A globetrotting life as a digital nomad took Emily Griffith to Bali, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico, and very fortunately, Australia. It was on a beach in that last paradise that Emily ate a life-changing bowl of acai and sprouted buckwheat.
“The bowl had THE BEST taste and texture, and I felt amazing after eating it. Turns out the secret ingredient, providing gluten-free protein, fiber, antioxidants, and that yummy crunch, was sprouted buckwheat! The Aussies love it,” recalled Emily.
Naturally, when she returned to the states, Emily wanted to recreate the deliciousness (and energizing feeling) of her new favorite meal.
“I became obsessed (obviously) and was SHOCKED that I couldn't find it anywhere when I moved back to the States,” she said.
So what did Emily do? Bulk order from Australia? Nope. She seized the opportunity to position herself at the forefront of a new food trend with the founding of Lil Bucks.
“There is no other brand in the USA focused on sprouted buckwheat. There are a few that use it as an ingredient but no one has taken on the task of busting the myth that buckwheat is a grain – technically they are fruit seeds – and promoting their grain-free protein power,” said Emily.
“We are also working to increase demand for buckwheat to encourage farmers in North America to include buckwheat in their crop rotations - it's a great crop for bringing nitrogen back into the soil, aka better soil health, aka restoring nutrients into our food grown here.”
Her experience in graphic design and digital marketing turned out to be a major boon to Emily in launching Lil Bucks.
“I feel very lucky that my career background gave me a VERY relevant skillset for being an entrepreneur - I think it's helping me with our momentum and has saved tons of money in startup costs. I personally designed the branding and logo, built the website, do the social and email marketing, all that. It's great fun to leverage what I'm good at.”
At the same time, there have been some serious surprises.
“I thought I could just build a sweet brand and website and post pretty pics on social media and BOOM! National sprouted buckwheat sensation!” Emily said.
“Well, food entrepreneurship is one of the hardest, and coolest, things I've ever done. I knew I wouldn't be the best at operations/logistics because I'm naturally not great at that, so that's been a challenge and I've come a long, LONG way.
“But what really surprised me was the mental health aspect. I've always felt blessed to have a pretty stable mental health situation…I never dealt with much depression or anxiety…but the stress, demands, and loneliness that can come with being a food entrepreneur did give way to some anxiety issues and I've had to adjust and learn how to cope with that.
“Of course, bonding with other entrepreneurs who know the feeling, plus giving myself a little time to do what I love (surf and travel and try fun recipes), are very restorative,” she acknowledged.
Emily is part of a circle of Chicagoland female food entrepreneurs. “We get together at least once a month and we're always doing events, recipes, and knowledge-sharing together. It's a great way to discover new products and ideas from other bada$$ females.”
Joining The F Project made perfect sense to her.
“I have learned and grown so much from getting to know female food and beverage founders in Chicago, so when I had the opportunity to meet and learn from more around the COUNTRY, of course I was interested!! This is a dream team and I can't wait to support one another even more.”