Graduating Gratitude

Here’s an extract from the Keynote Address for the Endeavour College of Natural Health – Melbourne ceremony May 6 2016.

“It is with immense pleasure that I stand before you.

Just six days ago I sat in anticipation just as you have waiting for my name to be called so I could officially graduate as a Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism.

However – unlike you I’m sure – I had just come from my kitchen where I had been prepping fish and ‘uncooking’ raw cheesecakes for a catering job that had booked the same morning.

This is how we roll. In order to succeed and thrive we need to multitask and take on what we can handle. Today I stand before you with the hint of fresh turmeric still on my hands, the perfect reminder of how I got here.

You see, on my first day of school at Endeavour in 2000 I had a light bulb moment. The Food as Medicine unit I enrolled in would change my life forever. I was writing a book – which grew up 12 years later to be published as The Healing Feeling – so I thought I had better equip myself with a unit or two of tertiary education.

Who would have imagined that I would roll out three years later? So compelled by the study of nutrition and the prospect of food as medicine, it immediately became my life’s work.

When I finished HSC in 1983 at Geelong Grammar School I applied for a job after dropping out of a fine art degree that required way too much architectural drawing for my skill set. My first ever job interview at Wendy’s Hamburgers resulted with the advice from the employment officer that the hospitality industry would not be for me!

I was soon recruited by my beloved father into the family business. Starting my formal career in our Mount Macedon Hotel, I spent my first seven years essentially being an apprentice from the public bar to fine dining in our 2-3 chef hatted restaurant Gowings, East Melbourne.

By 24 years of age I became one of the youngest female publicans in Australia as the licensee of the Grace Darling Hotel from 1990-1998. You won’t get much harder work than that! During this time my father had passed away which ignited my curiosity about food and healing and how I could integrate this with my knowledge of food service.

SamanthaGowing-LadiesLounge Sam-Cook'sTour

So I sold up my home and the pub, and retrained as a fitness instructor where there was one day of nutrition on the 18-week course. From that day on I knew I wanted to grow up to be a nutritionist.

“But what’s food and restaurants got to do with nutrition?” the food media asked. “Why on earth would you want to do that?”! Being a determined soul, I invested the capital from my assets into my career, but more importantly, into my passion.

Since my days on campus here in my hometown, my vision has always been to help establish food as medicine in Australia. Back in 2000 when I began my Endeavour journey I needed a clean palate and laser focus to achieve it.

What does it takes to grow a wellness business I hear you ask?

Guts! Both kinds. You’ll need the tenacity of a prize-fighter and the digestive constitution of an ox!

While global wellness tourism is worth around $5 billion a year, the wellness industry grew in Australia from barefoot beginnings as we transpired from wellbeing to wellness.

For example, in 1994 organic food on Smith Street, Collingwood down the road from our pub, it was all blemishes and bumps. Friends of the Earth was merely a cafe for hippies that happened to offer my first taste of wheatgrass – and Organic Wholefoods a locals’ secret with the best chai in Melbourne.

Long before Smith Street hit hipster heights there were a few wellness incentives unfolding. Think back to Spiral Books, where I bought my first Tarot cards, and a scattering of metaphysical offerings and you’ll get my drift.

Websites were expensive and html was a secret language. If you were an early adopter during this time you were head and shoulders above the rest, and dedicated research coupled with trial and error learning have made me a specialist in online marketing for the food and health industry, and ultimately a wellness business mentor.


Branding is everything and in the early days of the Internet, first generation as it’s known, online marketing was ripe for the picking.

For the past 16 years my business Gowings Food Health Wealth has rolled out a broad menu of corporate health initiatives including on site culinary and nutrition team building activities up and down the eastern seaboard and a global reach of more than a dozen extraordinary gastronomic destinations.

Hundreds of cooking classes, media interviews, nutritional seminars from stress busting PowerPoint seminars to tasty food as medicine keynotes have been diligently delivered and digested.

All of this brings me to the new wave of wellness and what you need to know to stay ahead or even in the game. So here’s a jolly good dose of learned industry survival tips to keep you on your toes.

