Singing Bowl Granola: 'a happy accident'

Kate Ayers community entrepreneur food security healthy local food Singing Bowl Granola sustainable Tastes Local Vancouver Island Victoria

Jessica Duncan bravely jumped into entrepreneurship to support her family and community

Granola – from breakfast to an afternoon snack, this nutritional heavy hitter is sure to make your stomach happy. In fact, a good mood is guaranteed when you add Singing Bowl Granola to your daily routine. Fortunately, a local vendor provides a variety of healthy options and also contributes to local food security.  

World travellers settle in Victoria

While Jessica Duncan and her husband Gavin have lived in California, Ottawa, Vancouver, New Zealand and Scotland, they have firmly planted roots in Victoria where they founded Singing Bowl Granola in May 2011. The family settled in Vancouver Island to care for Jessica’s father.

In addition to being a primary caregiver and mother of a young family, Jessica decided to add entrepreneur to her resume as well.  As a former teacher in Ontario and Scotland, “I am not a natural business person. So, it’s been a journey making sense of it. I am not a capitalist at all,” says Jessica.    

Jessica saw first-hand the multitude of benefits that result from community collaboration on their farm in Scotland. The family had a market garden where “we sold healthy and organic food and I’d always make jams and pesto for CSA (community-supported agriculture) baskets,” Jessica says.  

Passion drives success

Upon her arrival to Victoria, Jessica knew she wanted to be in the food space but first had to find her footing in this new venture. “I was originally going to do New York cheesecake, but I’m very risk adverse and cheesecake is such a high-risk food,” she says. Fortunately, Jessica fully embraced the west coast feel and created a product that resonated with her and other Islanders.

She captured many aspects of Island life in the business name Singing Bowl Granola. “My husband and I are both traditional fiddlers,” Jessica says. “I wanted something musical included in the name and when I moved here, it seemed like everyone had a yoga mat tucked under their arms and probably a singing bowl at home.” As a result, Singing Bowl Granola includes both Jessica’s passions and elements of the west coast vibe: music, yoga and meditation, and the famous granola.

Investment in future growth

After a few months of feeding family members and friends a multitude of flavour combinations, Jessica picked her top three granola recipes to sell at the James Bay Community Market. “When I first started I was tweaking recipes and anyone who walked past my door with granola would have to give me feedback,” she laughs. “All the different flavours are a product of my imagination.”

six Singing Bowl Granola boxes sitting on a fence

Since then, her business and granola fan base have grown quickly!

Singing Bowl Granola has four delicious flavours and Jessica cannot pick a favourite. “It really depends. I go through phases of which flavour I crave. I like to do different things with the granola. The Maple Pecan Duet Granola with mango kefir is amazing. I eat the granola with yogurt and I like to bake it with different recipes,” Jessica says. The opportunities truly are endless!

Jessica now employs herself and six part-time employees. “We have a commercial kitchen that we custom built on Bay Street. It was pretty terrifying the first five years,” Jessica says. But their investment paid off because now they supply products to stores and cafes around Victoria as well as Tastes Local, of course!

Local food security is number one

While the business and floor space has grown, each batch of Singing Bowl Granola continues to be hand made with care using organic Canadian oats, organic oils and natural sweeteners including honey and maple syrup. This approach ensures consistent freshness and flavour in every batch. And consumers show their appreciation for Singing Bowl Granola’s commitment to quality and sustainability.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but Jessica is incredibly grateful for the fierce loyalty of her customers and those who choose to support local business owners.

“I really got a good sense of who Islanders are when the pandemic hit. My business went through the roof. People who never even considered eating granola wanted to make sure this business stayed open,” Jessica exclaims.

Indeed, Jessica cares for her community and the community returns the favour.

“I have made it a mission from day one to make sure I look after my community,” she says. “We donate regularly to food banks and other community organizations. We have another collaborative project where we donate 10 per cent of our profits to the Victoria Women’s Transition House.”

In addition, customers can add any box of granola to their order for $7.00 and Singing Bowl Granola donates the proceeds to The Rainbow Kitchen, a local food bank in Victoria. As of January 1, 2021, customers and the business have donated over 800 boxes to those in need.

As a business person, philanthropy “is super important to me to make sure I am spreading the good around.”


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