Debbie Waugh has been a granola maker, a Wall Street bond trader, an assistant food service director, and a wallpaper hanger – not necessarily in that order.
The connecting link? They all involve taking personal responsibility for running a business. “Trading bonds is like having your own business,” says Waugh. “At the end of the day, you mark your position to market and you’ve either made money or lost money. You’re responsible for your profit and loss.”
When Waugh worked on Wall Street, in the ’80s, bond trading wasn’t a glamorous or exorbitantly lucrative career. “I was just a regular government bond trader,” Waugh says. “You underwrite the debt of the US government and provide liquidity to the capital markets; not like recent movies. At the time, I thought it was fascinating.”
Waugh also enjoyed her stint as a wallpaper hanger. “I’ve always been a handy person. It was satisfying to create change and happy customers in a short period of time.” Ultimately, however, she felt frustrated by the limited growth opportunity.
But when neither Wall Street nor wallpapering offered enough challenge, Waugh decided to turn her granola-making hobby into a business. “I’d always talked about having a food business and everybody liked my granola.”
Waugh was determined to create the tastiest healthy granola on the market, so she cooked batch after batch until she perfected her recipe. “Granola has a bad rep, but if you make it right, it’s an incredibly healthy product. It’s all about wellness, and after all, we are what we eat.”
The native New Englander is passionate about gardening, cooking, and eating food in its natural state. “My Nana cooked from scratch. We ate real food. I never had store bought cookies when I was growing up,” Waugh says. “A box of mac and cheese mix – it’s just wrong.”
Waugh named Chappaqua Crunch Granola after the town of Chappaqua, in Westchester County, a 1-hour train ride from New York, where she was living when she launched the product. When she moved back to Boston a few years later, the name was already established.
After two decades in the granola industry, Waugh is still figuring out the food distribution “system,” or lack of one. “I went from the most efficient distribution system in the world to one of the least efficient,” Waugh says. “Food distribution is much more challenging than Wall Street. But that’s part of what makes it so much fun,” she concludes.