Grandpa Foods COO, Rose Mary Bellamy Talks Determination During Black History Month

February 1, 2023

Rose Mary Bellamy, a proud NOVA alumna, kicks off Black History Month with her advice on what it takes to attain your dreams. As a non-traditional, first-generation student, Rosemary went on to co-found Grandpa Foods with her husband William, and she is now the Chief Operations Officer.

Grandpa Foods COO, Rose Mary Bellamy Talks Determination During Black History Month

Launched in 2021, Grandpa Foods provides a trademark recipe for an apple butter-based barbeque sauce.  The company’s signature sauce comes in various flavors and the family has expanded its offerings to include spices. The family recipe touts a natural sauce, completely free of additives, gluten, tomato and high fructose corn syrup. Bellamy and her husband have experienced huge sales growth in such a short time. They are proud to call Northern Virginia home. 

Bellamy first enrolled at NOVA in 1977, attending with the help of student aide and a part-time job in the English Department. But after marrying a Marine, when it came time to renew her student aide, she was told they made too much money. Keep in mind, the income they used to calculate whether she qualified for student aide included her student aide. She felt she had no choice but to leave NOVA. After traveling the country from duty station to duty station with her family, they landed back in Northern Virginia at Quantico. And in 2011, she re-enrolled at NOVA. She credits the exceptional support from faculty and staff with her success the ‘second time around.’

Bellamy graduated from NOVA in 2013 with associate degrees in both business administration and social sciences. She then transferred to George Mason and earned two bachelor’s degrees in criminology, law and society and in intelligence analysis.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background:

I am from a big family. There were 12 kids altogether--I had eight brothers and three sisters. I am the tenth child and the only girl in the family who received a degree.  

Originally from Ohio, my initial choice of colleges was Akron University after high school. When I applied for financial aid in 1976, it was stated that my father, a car dumper operator at a U.S. Steel plant, and my mother, a custodian at the elementary school, made too much money.  At this point there were still three children at home. After working in the private sector for a year, my mother, who was very big on education, said, “Move to Virginia to live with your brother and attend college there.”

In 1977, I did just that. I moved to Virginia to live with my brother and his family. I then met my husband who was in the Marines, and we married quickly and started traveling around.  I put my education on hold as we moved from place to place, but I always intended to go back to Virginia. Our goal always as a family was to have this region as the last duty station. I always kept NOVA in my thoughts. Back in the day, the college would send out paper booklets of catalogs, and I would keep them, always thinking back about school.

My husband eventually retired from the military in 2009, and I wanted to get back on track for school. After always saying I would return to school every month for the last couple of years, I re-enrolled in 2011. I graduated in 2013, and I really thank my professors for pushing me. There were classes I enjoyed, and even those I didn’t (like math), but what I learned helped me with the family business,

Grandpa Foods started when my husband and I started thinking about marketing these recipes he always used to cook for our grandchildren and family. At first, he didn’t think they would sell, so we started giving out samples. I would bring it to family functions, and everyone would ask where we bought this or that from. And people did not believe that we made it ourselves!

I then started to think about ways to sell the product. So I would look through design ideas for boxes, labels and bottles. To be honest, our family’s first sale was last year in 2021, just a little before Christmas. We received a call from a man in Texas who heard about us by word-of-mouth and asked about ordering a package based on a sample he received from a friend at a birthday party we provided tastings to. I told him to hold and was in shock because he wanted to buy so much. He even said, “I tried to find you guys to order but there was no website.” So, we were humbled to fulfill his large order, and two months later, we got our website up.

Almost a full year later, we are now attached to a large commercial kitchen in Blacksburg where our product is made. We have partnered with eight stores and are looking to grow. We have presented at the “Cork & Fork” festival and are a main staple with Center Plate Catering Company.  I still love doing outreach at local schools here in the Woodbridge area and we are delighted the company is growing with our volunteer team of friends and family. We are so appreciative of how focused and determined they are to growing our success. This company has completely exploded through word of mouth.

What brought you to NOVA? 

A light bulb came on and I was looking through prior catalogs I kept and saved. I found an initial path, and so I started taking six-week courses to finish classes. Dr. Richmond Hill, who was my counselor at the time - put together a foundation that was so strong that there was no way in the world that I was going to fail. I have to say, those fast-tracked six-week classes were very fast paced. I had faith in myself to do it, and Dr. Hill had faith in me. I was not going to let him down.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you've liked and friends you've met. 

I must tip my hat to all my professors. When they said that they had an open-door policy, it was true. Their door was always open. I had a lot of questions, and they had a lot of answers.

I even recall one time that I had a midterm for an accelerated calculus class, and my husband had a seizure. I immediately contacted my calculus professor, and he said, “don’t worry. When you come back, I will get you back on track.” And he did. That professor would come in early and tutor me,  teach the class, stay after to tutor the class and stay even later to tutor me.

What did you study at NOVA?

I studied business administration and social sciences.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

The journey I had to take to get to NOVA, was a hard journey--denied student aide twice, over the age of 18, double heart bypass surgery—it was hard; but determination kept me going, and I would do it all again. They say people are put in your life for a reason. That person in my life was Dr. Hill, now provost at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus, and the professors I encountered while at NOVA. I had a strong foundation and assistance. Dr. Hill advised me so well. I was given tools, resources and knowledge. These are tools that I use today. My main complaint back then was math, but since I have co-founded my own business, that has been the main thing I use in my business world. My father always said, "if you can’t hang with the big dogs get off the porch." I am now on that porch with the big dogs, and I am not getting off. My husband had promised my mother that he would make sure I went back to school, so my graduation cap from George Mason said, “My Dream” “His Promise” “Now Reality.”  So to all the NOVA students, don’t ever give up on your dreams.

At NOVA, you really get an experience. You get professors who want you prepared and who don’t want you to fail. They will do everything in their power to help you to succeed. Just be at NOVA and try.

Topics: featured article, diversity and inclusion, student success