All Good Things: The Laver Family

Photography by Mark Davidson

Michelle and Richard Laver have been blessed with four beautiful children: Logan, age 24; Hunter, age 22; Taylor, age 20; and Katie, age 10, who was born with cerebral palsy. All of them are incredibly genuine and family-oriented. In fact, their two sons have been actively working with the family company, Kate Farms, inspired by daughter Katie. “The three older kids are so close to Katie that they love her like an angel sent from heaven,” beams Michelle. “The kids take her swimming, get her dressed up, and play Justin Bieber music – all just to make her smile.” And smile she does because she knows that she is well loved. Though she can’t walk on her own, she is extremely smart and very aware of those around her. Most of all, in her own way, Katie provides an incredibly positive energy that radiates throughout the family. This energy is precisely what keeps them connected and focused on their destiny of helping others through the product they created to improve Katie’s quality of life.

The Beginnings of Kate Farms

Katie had a seizure upon birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy that permanently affects her body movement and muscle coordination. At age four, doctors told Michelle and Richard that Katie was failing to “thrive.” Faced with feeding tubes, hospitals, and numerous pharmaceutical drugs, Katie’s parents searched for a better nutritional formula. “We tried over 30 different products,” shares Michelle. “The meal replacements on the market were full of sugar and dairy to increase calorie intake, but with Katie’s sensitive system they all resulted in many complications including bottle rot, sleep apnea, and severe digestive problems. It was as if we were feeding her four fast-food meals a day.” Her illness escalated into 10 hospital visits a year and many sleepless nights for the couple.

Armed with a passion for helping their daughter live life to the fullest, the Lavers asked a dear friend and vegan chef to help collaborate with them to create a new meal replacement shake. With blender at the ready, they researched all the possible “superfoods” (like açaí, mangosteen, black currants, raspberries, and green tea extract), plant-based proteins, and powerful antioxidants. They tested and tested and tested, filled with an unwavering faith and a dedication to find new answers.

The team honed in on all-natural vegan ingredients, real chocolate, and vanilla. At long last, after their 80th batch, they created the world’s first dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free ready-to-drink meal replacement shake. Within weeks of drinking what is now known as Kate Farms Komplete, Katie’s condition improved significantly. She no longer needed breathing treatments for sleep apnea, her digestion problems were a thing of the past, and her mouth was once again healthy. Their formula worked. Katie has not been to the hospital since!

Not only that, the Lavers took samples of the triumphant 80th batch to Natural Foods Expo East 2013, along with their beautiful Katie. Before the show even opened, they were named one of the Top Picks and won a NEXTY Award, presented to companies that represent the future of our healthy living landscape. An hour into the show, they received an impressive order from Sprouts, which boasts 3,000 nationwide stores. “We put our distribution plan in motion and worked very quickly to send out a quality, focused product that is now in 7,000 stores,” Richard says. Less than two years later, “Kate Farms is a healthy, inspirational brand where nutrition and happiness are one…We believe nutrition is the cornerstone of a good life, and Kate Farms is dedicated to this purpose. These are some of the virtues that Kate has taught us to live by.”

“I have been an entrepreneur all my life,” Richard adds, “but it took our daughter’s health to help us invest 100 percent of ourselves in the project and follow our passion.”

The results have been tremendous! “NFL teams like the Seattle Seahawks order every week, and we had 30 cases at the Superbowl for the teams,” beams Michelle. While the product was not originally developed for athletes, its recipe has turned out to be beneficial for a variety of dietary and healthful intentions.

Good Food Gourmet’s Caterina Borg has praised, “Not only is this product great for people on the go, and those who are both fitness- and calorieminded, but it has also found a very important place with many others who require reliable nutrition while undergoing treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer.”

Mother Denise and her daughter Jennifer Capriati, Olympic gold medalist and former No. 1 tennis player in the world share, “Kate Farms Komplete is heaven-sent for me! This meal replacement not only satisfies my appetite, but also gives me all the protein and superfoods my body needs. Thank you Kate Farms for this extraordinary product that provides a very healthy, happy mind, body, and soul!”

Many people build businesses by developing systematic ways to solve a problem shared by many others. That’s exactly what Richard and Michelle did. After assembling their resources and creating a distribution plan, they worked step-by-step to grow their business. Throughout it all, they’ve kept an image of Katie front and center – in the company’s name, on their website, and in their minds and hearts. Their tagline “All Good Things” is their focus for delivering a quality product and promoting a way to extract the very best out of life.

Kate Farms has grown into a company that serves a broad range of individuals – from athletes, moms and dads on the go, and children to seniors and people who are living with food sensitivities or digestive conditions. Most especially, the company improves the livelihood of its namesake, Kate Laver – who enjoys five shakes a day. “She’s living her best life,” attest the Lavers, and Katie’s winning smile certainly proves it!

