Founder Focus: Lara Merriken, LÄRABAR
Widely recognised as ‘the original fruit and nut bar’ that inspired the likes of Nakd, LÄRABAR snack bars are simple, pure and delicious.
A combination of fruits, nuts and spices, all products are gluten free and vegan and contain no more than six ingredients and have been powering BALANCE HQ since they launched in the UK earlier this year.
We caught up with Lara Merriken, Founder of LÄRABAR, to learn more about how she went from working in Whole Foods to whipping up the first LÄRABAR batch in her kitchen to now distributing millions a year across the world and joining the General Mills portfolio.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
I founded LÄRABAR in the year 2000 when I was in my early 30’s and headed out on a hike near my home town of Colorado. The hike felt no different than countless others I had taken in the beautiful Rocky Mountains but whilst eating my trail mix I came up with the idea to combine real ingredients such as fruits and nuts to create a simple, real food bar that is a joy to eat.
I got home and made the first batch in my kitchen and LÄRABAR was born!
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
Creating LÄRABAR, I was on a mission to help people eat well, get active and be present. The brand was born from the idea that real food should be accessible to all and derives from the best food, in its simplest state.
I knew LÄRABAR was different to other foods in the market as I wanted to create bars using only real food and a magical combination of delicious fruits and natural nuts that lift the spirit with every bite.
HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WOULD BE A SUCCESS?
Like a true start-up, I sampled all LÄRABAR recipes with friends and family, visiting their homes and offices to gather feedback and find out their favourite flavours. I also created informal focus groups by approaching local businesses and creating surveys to establish what people liked and didn’t like, to help me get a clear idea early on.
It was great to have genuine feedback from people first hand, and encouraged me to continue making more recipes and developing more products!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
When starting your own business, it is so important to follow your passion and be surrounded by people that support your vision. Perseverance is key to achieving success, and learning along the way is important to grow and continue to be inspired. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
WHAT IS THE BOOK YOU RECOMMEND EVERYONE READS?
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is my top recommendation for anyone looking to feel inspired about the potential of their ideas. I first read it the year before starting LÄRABAR and it totally opened my eyes on business, people and how a small seed of an idea can grow into something incredible.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT THAT YOU HAVE MADE?
Learning to listen to myself and make decisions that feel right for me has changed the way I look at business.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
Running your own business always involves challenges but during the launch stage of LÄRABAR there were endless hurdles to work through! The important thing I have learnt is to always remain positive and look to find a solution and move forward rather than dwelling on the problem.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN B?
LÄRABAR was my plan B! I was planning to attend Medical School, but the idea for LÄRABAR was born and the rest is history.
WHAT PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR BUT DISAGREE WITH?
It’s really important to know yourself and what you feel comfortable with, and understand what feels right for you as an individual. There will always be plenty of people willing to give advice when starting out as an entrepreneur, but the main thing is to figure out what’s right for you. Not everything applies to everyone!
TALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNING ROUTINE?
I love to make habits that stick and become part of my daily lifestyle, and my morning routine is key to this. Every day, I wake around 4-5am and start the day with a workout and meditation, then have 6-8am reserved for time to myself. As we’re all so connected and leading busy lifestyles, this time is so precious to me and allows me to have time to myself.