Most recently, Be Fit Food has achieved an incredible business milestone, becoming Australia's first meal program to be endorsed by the CSIRO and made available to those with a disability or chronic illness on the NDIS.
My passion for food started when I was a young girl. I grew up in a food loving household, my father would cook big banquets for all of our friends and neighbours, and everyone would come over to enjoy them. Although I did too, I suffered from severe food-related stomach aches, which was in many ways debilitating because I loved food and wanted to live a healthy life.
After years of suffering and searching (and also a misdiagnosis for lactose intolerance when I actually required emergency surgery for a suspected tumour which ended up being benign, thankfully), I understood the damage food could do, but also its power in healing people and releasing them into optimal health. I was inspired to study health and nutrition extensively to help people in similar or worse situations. I completed qualifications in nutrition, dietetics, exercise science, clinical exercise physiology and diabetes education.
Fast forward many years later, I was working as a clinical dietitian alongside bariatric surgeon Dr Geoffrey Draper when I realised that there was a gap in the market for real-food weight loss programs that promoted health and balance. I disagreed with the bars, shakes and supplements that clinical patients were using for rapid weight loss, but loved the science surrounding mild nutritional ketosis so I decided to create a wholefood meal program to do exactly this. This started off as written plans for my patients, but I soon realised that people lacked the skills and resources to actually replicate the plans at home. And so, with the encouragement of the surgeon, I hired a chef to help me make and sell the meals to our patients.
Soon after this, I started receiving a lot of interest from non-clinical customers who wanted to achieve weight loss or simply live a healthier lifestyle – and from here Be Fit Food was born. Be Fit Food exists to revolutionise the way Australian’s think about food and instil the philosophy that food should be the first medicine in the pursuit of optimal health, and the prevention and treatment of chronic weight related diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
We gave Be Fit Food a really good crack in those early years, but it was tough. I had always been a huge fan of Shark Tank but had never considered going on the show until one night I saw an ad on TV so I registered, hoping that the sharks might be able to turn our luck around.
As history will tell you, in 2017 I appeared on Shark Tank with my business partner Dr Geoffrey Draper and won a $250,000 investment from Boost Juice founder Janine Allis. What happened next was unprecedented. Minutes after the show went to air, we had over 25,000 people trying to buy our products. Our website crashed, we sold out of six weeks’ worth of food on the first day. Our retail store had a little bit of food, but we had a kilometre-long line from the door with cars, trucks, and people, all trying to come and pick-up food and take it back interstate. Friends and family jumped in to help. They would pack boxes, clean the freezers, drive around orders, pick up supplies. Freezers were breaking down, and our technology and infrastructure was failing us.
It was a huge challenge, but one that I will be forever grateful for – not only because it taught me a lot of valuable business lessons, but because it actually put Be Fit Food back in business.
Before Shark Tank aired, a good month of online sales would bring in around $10-15k, plus an additional $20k between our two stores. After the show aired in August 2017, we cracked six figures worth of sales per month, our business grew 1500% practically overnight and our team went from 5 staff to 63 in just four short weeks. Our annual revenue went from $500k in our third year ($90k in year 1 and $300k in year 2), to $4.5 million in our fourth. In 2019 we doubled this. And in 2020, we managed to remain steady despite all of the curveballs that COVID-19 threw at small businesses.
It’s been a big journey, and I’ve learnt a thing or two. Here are my top tips for navigating entrepreneurialism.
- Get a mentor. There is no better way to learn in business than from the successes, failures, lessons and stories from other entrepreneurs.
- Back yourself. I have only ever made big mistakes when I doubted myself.
- Just do it. Don’t let hesitation rob you of opportunity. If it doesn’t work out, move on.
- Be everywhere. Invest in activities that make you valid and visible to customers.
- Hire great people. They will take the burden off of your shoulders and teach you a few new tricks.
- Ask for help. Put your pride aside and ask for help if you need it.
- Build resilience. A resilient organisation needs a resilient leader. Building resilience capabilities right through the business will ensure you’re better prepared for twists and turns when they arise.
Most importantly, find your ‘why’. My ‘why’ is the true driver behind my business. It’s the reason my business exists, and it’s the reason I do what I do. It influences every decision I have made in business so far, and that I will make in the future – the integrity of our products, the suppliers we use, the partnerships we form, the staff we employ, and most importantly, our relationship with our customers. My why keeps me on track when times are tough, grounded and focused when things are going well, and makes every long night worth it. Ultimately, it’s what makes Be Fit Food so successful.