If you've had the opportunity to watch our video, visit the SL offices or blog, or speak to Sara for more than three minutes, you already know that Sara and all of the SL attorneys dedicate much of our time to working with owners of small to medium-size businesses here in Saint Louis, and all over the country. We find gratification in growing along with our clients, and pride ourselves on supporting small business on and off the clock (love that getting curbside takeout now counts as supporting our community!). This is ostensibly not unusual for a cohort of attorneys doing corporate work.
It wasn't until this past November, when I was sitting around the table enjoying Stock Legal-does-Thanksgiving, that I stopped to consider why each of us has a strong connection to business owners: every one of us is related to an owner of a small business. Several of us have spouses with their own enterprise; many of us grew up with parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who ran businesses; and a couple of us even had - or still have! - our own "side hustles", if you will (apologies, but it's an apt descriptor).
In my case, I grew up with a front-row seat to many flavors of businesses. My late dad founded a mortgage company (he eventually was bought out by a partner) that's still around today, called USA Mortgage (a fun fact: my colleague Sam Wallach was general counsel at USA Mortgage prior to joining Stock Legal, and it feels fateful to get to work with him). At the same time, my mom was employed by a publicly-traded corporation, but she primarily focused on its franchisees. Because both my parents worked a lot (especially when my father was first starting his business), I spent any non-school working hours with my maternal grandparents, and my Pop ran a building materials sales business. My grandmother shared daily anecdotes about her mom. My great-grandmother was a single mother in 1927, and - you guessed it - a small business owner. She had her own dress shop in Maplewood. We are lucky to have several heirlooms from her store - the chair she used to work from, a flyer from the grand opening that I keep in a frame on my desk. As I list these out, it seems obvious, but somehow it hadn't occurred to me how developmental this all was; it was just my "life".
I am an only child, so I am not being hyperbolic when I say that a vast portion of my childhood was spent with my parent's coworkers, vendors, and clients. My memories are of the Superbowl Sunday we helped my dad move into his first office in one of those office buildings off Old Ballas, and a snapshot memory of seeing his name on the black felt letterboard directory in the lobby. Of telling one of my grandfather's clients for the umpteenth time that the fax line was -5556, not -5555. Of using my mom's special Stabilo-brand highlighters to color at her desk, or later, highlight homework. Of trying to entertain myself during yet another "it'll be quick" stop (you know the ones) at the office on a Saturday. As a side note, Stock Legal being paperless is fantastic, but I do miss making accordions out of the perforated margins of the retro printer paper and necklaces out of paperclips. My mom's ad agency partners from those days remain close family friends. I just read a book to my kids the other night that had been given to me by one of my parent's coworkers when I was a kid.
In Sara's case, her contagious enthusiasm for small business owners began long before she started Stock Legal. Her parents owned a company (Stock Transport) while she was growing up, and she founded a long term pharmacy business with her former spouse, as well as Legal Back Office. (Also, she is on the cap table for several startups, is an investor in Stadia Ventures, and manages real estate projects. No, I do not believe Sara sleeps). All of this is to say: Sara knew what she wished she'd had in terms of legal support, and the firm was set up intentionally to provide that - positive, transparent counseling by an attorney who is willing and able to tailor services to their client (as opposed to one-size-fits-all counseling at $700 an hour).
On paper, the memories I describe seem kind of silly, or mundane. And it is - like I said, it was simply my everyday life. But that's exactly why I believe it matters. These formative experiences, shared by virtually all of the Stock Legal team, can't be learned in a classroom or by practicing; one can only fully understand and appreciate what's involved in starting, running, or selling a business, by living through each stage of the business life cycle firsthand. We each have a level of respect for it, and insight into it. That's the foundation of how we operate, as human beings and as lawyers.
Other businesses brought to you by the Stock Legal team and their families:
- Hunter Altvater: Co-owner in a Bar review company.
- Richard Bailey: Co-owner in a real estate company.
- Jayne Corley: Had her own practice for 22 years pre-Stock Legal; partner in a small leasing company along with her brother; Jayne’s father had his own CPA firm; her three sisters and one brother each have their own various enterprises.
- Dan Julius: Spouse owned an awesome entertainment/ photography company, called Oh So Vivant.
- Ryan Metzler: Owned a lawn service company throughout high school and college; currently an investor in a captive insurance company.
- Julie Ostrom: Grandparents on both sides were business owners (one was a water company, the other a beer distributor – how’s that for symbiotic?!); mom owned a software company; prior to coming to Stock Legal, Julie herself was a founding member of law firms.
- Kathy Van Voorhees: It would be more expedient to say which of Kathy's family members *hasn't* owned a business. Great-grandparents and grandparents owned a school supply business; uncle owned and operated hair salons; brother owned a DJ-ing company; mother owned a court reporting business. Kathy had her own firm prior to joining Stock Legal.
- Sam Wallach: Dad had his own dental practice.
- Julie Layton: Owns Generous Helping, a healthy home-cooking coaching service.
- Peggy Tharp: Late husband had a small international pharmacy consulting business, The Melling Group, and later formed a small non profit called Pharmacists Preventing Suicides.