NEW YORK – Entrepreneur and former professional hockey player Dinos Stamoulis spoke to The National Herald about his Greek heritage and about the inspiration for co-founding Paleonola, a grain-free brand of granola that has become popular among those searching for healthy, yet delicious, snack options as well as those following a grain-free diet.
TNH: Tell us a bit about yourself- where did you grow up and where in Greece is the family from?
Dinos Stamoulis: My father came to the United States after meeting my mother in the 1970s. Originally, he’s from a small coastal village town called Agioi Theodoroi. He grew up there and worked on a cruise ship where he would eventually meet my mother. After meeting my mother, they eventually settled in Carle Place, NY. I grew up in Carle Place and it was there that I first developed a love for sports and outdoor activities.
New York is a very sports-oriented state and having access to all of the different sports allowed me to ultimately find my passion for ice hockey. It was through the pursuit of the dream to one day play professionally that I landed in Providence, Rhode Island and got to play four years of Division 1 hockey for Providence College. After college, I spent three years between AA and AAA, and it was in between my second and third year playing professionally that I changed my diet and training habits. This was around late 2008 and there weren’t many convenient snack options that allowed me to keep the strict grain free parameters that had made up my new way of living. This void led to the creation of the first ever batches of Paleonola.
TNH: What inspired you to launch Paleonola?
DS: At first, Paleonola wasn’t anything but a snack that was made at home for personal reasons. My wife took her passion for baking and used the parameters I needed from an ingredient standpoint, to come up with the original recipes. The drive to turn the home snack into a business came after our family and friends enjoyed the taste of it enough that we thought there was some real opportunity to provide this snack nationally for others to enjoy.
TNH: How long did it take to create Paleonola from idea to realization?
DS: From the time we began playing around with the concepts to the official launch of Paleonola was around 4-5 months. We went through several variations and had to test the recipes under different conditions to see what worked and what didn’t. We were working as quickly as possibly but recipe development can be a tedious process sometimes. After we had the product, we began to pull together the other pieces of the puzzle like the website, the packaging, and the sales channels we would pursue.
TNH: What has been the most rewarding and/or challenging aspect of your work?
DS: The process. I think the most rewarding aspects come from continually evolving as a business and a brand. We have come so far and yet still feel like there’s so much more in store for Paleonola. It feels like we’re just getting started and even though there may be challenging days, it is truly the process of getting better every day that is the most rewarding. Providing a product people love and share is what drives us to continue to do things better. Their happiness and their excitement make it all worth it.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage inform your work and life?
DS: I think there’s a lot of influence. Greeks are very food-focused people. Their love for food is something that was passed down to me from my father. He worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry the majority of his life. He owned a restaurant for a very long time, and it was through that experience that I got to see first-hand how demanding the business is. He’d work a lot and really enjoyed the customer side of the business which taught me that Greeks are very hospitable. I try to take little aspects of this and spread them throughout the Paleonola brand where possible. We do little things to make the customers feel noticed.
TNH: How has your family reacted to your success?
DS: My family has been very supportive. I’ve been very lucky that even though sometimes there’s confusion about what I actually do, they’re still behind us. In the beginning, it was amazing to see how they would always ask if there was anything they could do to help. It’s been nice to not have the pressure to do anything in particular and the freedom to express the passion for business alone.
TNH: What are you working on next for the company?
DS: We’ve got a lot of projects in the works right now. We’re planning the release of another flavor for our granola line next month. We’re also planning to relocate the business to another building where we can fulfill our growth plans. Additionally, we have plans to launch a new snack line this summer and are excited about continuing our high standards through that line.
More information about Paleonola is available online: https://paleonola.com.