On Tuesdays, Farb’s Bakery is alive with music, clattering trays and granola as it undergoes various baking and production processes. Here, Heather Segal works the magic behind her San Luis Obispo-based gourmet food company, My Mom’s, with the help of her three employees, or “villagers,” as she calls them.
“[Working for Segal] is something different. I like everything about the granola — the smell, the flavor,” My Mom’s employee Miguel Canseco said.
Segal’s appreciation for organic, gluten-free products has been engrained in her since childhood. She grew up in a vegetarian household where her mother, Joyce Staver, made natural foods, such as granola, containing “good fuel” for outdoor activities.
Staver and Segal began to make more granola together upon Staver’s retirement and the two began to sell their product to local retailers in 2002. They quickly had a small business on the ground. However, Staver soon moved away to Oregon and Segal was left with two young children to raise and a new business to manage. She decided to put My Mom’s on the backburner and focused on raising her family, eventually returning to work as a procedural nurse at French Hospital in 2007.
Segal officially re-launched her business Jan. 4, 2015.
“The biggest reason that I decided to revive it is that I have had really strong women in my family who have continued to invest in themselves, all the way into their nineties,” Segal said. “That’s something that’s in my soul and I wanted to pass that on and show my kids and anybody else who was watching that it’s never too late to try something new.”
When Segal was not working at the hospital, she busied herself with bringing samples to small businesses. However, she soon realized the time and energy she expended on baking and pitching were not being met by sales.
“One of the most daunting things I’ve had to do was put myself out there … I’m not a salesperson,” Segal said. “[I had] To sell myself, sell my brand and say, ‘You should try this. It’s good and you should buy from me.”
Segal decided to take a jump and apply to Cal Poly Campus Dining. After receiving approval to sell on campus, she felt like she had been hit by “a shot of epinephrine.” She then drove to the newly opened California Fresh Market and excitedly pitched My Mom’s granola to the manager. In one day, she acquired two of her biggest clients.
In Fall 2016, Segal began to hold weekly tastings in Campus Market. Today, Cal Poly is Segal’s top customer, selling her products at Campus Market and Julian’s Café Bistro.
“With Cal Poly, I knew I really wanted to be on campus with the kids,” Segal said. “My mission being, ‘Don’t ever stop investing in yourself,’ it was [an] opportunity to have people who were making life choices see someone and say, ‘Wow, you started this when you were 54 years old?’”
My Mom’s granola recipes have evolved since the beginning. Segal has experimented with new flavors. Her most recent mix, Spring 805, is vegan and includes freeze-dried hibiscus flowers from Segal’s yard. She uses honey from her own bees for all other mixes. Segal tries to buy and exchange locally, which she calls “completing the circle.”
“What I’ve learned is that we live in a community that really is more village-based than city-based,” Segal said. “If you ask for help or ask for advice, people will give it to you.”
Segal gets her chocolate from Molly Lear of Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department.
“I think she’s doing everything the way that a lot of people would like to be buying a product,” Food Science and Operations Manager Lear said. “Being a small business is really hard, but I think Segal’s just a genuine person and I think people see that in her products.”
Segal wants My Mom’s granola to reflect the values she was raised on as a child: “to fuel outdoor activities, to fuel things that enrich our lives.” She hopes to expand outside of her San Luis Obispo city bubble, while still maintaining the integrity of her brand and avoiding spreading herself too thin.
“Even when I get an offer that seems like a terrific offer, I want to be very careful with it,” Segal said. “Even with having people help me, the last hands on the package are mine. I’m the one who inspects the bag, seals the bag and puts it in the box.”
Segal is currently working on a My Mom’s trail mix and is planning to incorporate a new ingredient, carob, into it. She said she enjoys the freedom of experimentation and the ability to pursue two of her greatest passions.
“I love going to work and being a nurse, but I also love being a business-owner,” Segal said. “I love making something that’s my craft. This is my art.”