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137 – Lara Merriken Reinvented

Lara Merriken is a dreammaker. I have so much love and respect for this woman. I knew she was special from the minute I met her at VeloSwap in 2003, slinging energy bites in plastic baggies. I had a feeling she would change the world, I just didn’t realize how much she would change it and how quickly.

 

Lara is the founder of Larabar. If you aren’t familiar with Larabar, I’d be shocked, because it’s now an absolute empire. She had the idea to create healthy, nutritious energy bars when she was frustrated with her options on a hike many years ago. The goal was to use clean, simple ingredients.

She started by dreaming up flavors and then mixing dried fruits and nuts in her kitchen. That was almost 20 years ago. Today Lara is a free agent of sorts, as she sold Larabar to General Mills a mere 5 years after she officially launched. Hers is a massive success story on the business front, but it’s what she’s done since that many don’t think about – how to redefine yourself after a company with your own name is no longer yours. We talk about that and so much more in today’s episode.

You may not know that I have a special connection to Larabar. When I officially debuted Skirt Sports at the 2004 Ironman Wisconsin, I was sponsored by Larabar. My claim to fame is that I’m the only athlete Larabar ever sponsored! Anyway, in my special needs bag on the bike, I had 2 food items: an Oatmeal Cream Pie from the gas station $.50 rack and a Cashew Cookie Larabar. I ate them both and won the race! Proof that real food is power!

Today we talk about:

  • Growing up sporty
  • Competitive volleyball: How Lara learned discipline & teamwork
  • The 10,000 Hours Rule: It takes that long to truly master something (Malcolm Gladwell coined this concept)
  • Why being OPEN “with intention” is important
  • How to truly be open
  • Overcoming the need to make other people happy
  • All things Larabar: humble beginnings, fast growth, successful exit
  • The next frontier: How do you redefine yourself when your namesake is no longer yours?
  • Tennis: Renewed passion, healthy obsession & drive to succeed
  • How motherhood has changed her outlook

After the interview I pulled out a few Larabars and offered them to her. Which is funny because don’t you think she probably has her own? Anyway, I asked, “Do you still eat a lot of Larabars?” and she said, “I always test them.” She wants to know that they’re fresh and delicious and spot-on with the recipes. I love this about her. I’ve always respected Lara and really appreciated that she is such a genuine, “normal” person. The trick is when a normal person does something so extraordinary, how does she adapt and integrate her “new normal” into her life without compromising who she is? The really cool thing? This can apply to any big life change. How do you retain your core essence: the beautiful things that make you who you are when you experience change? Somehow Lara has navigated these waters with grace and self-love and is passing them down to her son as we speak.

 

If you haven’t tried Larabars before, go do it. Her original Cashew Cookie will always be my fave. I saw that they just released a new Protein line which I’m now salivating to try. Allright then, you know what time it is. It’s time to get over to the grocery store and pick up some new Larabar Flavors! It’s also time to get out there and Run This world! Have a great workout and I’ll see you next week!