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Advice for young wanna-be entrepreneurs from Peta Shulman

When Peta Shulam was only 25 when she came up with the simple concept of sampling health foods.

Her passion for finding these products led to her creating the largest health food sampling service in Australia, GoodnessMe Box, where for just $25 her clients can sample 7-10 full sized products, allowing those products to be seen, and customers to save a tonne of money.

Since launching in 2015 GoodnessMe Box has, founder Peta Shulman has been up for a number of accolades, including being featured in Smart Company’s ‘Smart 30 Under 30’ in 2018.

The company turned over $1 million dollars in just the first 12 months of trading and now has over 125k followers across their social channels .

Peta recently turned 30, and has achieved this business growth all in her twenties. We asked her to share her advice and tell her story for other young people wanting to start their own business now or in the future and she gives us some brilliant takeaways for building your own success.

Did you have any fear that you had to overcome in building a business on your own, especially starting at 25? 

No, I was pretty naïve – and I think it worked in my favour. I was so passionate about inspiring people to transition to a healthy way of eating, and I truly felt like the business could make a difference to people’s lives.

At the time, I remember thinking to myself: If I could just help one person from falling into the diet trap, or save one person a trip to the hospital (a place I almost ended up before thanks to my autoimmune condition), then it was worth it. I was also excelling in my PR role, so I just thought I’d give it a go – and if it didn’t work, I’d be able to find a job again.

My optimism, determination and naivety was a winning combination. If I knew what I do know about running a business, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to launch GoodnessMe Box.

How did you raise initial capital to start GoodnessMe Box? 

I didn’t. I poured $20,000 into the business, which was all my savings. I crunched the numbers and knew I had three months to turn a profit once it launched. It was make-or-break, and that was motivating in itself.

What experience did you have prior to starting the business?

I was working full-time as a publicist in the health and wellness sector. So, I had an acute understanding of the industry I was entering into with GoodnessMe Box (and my personal experience enhanced that knowledge base). I noticed a distinct shift towards the acceptance of wholefoods and healthy eating in 2014. It was becoming aspirational. People were curious and open to learning more, and the media was finally fuelling that interest. Before, journalists would push back on natural health story ideas, and they were starting to ask more questions.

Working in PR was invaluable in so many other ways. It taught me a lot partnerships and innovative marketing. At the time, I was witnessing a distinct change in the media landscape. Some influencers were becoming as powerful as publications, and community engagement was becoming a company’s currency.

Another life lesson I learnt was persistence. As a publicist, you get turned down day in, day out, so you have to be persistent! Finally, working in PR gave me an insight into what brands need to thrive in today’s landscape, and how to take care of clients. I knew that brands could be cost-effectively promoted via a sampling platform, so I pursued it.

What were the first initial stepping stones to bringing GoodnessMe Box to life? 

I wanted to promote the health food products I’d tried and help brands to reach a larger yet highly targeted audience. Above all, I wanted to get people excited about eating well. That’s how I came up with the idea for a health food subscription box. While I was working full-time, I spent every spare second I had nutting out the details, strategising and figuring out how I could combine something I was passionate about (wholefoods) and something I was good at (promoting brands).

I googled a business plan, and got to work!

I was negotiating and partnering with brands who not only believed in my business idea, but whose products met GoodnessMe Box’s strict standards – this is what helped to cut through the clutter in the health world and still sets us apart in the subscription box industry.

Creating a good product and service was key, but I was conscious that without a database and a captured audience there would be no brands wanting to supply product and as such, no GoodnessMe Boxes to deliver. With this in mind, I devised a marketing launch strategy designed to have a fast and immediate impact. And it worked!

What were the biggest obstacles on your journey so far? 

Website issues plagued us for a while. I was essentially entering the health space as a tech entrepreneur, and didn’t even realise. I had zero experience in the space, and that led to major hurdles in the early days that slowed down our growth. Every day was a crash course in tech! At the time, I wanted to be the first to launch the subscription model in the health food space. That advantage proved to be helpful, but it also meant compromising time in the long term to perfect the platform.

What advice would you give to young people who believe they don’t have enough experience or knowledge to build a successful business? 

You just have to start. If you have the drive, you’ll keep going. Any successful business requires perseverance and grit. It sounds simple, but it’s true. You just need to block out the noise and believe in yourself, and your idea.

Know your audience. Immerse yourself in your industry and learn everything you can about your audience.

Make sure you have complete confidence in your product. Without a good product (or service), you won’t scale – no matter how good you are at marketing.

Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised with how supportive and open people are with their time and wisdom. Meet with other like business owners and mentors. It’s important to get perspective from people who have ‘been there.’

Surround yourself with a support system. The start-up life is a bit of a rollercoaster, and I can’t express enough how important it is to have stable, supportive people around you.

When things are tough, go back to your WHY. Why are you doing this? Why did you start the business? GoodnessMe Box was designed to make a profound difference to peoples health by changing their food choices, and reminding myself of our purpose gets me through the challenging days.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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