Elizabeth “Becky” Mann Burns, BA Psychology ’76 is the owner and founder of Anahola Granola, a successful local company which produces about five tons of delicious, fresh tropical granola per week. Located in Hanapepe, Kauai, the company employs 11 workers and has been in business for more than thirty years. Anahola Granola can be found throughout Hawaii in most upscale hotels, specialty shops, health food and grocery stores, as well as Costco.
Burns has always had two synergistic parts to her life which have energized her and her business. She has an entrepreneurial streak, and she enjoys people. While growing up, Burns would make cookies weekly for her family. Then during her first year of college on the mainland, she began a birthday cake business.
Using the income from that first business, she was able to buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii, and in her mid-twenties, Burns decided to return to school and complete her degree.
Transferring from the University of Denver, she arrived at Chaminade. The faculty inspired her, igniting her passion for psychology. The smaller classes also suited her well. “I liked it at Chaminade, so I stayed until I graduated,” she explained. “I rode my bike along Harding Avenue back and forth from school,” she reminisced.
Though she did not take a lot of undergraduate classes, she had always liked people and psychology. Her favorite classes were taught by women psychology professors. She appreciated their insight and their compassion and had a rapport with them because as an older student she was closer in age to her professors than her fellow students. She identified with them.
Burns remembered one particular course. The course on “Death and Dying” based on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book of the same title moved her. “The subject matter at that time was very new and cutting edge…I was fascinated,” she said.
Energized by what she had learned, Burns chose to volunteer as the social director for seniors at a home on Waialae Avenue across from Zippy’s. In fact, she received a recognition award from Chaminade for her work there.
After graduation, Burns had no idea that she would become a business person. She began making her organic granola. “It wasn’t a surprise I started a business in granola. I always ate well and loved organic gardening. In fact, my first garden I had was on the front lawn of the house where I lived when I went to Chaminade. I got a heap of manure from the Honolulu Zoo and dug it into the ground. In the end, I found out I got too much manure, and the nitrogen killed most of my crops,” Burns shared a smile.
Because of her slow growth philosophy, Burns never got a business loan and only used money from the previous week’s sales to buy raw goods and packaging. “My business is the epitome of slow growth. So slow that perhaps many businesses couldn’t survive as slow as Anahola Granola grew,” said Burns.
Burns recalled that people were very kind to her, and that was what helped her through the years. When she sold her first bags of granola at a Christmas fair, a woman, who owned a store in Kilauea, Kauai, kept coming back for more bags. That woman encouraged Burns to find a certified kitchen so that she could buy more for her store. “Without her, I doubt my granola would have gone any further than the few fairs that winter,” Burns said. “Another gift was the small amount of rent I was charged by All Saints Church. It was a small kitchen, and I paid month by month. I was there right after Hurricane Iniki until I bought a building in Hanapepe. My responsibility now is to give back and help whenever I can.”
Burns is a strong believer in giving back. She helps other small business owners, mentoring them with advice. Her business donates product to various charities on Kauai, including school programs. “I feel that if you are a generous business owner, the rewards come back a million. Obviously, I am not saying to give away all of your product. But whatever you can do, consider doing it,” she advised.
Though she has not been back to Chaminade since she graduated, she will be on Oahu in August for the Made in Hawaii Festival and will try to visit. “Certainly having a degree in psychology has helped me in all realms of my business,” she reflected.
And her love for people and her business acumen made her life abundant.