South Charlotte

Diet change leads Charlotte teenager into her own business

Katie Brown is a Providence Day School junior and entrepreneur who has always been an animal lover.

The 17-year-old also has been a vegetarian for almost 10 years.

When she was a toddler, Brown preferred playing with stuffed animals instead of dolls. At 7 years old, Katie asked her mother if the meat they ate came from animals.

“When she said, ‘yes,’ I informed her that I would never eat anything that came from an animal ever again, except for fish, because they kind of scared me, and I didn’t mind eating them at the time,” Brown said.

During Brown’s freshman year at Providence Day, she suffered from stomachaches. Blood tests revealed she was intolerant to gluten and dairy products.

It was then that Brown decided to try a vegan, gluten-free diet. She eliminated eggs and dairy products as well as wheat, rye, barley, pasta and breads.

Since making those dietary changes, Brown said, she has more energy and the stomachaches have vanished.

“Katie is extremely diligent about eating healthy and clean,” said her mother, Tracy Brown.

In addition to the dietary changes came Katie Brown’s need to find acceptable, good-tasting foods.

“I’ve always loved to bake, and when I became vegan and gluten free, I wanted to learn how to bake healthier foods,” she said.

Brown was unable to find gluten-free vegan granola at health-food stores, so she made it her mission to make a delicious vegan and gluten-free granola recipe that also was healthy.

After trying several recipes, Brown created a coconut-almond granola that was so tasty that everyone who tried it encouraged her to sell it. Thinking this was a great idea, Brown founded Katie’s Granola in 2012.

Though she is the only one in her family who eats a gluten-free vegan diet, Brown’s family is supportive of her food choices and her business.

“(My parents have) always been my biggest supporters, and they were a huge help to me in starting my business,” Brown said.

Tracy Brown helps make the granola, and Katie Brown’s older brother is her official taste-tester.

Katie’s Granola comes in three flavors: Coconut Almond, Cranberry Walnut and Pumpkin Spice. It can be purchased online at

Brown also has sold her granola at the Providence Day School Fall Fest student marketplace and 7th Street Market. Each 12-ounce bag of Katie’s Granola is made to order and costs $9 plus shipping.

“During the holidays, Katie packages her granola in mason jars with raffia ribbon,” said customer Beth Sankey.

Sankey said she and her family eat the granola on its own or mixed with fruit and yogurt.

“Katie’s Granola was created out of her passion for healthy eating, and we’re so glad that she’s sharing,” Sankey said.