Attorney Sara Lachman: starting a business is 'the most difficult thing I've ever done'

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Though her new functional protein blend business is called Wannabe,  that term is not quite applicable to Sara Grey Lachman, an attorney at Miller Johnson.

Whatever she sets her mind to, there is no doubt that she will make it happen.

And in the case of launching a business, that requires both hard and smart work — and scheduling around her active practice.

“We create podcasts for the products, and I end up doing them at all kinds of funny hours. Starting a business is very difficult, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Lachman says. “But I like the challenge, and I like what it teaches my kids. They see me  all the time trying something hard and scary, and still doing it anyway.”

Lachman, who goes by Sara Grey  on the Wannabe website (https://wearewannabe.com), is married to Blair Lachman, a senior prosecutor for Kent County, and has four sons.

In fact, it was due to her husband being her workout partner that she had the idea for Wannabe products. Before they went to the gym in the morning, she would delay leaving in order to make healthy concoctions to boost her performance and endurance.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be easier if the ingredients were already together, and I realized if I thought this, a lot of other women might too,” she says. Wannabe was born.

The somewhat counterintuitive name is explained on the website, and seems to summarize Lachman’s approach to life. “We are about being real cool with who we are right now but having every single intention of being even more tomorrow,” it says.

As energy-consuming as the business has been, Lachman is definitely not leaving her legal practice, and never has intended to.

The creative and successful litigator, who went to both Pacific University and Northern Arizona University for undergraduate degrees and the University of Michigan Law School for her J.D., says, “I’ve invested the last 14 years of my life in Miller Johnson, and Miller Johnson has invested in me. I love the work. I want to be the best lawyer I can be, and already Wannabe has helped me to be better.”

She explains, “I’ve always thought of myself as being very available to clients, but now that I understand how decisions are often made, I’ve really adapted the ways that I’m available to my clients.

“This has just given me great insights into what clients really need. There’s such a difference between a business owner’s mindset and a lawyer’s. Business people are so much more risk tolerant. I’ve learned that you can’t substitute your own risk tolerance for your client’s.”

Of course, there are commensurate benefits to the business flowing from her experience as an attorney. “It works both ways. Being a lawyer has helped me develop terrific problem-solving skills. And as a business owner, that’s almost your entire day,” Lachman says, laughing. “I’ve learned so much from my clients over the years. They’re so inspiring.”

One of the main sources of difficulty in launching a new business is the breadth and depth of disciplines the startup has to cover.

Lachman notes that when she started out, she didn’t know a lot about technology. “A year ago, I couldn’t even open Google Docs,” she says. In fact, Wannabe founds its Chief Operating Officer, Chris Koens, when a friend recommended him to Lachman for help in resolving a technical problem.

“The stars aligned, and we hit it off right away,” she comments.

Koens works from the Start Garden business incubation complex at 40 Pearl, and Lachman sings its praises not only for its convenience in terms of office space, but also for the networking and skill-sharing it provides new businesses.

Another tough aspect was formulation of the product itself. A biology major and long-time athlete who knew what she needed, Lachman came up with the initial rough formula herself, but then hired someone to flesh it out.

So far, Wannabe Fit and Wannabe Blissed have been released. Both products are powdered and designed to be added to water, milk, or nut milk as a drink. They did extensive taste testing on both. The product line will eventually include both more categories and additional items supporting each category.

While Wannabe is primarily targeted at female athletes and, fittingly, were launched during Gazelle Girl, the all-women’s 5K/10K/half marathon, Lachman emphasizes that users do not necessarily have to be competitors, that “everyday” athletes will benefit along with all women facing demanding lives.

“I looked around at my peer group in the legal profession. Women start out in equal numbers, but later  they’re something like 25% of the partners in firms. To change those numbers, I know we have work to do in a lot of areas,” Lachman says, “but there also is something significant about how you train your body and your mind to become resilient.
The endurance in running a half marathon, the resilience we develop as we’re pushing weights, the connection with our bodies, translates to the resilience to overcome  the challenges women face, to excel.”

Lachman adds, “Wannabe is so personal to me, incredibly personal. When I looked at the world of protein supplements, I saw that for men it was about enhancing performance and building their bodies, whereas for women so often it was body shaming and weight loss. I knew I didn’t need another product to make me pretty. I wanted something to help
me perform, to help manage stress, to help my body recover and achieve inside-out health.”

A “voracious” consumer of nutrition knowledge, Lachman explored ways to help women keep up their energy and avoid stress. She found it in the herbs of the ancient Hindu ayurvedic tradition. Ashwaganda, a primary ingredient in Wannabe Blissed, is considered to be a health and endurance enhancer at the cellular level, and to help avoid inflammation.

With a tagline of “Protein Blends to Power the Hustle,” the products are classified as supplements. The Food and Drug Administration has jurisdiction, and there are a number of hoops to be jumped through. “I’ve recognized just how critical a lawyer’s counsel is as I’ve faced those regulations — even on what you say on social media,” Lachman says.

For now, Wannabe sales are limited to online, with retail options to be reviewed later. It is available on Amazon, wearewannabe.com, and many other sites.
 

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