Living With Tennis Legends

Richard’s father, Ian, and his cousin, Rod, were iconic tennis legends, who owed the origins of their fame to Richard’s grandfather, Len. Len owned a sporting goods store in the outback of Australia and built a tennis court for his boys so they could learn the game of tennis. Ian grew up to be a professional tennis player and businessman, establishing Laver’s International Tennis Resort in Palm Beach, Florida (a revolutionary 1,000-condominium community that featured 65 tennis courts). He also created several prominent tennis tournaments including the Lipton Tennis Championship. Rod is still regarded as one of the greatest tennis athletes in history, holding 200 singles titles – the most in tennis history. Rod also holds the all-time male singles records of 22 titles in a single season (1962), 11 Grand Slam singles titles, and five Davis Cup titles for Australia.

“Tennis was always a part of our family,” shares Richard. “I was focused on being the best, following in my family’s footsteps, and eventually becoming an entrepreneur like my dad.”

As Richard tells it, the Laver family always dreams big. “My father built the biggest tennis resort in the world right on the coast of Florida and the ‘Rocket’ as Rod was nicknamed, made being a legend look very cool.” Richard was born left-handed like Rod and was also supremely talented, so the comparisons started at a young age.

“Running around my father’s grounds at Laver’s Resort during his tennis events like the Lipton were amazing. I watched how he created a dream and sold off thousands of condos all around a tennis concept. But I also learned the Laver family values as a young child.” Richard recalls a day when he was in the midst of a heated battle with an opponent who had cheated him earlier in the match. It was a big point that would send him to the championship match. “I called a ball ‘out’ that was on the line. My father had never, ever seen me do that, and, to be frank, I had never cheated before that. He walked onto the court and said, ‘Hit the showers, kid. You’re defaulted for cheating.’ He told me later, ‘You can do anything in life, but don’t cheat, don’t steal, and be respectful.’ His words impacted everything I did after that.”

Surviving the Unthinkable

In August 1985, Richard was on Delta Flight 191 sitting next to his father. He was just 12 years old and was on his way to Los Angeles for a tennis tournament when the plane came in for a crash landing at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Richard was one of 27 passengers who survived, all because he wasn’t wearing his seat belt when the explosion catapulted him 100 yards from the wreckage. His father was one of the 136 passengers who perished in the crash.

“I remember that I had used the lavatory around 20 minutes before the crash and when I looked in the mirror something told me not to fasten my seatbelt,” Richard recalls. He also remembers being uneasy about the flight the night before, something he had never experienced before. The crash changed his life and his direction in many ways. Richard tried to continue following the path of his family’s tennis legacy and even turned pro before his 18th birthday. But his new fear of flying continually got in the way. In his late teens, he was returning from a tournament in Brazil when the plane had to force an emergency landing. Afterwards, he quit professional tennis for good.

“It wasn’t until becoming CEO of Kate Farms that I had to rationalize getting over my fear of flying,” he explains. “The moment I started flying for Katie, all of my fear just went away. I simply had faith that I was doing the mission I was supposed to do in my life and that it would be all right.” Now Richard logs 40 to 50 round-trip flights a year on behalf of the family’s company.

A Meant-To-Be Love Story

Michelle grew up in Saudi Arabia as the daughter of a prominent doctor who served at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital from 1977-2000. “The Middle Eastern culture I grew up in is very different from that of today,” she describes. “I was exposed to meaningful ceremonies, incredible people, and the beautiful desert landscape which is very similar to Palm Desert.”

“After arriving in Los Angeles and separating from my first husband, a girlfriend and I went to a special event during the Bob Hope Classic put on by John Daly and Darius Rucker,” she continues. “I was seated next to Richard. After hours of getting to know him, we exchanged numbers and left as friends, thinking he could teach my kids tennis and give them lessons. After a while, we reconnected by phone after his card came flying out of my purse when a car almost ran into me! I wondered if it was a sign, so I traveled to Palm Springs back in 2003 to attend a tennis party he was throwing. We talked forever that night and we have been together ever since. In 2006, we had Katie and he supported me through some of our darkest moments. We were meant to be together.”

Five years ago, in a charming ceremony in Joshua Tree, Michelle and Richard said “I do” with the kids there in celebration. “Our family means the world to us,” relates Richard. “Katie has been an incredible blessing and is our teacher in helping us to let go of the things we can’t control and just celebrate being alive every day.”

The Lavers Discover BIGHORN

“I’ve always loved hiking around BIGHORN,” shares Richard. “Once we had the opportunity to start looking for a desert home, we met Jacquie Burns with BIGHORN Properties and Mike Grenier, the Membership Director, who showed us all the amazing amenities. We were impressed with the philanthropic efforts that BIGHORN makes as a community. We knew we would be surrounded by real genuine people who are entrepreneurs like us and who have had to take incredible leaps of faith throughout their lives. Everyone we meet has their own story, their own hikes, and their own celebrations – and we are anxious to meet them all.”

The Lavers’ focus on holistic health blends beautifully with their time spent hiking on nearby trails, working out in the fitness center, taking Katie for long walks on property, and dining in the Canyons Steak House. “The staff here is incredible. They respond so well to Katie and accommodate our needs with seating and special foods,” Richard says. “We feel so lucky to be here at BIGHORN and can’t wait for season to begin!”

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