How a Hike and Former Love of Junk Food Became the Inspiration Behind LÄRABAR
Keeping yourself busy outside of your regular job can help you feel happier and be more creative. Even better, a passion project can inspire a full-blown business! Lara Merriken of LÄRABAR recently shared her personal story with us, detailing what inspired her to create the super healthy (and tasty) bars we love so much. To top it off, she also gave us a list of quick tips that can help anyone turn a side hustle into a success story.
“More than a decade ago, I was on a hike in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and felt inspired to create a product that combined wholesome ingredients but was also fun, enjoyable, and good for you,” Merriken explains. “With that, the idea for LÄRABAR was born!” She tells us that at 30, she stocked grocery store shelves for $10 an hour to learn everything she could to bring her idea to life. “I began to take mental notes of popular ice cream and cookie flavors, and I then used those insights to dive right into my own world of product development, which turned into a three-year research journey,” she notes. “At the time, I was a ‘junk food junkie’ — but then I discovered the right natural foods to bring my body, mind, and spirit to life. This passion for healthy living became my driving force for everything I did, both professionally and personally.”
Merriken’s perfect blend of passion and curiosity (and her former love of junk food) resulted in some of the iconic brand’s very first flavors, such as Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Cashew Cookie, Banana Cookie, and Chocolate Coconut Cashew. She credits her friends for being a huge help, telling us they were the earliest LÄRABAR taste testers as she handmade product in her own kitchen. “I used a Cuisinart and rolling pin to create the first batches, and then I packaged each bar by hand.” Today, Merriken and her team produce millions of LÄRABAR bars every year. Pretty amazing, right?
Lara’s List of Tips to Help Your Side Hustle Succeed
1. Break free from your comfort zone. “It was a huge leap of faith for me to take the jump into a new career almost 10 years after I graduated from USC,” Merriken admits. “However, I felt a passion to combine real ingredients to create a simple and delicious bar, and I let that fuel my motivation throughout my entrepreneurial journey.” She says to let your craving to create serve as motivational fuel that’ll help you keep pushing past the point where you’re comfortable.
2. Listen to the thoughts that pop into your head. “The inspiration for LÄRABAR ignited while I was on a hike in Colorado; this goes to show that an idea for a side hustle-turned-business can come from just about anywhere!” Merriken tells us. “When an idea like this pops into your head, don’t ignore it. You could be on to something.”
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3. Remember that your side hustle isn’t your life. Just like you wouldn’t let work take over your life, Merriken suggests being thoughtful about how (and when) you spend time and energy on your side hustle too. “Make sure to save time for yourself, just like you would with any job. At the end of the day, you’ll feel more refreshed, and your project will be better for it too.”
4. Trust your instincts. “They say your gut is always right for a reason,” Merriken reminds us. “Creating a business is full of decisions, both big and small. Don’t ignore that little voice inside your head when evaluating each of these.”
5. Find a mentor. Like many successful people we’ve talked to, Merriken advocates finding a mentor you can go to for guidance and advice on your journey. Not sure who to turn to? She tells us that a solid mentor will provide you with support, insight, and an honest perspective as you grow your passion project into something bigger.
6. Enjoy the process. “Turning a project into something more can be stressful at times, and you’ll be challenged and questioned,” Merriken explains. “But among all of this, don’t forget to enjoy the process.” She notes that each entrepreneurial journey is unique, saying, “I look back on my time developing LÄRABAR dearly; I see that the moments that seemed ‘stressful’ then were important parts of my entrepreneurial journey.”
7. Tune out negativity. “As with any major change you make in your life, there will always be people who try to talk you out of it, or find reasons why you shouldn’t go through with your idea,” Merriken notes. “Let your passion for your side hustle give you the fuel to tune them out and follow your desires.”
8. Learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power, and there are tons of ways you can learn, be it from online research, in-person convos, or hands-on experience. “Don’t be afraid to do everything you can to learn what you need to in order to bring your side hustle to the next level,” she advises. If you’re not in a spot to take a job that pays less, consider volunteering or interning during your free time; you’re sure to gain some valuable insights!
What’s your side hustle? Tell us all about it on Twitter @BritandCo!