farmer’s market and took up residence on a shelf at Weaver Street Market.

“Weaver Street Market gave me a beautiful shelf space, and after I filled [the shelves] with what I thought was sufficient, they called me and said, ‘How fast can you bake it? Because it’s all gone,’” she said.

The product was quickly picked up by select Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and other specialty stores across the country. Bravo credits some of the granola’s success to people’s tendency to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.

“It’s been a blessing for us, honestly,” she said. “Any other meal of the day, if you repeated it, you would get tired of it quickly, but for breakfast, people tend to repeat things.”

Bravo holds herself to high standards of quality for the product and wants every customer to receive an equally delicious bag.

“You feel a super connection with them,” she said. “You’re just happy on those cold mornings or early mornings when you’re there doing something that is hard work.”

Photo courtesy of Little Red Wagon Granola