Lindsey Helsper, owner of Heart of my Home Granola, was encouraged by a Brazilian foreign exchange student to sell her homemade goods at the Iowa City Farmers Market. She started her business in 2011 with her husband Nick and perfected her product by testing it on her family and friends. Heart of my Home’s granola — in flavors like almond berry, fruit and nut with flax, German chocolate decadence, and curry and spice — are made in small batches at the Helsper’s home.
You can find her granola, as well as some other homemade products, at the Saturday Iowa City Farmers Market and online.
What were you doing before you started making granola?
I graduated in 2008 with a master’s in biology from the University of Iowa. I was specializing in neuroscience. We decided to start a family and my career changed to being a mama to my boys. So, now my job is mama, and Heart of my Home Granola is a fun outlet …
In addition to granola, what other kinds of things do you make from scratch?
I make most of my family’s food from scratch. Home-cooked meals are the norm, and important because I get to control what goes into each meal and what my family ends up eating. Nearly all processed foods have shelf-stable additives, preservatives and just generally unknown substances. If I don’t know what an ingredient is, we don’t eat it.
When it comes to food, we eat local, clean, good food and enjoy it. We want people to enjoy eating our products and to appreciate the real food and delicious taste. If food doesn’t also taste good while being good for you, what is the point?
Are there any products that you make that you are particularly fond of?
My favorite granola flavor is the Almond Berry, though I am pretty proud of my handcrafted vanilla extracts. I started making my own vanilla extract for use in the granola recipes, and once I realized how much better it was than the stuff I bought in the store I just had to offer it for other people to use as well.
What is your most popular product?
The Blueberry Fields granola flavor is definitely our most popular flavor. I keep trying to come up with new flavors to top it, but so far we can’t beat the amazing, soft-dried blueberries in that particular variety.
Do you have any disaster stories?
Well, every time you try to make a new flavor of anything there are disasters, luckily they don’t make it past the doors of my home as my family is my taste-testing crew. I tinkered around with a no-oil granola that had the texture of cardboard, so that was definitely a no-go.
What has been the most challenging aspect of running Heart of my Home? What aspect is the most rewarding?
Finding balance is always challenging; it is tempting to do as many markets as you can, sign your business up for every opportunity to sell that is offered. But, when I have to also balance my real job with this job, I sometimes need a reminder about the most important things in my life: my faith, my family and then Heart of my Home Granola. So balance is a challenge at times.
The most rewarding aspect is hearing how much customers enjoy our granola. I have even had individuals who didn’t like granola who are now in love with our product. Way cool!
What direction do you see your business going in the future?
Right now the plans are to keep doing what we are doing, I enjoy spending weekends visiting with customers and vending at the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area markets. … At some point it might be neat to get our products into local stores.