University of Wisconsin–Madison

Healthy and Hygge

In-Person and Remote Life and Wellness Coaching

Sara Lasker leverages her unique skill set to coach people through life transitions

As of October 2017, Sara Lasker was one of only eleven people in the world certified as a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), and a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Lasker, whose master’s degree is in health education with a focus in eating disorders and whose bachelor’s degree is in elementary education, is also a certified K-8 teacher and a registered medical assistant.

While the medical community isn’t quite sure how to categorize her (she doesn’t fall into the categories of nurse, dietician, doctor, or pharmacist), she’s decided to categorize herself—as a diabetes coach and health and wellness coach. “That’s how I got into business,” Lasker explains. “As a health educator, I went to school to teach everything they’re teaching, and I have the clinical experience. I heard from people with diabetes  that nurses don’t always talk to them like they’re a person. I wanted to change that.”

Lasker, who has worked as a university residence hall director, health and wellness educator, and diabetes educator, decided to look for an in-person entrepreneurship class, and hit upon the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison’s Entrepreneurial Training Program, which she completed in the summer of 2017.

“It was a good investment,” Lasker says of the experience, noting that everyone taking the course brought their own unique ideas to the table. “I loved hearing people’s different ideas,” Lasker says. “I made sure to connect with folks on LinkedIn, because you never know when paths will cross.”

One of Lasker’s classmates started a local dog daycare with dog washes. Lasker, an avid runner, spread the word to other Madison runners, who promptly brought their dogs to the fledgling business. “I loved that we could share that, and I loved having the resources from within the community,” Lasker says, “I loved how they set up the class, so that we got to meet everybody and make different connections from within the Madison community.”

Each week, the course introduces different business concepts, often featuring guest speakers from Madison’s business community. A book and notebook are provided to students to which they can refer back after they’ve completed the course.

“I thought it was a great way to do it,” says Lasker. “It’s an after-hours adult learning course, so a lot of people were working another job and doing this to get someplace else. I still look at the book and notebook, now that I’ve been running my business for a year.”

Lasker worked with SBDC consultant Linda Davis on her business plan and appreciates Davis’ business acumen.

“I’ve only been in Wisconsin three years, working on the medical side of things, while Linda has more experience in Wisconsin and the business side of things,” says Lasker. “She brings a business perspective, while my perspective is that of an educator. She’d look at a piece of my business plan and say, ‘Explain this to me; how are you really going to do this?’ She helped me realize what does and doesn’t make sense and shared suggestions and resources.”

Each entrepreneur who participates in the program leverages resources differently—some do extensive market research to identify an ideal location for their bricks-and-mortar business, while others hold focus groups to gain insight from their target demographic.

Lasker gathered basic demographic information for her web-based and in-person coaching business with the help of UW-Madison Business Librarian Peggy Smith and reached out to her audience directly.

“I initially got feedback and data to develop my diabetes coaching business,” says Lasker, before realizing that more comprehensive health and wellness coaching would offer a wider market. “I went to my audience—The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA)—both are national nonprofits with Wisconsin affiliates. I did a lot of interviews, posted stuff on Facebook diabetes groups, and used SurveyMonkey to  survey my target audience.”

Lasker’s business plan has evolved to include Madison T1D Coach, LLC, which offers video reviews (vlogs) of diabetes products and diabetes education, and Healthy and Hygge, a life and wellness coaching business, which includes coaching to help people become their authentic selves and achieve their goals, as well as one-on-one diabetes coaching. Much of her coaching focus is on managing big life transitions, like moving cross-country; handling emotional stress; cultivating self-esteem; managing relationships; and experiencing a birth, adoption, or loss. She works both locally and remotely and relies on digital marketing and word of mouth to get the word out about her business.

“I use social media and give talks, all on a shoestring budget,” Lasker says. “I use word of mouth, Twitter chats—I had never used Twitter before, but it’s been the fastest-growing way to make connections. I post professional information pieces on LinkedIn, and people find me that way.”

Lasker was invited to give a talk at the local Brava health and wellness expo in January 2018, and in May, she’ll present at 1 Million Cups in Madison and run a booth at Fruit Fest in June.

In June, she will travel to Rome for the international European Diabetes Conference, to speak about how to approach diabetes from emotional, physical, occupational, social, and spiritual perspectives. In August, she will speak at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference in Baltimore about writing a business plan that incorporates diabetes.

Meanwhile, Lasker is talking up the SBDC Entrepreneurial Training Program. “I’ve met a lot of people now interested in class who didn’t know it existed,” she says. “They’ve been amazed by the coaching I’ve gotten, and two or three of them have applied for later this spring.”