Entrepreneur: Lara Merriken, 36, founder of Denver-based Humm Foods , maker of the Lï¿½raBar
Description: a natural food company specializing in whole, unprocessed foods
Startup: $150,000 in 2003 2005
Projected sales: $4 million to $5 million
Enlightened: Four years ago, Lara Merriken was hiking in the Rocky Mountains and snacking on her own mix of fruits and nuts when she had a revelation: combine the ingredients to create a whole-food product that's tasty, healthy and convenient. This routine hike became a historic moment in Merriken's life, for this was the day that the concept of the Lï¿½raBar was born.
Samples, anyone? This former junk-food junkie turned health-conscious volleyball player in college spent two years studying how to get her product into supermarkets. By working in the nutrition department of her local Whole Foods Market as a buyer, she collected tips on manufacturing and packaging. Meanwhile, she ravaged the aisles of grocery stores, noting the flavors of popular ice creams and cookies, and visited her friends' workplaces with samples, constantly adjusting her recipes according to their feedback.
Sweet tooth: The end result? Five mouth-watering flavors, from Apple Pie to Chocolate Coconut Chew, with only two to six ingredients each--all natural. Picked up by Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats and even undergoing test runs in Costco, Lï¿½raBar has an established presence in 46 states and Canada. Says Merriken, "I feel I'm helping people understand the benefits of putting good food in their bodies, and that's really what I wanted to do anyway."