I am Stephanie Clairmont, an entrepreneur and Registered Dietitian. As I write this article and reflect on my journey so far, I realize that the years are starting to blur together. I need to really think hard to remember when I first started my business as so many things have happened in the past few years. I started my practice part-time in the spring of 2011. I was a dietitian for just 18 months before I realized that I wanted to run my own business. At first, it was because I couldn’t find a job that would allow me to do what I loved, so I thought I would make up my own job! I had some ideas on what this business might look like, but wasn’t exactly sure how to make it all happen.
It is my pleasure to share with you the top 3 things I think you need to know before getting started. I’ve learned a lot the hard way and I hope this article can save you some time and money.
1. Just Get Started!
I am a planner. I like to be organized and years ago thought I could plan out every detail. I developed a business plan and started offering in-home nutrition services – that was the first step in my adventure. Well, let me tell you, you can’t plan for everything! When I first started, I never imagined I would be doing what I am now – I specialize in digestive nutrition and IBS and run workshops for dietitians across the country! You never know where your career will take you, but you need to simply take the first step and get started. It makes it easier to get started by looking for a part-time paid position so you can have some income while you build your business. Whether you decide to start part-time or jump in with both feet, decide what works for you and just get in there. You learn so much about running a business by actually running a business! Things you would never figure out through countless hours of reading and studying, what works and what doesn’t. The longer you delay, the longer it will take you to get there. It’s ok if it doesn’t work out, you will learn so much about yourself and find out if you are truly meant to be an entrepreneur by giving it a real shot. If this is something you need help with, I’m always happy to answer questions or provide coaching. Just get in touch.
2. Choose a Niche: Focus on What you Love
Are you a born foodie like me? Consider offering food-focused lunch and learns where you cook and teach about nutrition. Maybe you’re a successful mom of two that has great advice on pregnancy workouts, baby food, and stress management! You could create a practice that focuses on helping moms get ready for baby and supports them during the first few years. When I started, I tried to create services that I thought were different and although this brought me some business, I struggled. I offered services in every area from family health, to weight loss, to cholesterol lowering. After the first year, I found that my main problem was that I didn’t know where to get new clients. I spent money on advertising and attended trade shows but barely got clients this way. I struggled to increase my bookings and my client list with a general audience.
In business 101, choosing a niche area is a key concept. We need to apply this to the field of nutrition. Once you identify who your audience is, your website, blog, social media messaging, and products will all be focused on this group of people. You’ll know where to find the right customers and clients too. You will waste less money on advertising and marketing to the wrong people. Let’s take our ‘new mom nutrition’ example – you could advertise on local new mom blogs, put flyers up at fitness studios and community centres that have pre-natal programs, have a booth at family and mom trade shows, and have a really cool blog with a mom-to-mom voice. Your branding would be focused at moms and you could even create local partnerships with other organizations that focus on prenatal and postnatal services. I’m not sure who said this first, but here’s an important thought to reflect on: “If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no one”.
3. Study Business Concepts, Marketing, and Embrace Social Media
Spend every waking minute on learning how to run a business! Ok, maybe not every waking minute - but I can honestly tell you that with very little business training (I took one intro to marketing class in undergrad) I spend close to 50% of my time on actually running my business. This involves targeted marketing, brand building, networking, bookkeeping, product development, answering questions, purchasing supplies, and so much more! You might have a great concept and be a fabulous RD, but if you don’t spend time on actually running your business and attracting new clients, you won’t get anywhere. I suggest making a monthly/yearly plan on where to spend your time and money to connect with potential clients. Social media is a great tool to connect with people, share content, and make special offers to encourage people to seek your service. One of my favourite books is called “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch, which teaches key concepts you’ll need to know to get clients. Pay attention to what your favourite companies are doing and try to apply some of the concepts to your business. Remember to stay authentic to who you are as this is key to running a business in 2014. Be natural, be yourself. Learn from others, but don't copy what someone else is doing. Spend time figuring out your own style, how you want to engage with your audience, and what your content or service will look like.
It’s also ok to try something and let it go. When I first started, my business was called “Whole Food Therapy”. I didn’t have an office, worked on my dining room table, and visited clients in their homes. After three months, I realized $90 wasn’t covering the 3 hours it took to prepare for the appointment, travel, set-up, and provide service! I also realized everyone wanted after work appointments only. I learned and moved on. My last piece of advice is – don’t be afraid to fail! I have these two quotes up on my wall to help me keep going when I feel like giving up:
“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time
.” – George M. Moore, Jr.
“Never never never give up
.” – Winston Churchill
Thank you for allowing me into you world; I wish you the very best in all your business endeavours!
Much love & good eating,
Stephanie Clairmont, MHSc, RD
Culinary Dietitian & President
Clairmont Digestive Clinic
Editor's Note: If you've ever attended one of Stephanie's workshops or webinars, you know that she is quite the talent! Always forging new ground and open and willing to share her expertise. Leave a comment and let her know your thoughts on her tips and tricks to entrepreneurship.