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Leverage your core strengths: 7 tips to consider when starting a business

A dietitian from Toronto shares her solid approach to starting your own company.

LisaMina-HS.jpegLisa Mina is a dietitian from Toronto who recently founded her own nutrition and health consulting company, FoodHealth.  She has over 20 years of experience in various sectors. Lisa’s led work on consumer and health professional nutrition communication, nutrition policy, regulatory affairs, public-private collaborations, issues management, nutrition research, and business strategies. She completed a BASc. in Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph and an MBA at Royal Roads University, BC. Lisa is a mom, loves to travel, and to run long distance. If you’d like to stay connected with her, please visit her website at and sign-up to receive her new newsletter. Lisa's email is


In 2015, I launched FoodHealth, a nutrition consulting company that helps organizations take action on nutrition and health strategies that reach the public, health professionals, and other stakeholders.
Why did I start my own business? Being able to lead my work, my opportunities, my time, and my learning inspired me. I was personally and professionally ready to take more risk and explore a less charted path.

My passion is to develop relevant, meaningful, and practical nutrition and health strategies that make a difference in people lives. I have over 20-years of experience in various aspects of food, nutrition, and health, such as public health, private practice, nutrition research, agriculture, food manufacturing, and retail, which helps me with big picture thinking. The best strategies can arise from making connections between seemingly different things such as consumer insights and trends, science, understanding regulatory and policy priorities, changing market conditions, and changes in our social and technological environments.
If you are thinking of starting your own business, you may feel overwhelmed trying to decide what to do, where to start, or who to talk to. That is completely normal. To help, I’ve pulled together seven tips to consider when launching a business.
Seven tips to consider when launching a business:
  1. Take some time to identify and understand your core capabilities.
 Business owners often focus on areas for improvement; however, successful companies hone in on what they do best and leverage these skills to differentiate themselves from competitors. It is natural that your service and/or product bundles will evolve, but it is always good to assess if they align with your core capabilities.
Identify what makes your services unique and different – and what you love to do! For example, I felt my core strengths were being connected, credible, and comprehensive. Plus, I love to work with health organizations and food companies because they impact and reach millions of people each day.
Try doing a SWOT analysis: it is a “tried and true” exercise and worthwhile! It involves mapping out your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and identifying external opportunities, and threats. You might even uncover new possibilities in the process.

  1. Learn from people beyond nutrition and health.
Once you’ve identified core capabilities or strengths, it is important to also map out things you want to learn. For me it was technology. Hence, I joined a virtual formal mastermind group that explored building and expanding businesses by leveraging technology, with entrepreneurs from all sectors in life. I was the only one in food and health.
I also listen to two excellent podcasts that interview entrepreneurs who share their successes, failures, and key learnings. It is a free speaker series that you can listen to at your convenience. They are inspiring and motivating. If you’re interested, try listening to Hack the Entrepreneur with Jon Nastor and The Tim Ferriss Show.
  1. Know that failures are ok.
Learning opportunities arise when things don’t work. For example, I was certain that I could develop my own website including doing all the techy work. After three months of trying, I recognized that this wasn’t my area of strength and hired an expert to help. As Seth Godin would say, “If you never fail, then you haven’t done anything.”
  1. Stay connected with people inside and outside of our profession.
Staying connected is critical for learning, sparking ideas, and exploring new opportunities.
For example, within our profession, I strive to initiate a network meeting every one-two weeks and I volunteer as a member on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research and the Rainbow Food Education Foundation.
  1. Be prepared for a new balancing act.
You’ll need to balance your time between work-related projects and other things required to run your business. For example, developing your brand, website, business cards, and contracts, in addition to sorting out legal and accounting requirements.

  1. Read and scan a wide range of topics and sources.
Read a broad range of publications, e.g. professional and consumer writing in food, health, and nutrition, plus other topics such as current world events, management, finance, etc. For example, the Economist is an excellent publication that helps me stay informed of global issues.
  1. Reflect often.
Reflect on your progress, challenges, and successes. I often take time to think about my business’ direction, as well as new things I want to try and how to get there.
If starting your own business is something you have been thinking about doing, I hope this article inspires and excites you to do so! Follow your passion and be ready to work hard.  Begin your journey today.
Editor’s note: Lisa makes a great point about the importance of staying connected with people inside and outside of the profession. Joining DC networks related to your interests or area of practice is a great way to stay connected with like-minded colleagues within the profession. If you're thinking about starting a new business, joining the Consulting Dietitians Network or the Business and Industry Network might be a good fit for you. 
Do you have additional tips for starting a business? What have been your key learnings? Please share them, or questions/comments for Lisa, below. 
  1. Terrific article Lisa! It's easy to stick with what you know, so your suggestion to get out and connect outside our profession and expand reading and learning beyond nutrition and health is so wise. As a dietitian working in a home-based office, I know what a difference networking can make. So...let's do coffee!
  2. Thank you for your feedback and I'm so glad you found the article useful. Sharing and learning from each other really helps.
  3. Thanks Lisa! Your article could not have come to me at a better time! You have inspired me to keep moving. And, I love the idea of being unique. The "Wellness" marketplace is crowded and this can be a challenge and an opportunity for Registered Dietitians. I choose to see it as both and forced myself to really identify my uniqueness. What do I bring to the table that differentiates me from others and offers up something fresh and new! That is where I will head. Thanks again. Sue
  4. Thanks for the great article Lisa! I couldn't agree more with the importance of understanding one's unique core competencies and building a thriving business from that base. That is indeed the key to remaining unique in what can seem like a crowded marketplace at times. Continued success to you!
  5. I loved Lisa's article. I loved the reframing of how you think about failure - failures can open up new doors. I also appreciated the tip about staying connected outside of your profession - it exposes you to new styles and new ideas. Thanks for this great article!

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