What it takes to grow a wellness business

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

Global wellness tourism is currently worth $474 billion a year. The wellness industry grew in Australia from barefoot beginnings as we transpired from wellbeing to wellness. In 1994, organic food on Smith Street, Collingwood was all blemishes and bumps. Friends of the Earth was merely a cafe for hippies 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 and a scattering of metaphysical offerings and you’ll get my drift.

At the end of the 90s I was looking for a new career. My brother Chris and I had sold our beloved Grace Darling Hotel to have a well-earned rest and hang up my apron after 15 years in the restaurant business. I have always had a passion for food and wanted to pursue a combination of healthy eating and physical fitness. I launched Gowings Melbourne – Fine Food For Fitness in 1999 which soon grew up to be Gowings Food and Health, and currently Gowings Food Health Wealth. You are here! Welcome.


Revisiting the Grace Darling Hotel. I used to say I was ‘chained to the bluestone’ as we spent 12-15 hours a day there! Image©RJWhite

Branding is everything and in the early days of the Internet, first generation as it’s known, online marketing was ripe for the picking. 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 wellness industry, and ultimately The Wellness Business Coach. For the past 15 years we have rolled out a broad menu of corporate health initiatives including on site culinary and nutrition team building activities up and down the eastern seaboard. Hundreds of cooking classes, media interviews, nutritional seminars from stress busting PowerPoint seminars to tasty food as medicine keynotes.

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.

Meet My Clients

5 essential elements to bulletproof your wellness business

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

I cannot stress this enough. You must surround yourself with like-minded peers. My go-to gal is my senior practitioner colleague – and dear friend – Dr. Nat Kringoudis. She can soothe a momentary meltdown with a handful of “I hear Yas”! We don’t ask much from each other, a few calls here and there, lots of festive cyber tagging and big hearted banter. I dedicate this blog post to her for I am truly grateful for her passive support long before Healthtalks TV antics! By the way, have you seen it? Here’s one we prepared earlier.

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 The Wellness Business Coach. Food as medicine made me the expert in my field, wellness business coaching helps to create more nutrition experts. Can you see how that works?

Ask me about mentoring

2. Future hunt trends before they arrive

Adopt an entrepreneur’s mentality. For example, New Global Wellness Institute* research forecasts that workplace wellness approaches will change radically. The current “program” mentality will die a natural death because they’re not working. 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. Source


Melbourne Wellness events. Ticket sales close Monday 15th Feb.

 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 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 then, with enough on my dinner plate. More recently, I watched in amazement as one of my associates unveiled their new website – at my dining room table – with an almost identical brand name! What would you do? I sat in disbelief, sighed and shrugged. 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 IP.

Trademark what you can. Image and recipe ‘borrowing’ is rife and always has been. Now that food as medicine is uber chic, my turmeric tonic above, shot by UK photographer Jenny Collins for Kahanda Kanda, Sri Lanka has done the rounds on blogs and social media in various capacities. It’s an easy brew, and my interpretation stems from my friend Janet’s version at Casa Luna of a traditional Balinese Jamu.  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’. Just last month I wrote about Why I broke up with the Paleo diet and sure enough, six hours later another blog rolled out a similar breakup story. Coincidence? Does it matter? Nah, not really, but it always pays to refer and respect. Would you agree?


James Reyne & Brett Kingman get a dose of The Healing Feeling

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! For example, I have no qualms in promoting our forthcoming wellness event in Melbourne because I know so many practitioners, bloggers, and healthy food developers who will gain so much wisdom from our collective experience.
You must have a Facebook page, be LinkedIn and preferably feed an up to date website with social media interface. One of my favourite pastimes is fidgeting with widgets and building wellness websites just like this one. I offer introductory web and social media packages from as little as $1650. 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. View our products.

Ask me about marketing FHW-Corporate-Wellness-Header-1500

I truly hope this brings a leaf of relief to your busy day. Remember, ‘if doctors have always been reimbursed for treating disease, a future where they get remunerated for preventing it looks possible (as in countries like China, Norway, and Singapore). Medicine will incorporate more wellness, but the reverse will also be true. Source

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 the business (the E-Myth) will develop systems and strategies. Not doing so is the most prolific harness that holds any business owner from realising their goals.

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