Graduating as a Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism April 2016

Graduating as a Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism April 2016

5 essential elements to bulletproof your wellness business

1. Know how to network your market. Get yourself a mentor or a go-to

The biggest challenge my mentees (don’t you love that word?!) face is gaining clarity over their product and their offer. You simply cannot be all things to all people and you must create a niche that is an inch wide and a mile deep.
I have two – food as medicine and being a wellness business mentor. Food as medicine made me the expert in my field, wellness business coaching helps to create more nutrition experts. Do you see how that works?

2. Future hunt trends before they arrive

Adopt an entrepreneur’s mentality. The future is meaningful, real cultures of health at work, tackling everything from physical, to emotional, to financial wellness: fair pay, healthy workspaces, inclusion of families and virtual workers, and tackling fast disappearing work/life balance, like mandating vacations and that workers unplug from always-on, wired work.
Companies will replace ROI obsessions with measuring total “return-on-value” (ROV), with mounting evidence that happy, healthy workers not only reduce healthcare costs, but also drive recruitment, retention and much higher profits.

3. Beware of imitations

The highest form of flattery they say, however it can be very costly and very painful. When a neighbouring restaurant launched around the corner from Gowings Grace Darling in 1996, the look and feel were almost identical to our chef-hatted Atrium restaurant, down to the napkin fold, cutlery, cumquat trees and menu style. Insulted? Yes. Loss of business? Estimated to be around $100k in the 90s.

What could we have done to prevent this? Probably being more astute as to why the proprietors were in our place daily, and worked smarter, be less hands-on and view a bigger picture. But I was only 30 years old, with enough on my dinner plate. This is the problem with being a pioneer. Don’t let it get you down. Rise up and rule your roost.

4. Protect and defend your Intellectual Property

Trademark what you can. In the online world of clean eating and Instagram imaging, recipe ‘borrowing’ is rife. Always credit your source! In academia you’d be booted out of an institute for not referencing diligently – and plagiarism. Always declare your influence. Start with something like, ‘the work of Nigella Lawson has always inspired me’.

5. Develop Product

In order to get traction, you need to become very good at selling yourself and your products with grace, peace and ease. If you truly believe in yourself, your product and your offer, then you should not have to think twice about it as it will help your community.

Get your product in to as many hands as possible and ask friends to take a pic of them reading, eating or wearing it. Social proof sells products faster than the Myer May Sale!

You must have a professional Facebook page, be LinkedIn and preferably feed an up to date website with social media interface. Get yourself some lovely photos taken that you can be proud of.

One of my favourite pastimes is fidgeting with widgets and building wellness websites. But how do you know if a product is going to sell, I hear you ask? You don’t, you simply have to test and measure the market.

What is the most important asset any business owner has?

Freedom. The biggest mistake most health practitioners make in business include is not to prioritize time for personal and business development. Working on the business, not just in it will develop systems and strategies. Not doing so is the most prolific harness that holds any business owner from realizing their goals.



Now that I have finished my studies – until that PhD comes around – I have some fresh strategies that are simmering away on the back burner. Tomorrow night I will fly out the Maldives to host a series of events for Six Senses Laamu – note my villa office on arrival! I have visualized this for many years and I cannot stress the importance of visualization enough.
It has shaped my business model, taken me to exotic destinations all over the globe and more importantly, carved out a niche in gastronomic and wellness tourism that never before exited.

The wellness industry is ripe and the rise of integrative medicine is finally at the forefront. As natural health graduates you are now armed for success, primed to achieve and a part of a thriving global industry.

I invite you to take risks, do not undervalue yourself, think outside the pyramid – and look at what is possible.
My career spans over three decades, and as I recently turned 50 I realize that the best is yet to come.

I wish you every success in your future endeavours and congratulations again on your outstanding achievements.”

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

– Stephen Grellet

Go well.


With Endeavour’s Kirsten Hall – Melbourne Graduation ceremony May 2016

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