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Although a scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and even your inbox can show you that quite a few of our NTA graduates are using their credentials toward building an online business, we know that many of you love the energy and interaction that comes with having an in-person practice. Does the nutrition career advice given to digital entrepreneurs still apply to NTPs and NTCs who want to provide nutrition consultations, launch group classes, and create programs with an in-person business model? 

We asked Shelley Gawith, one of our business mentors for the Career Development Course and an NTP who runs a busy, successful practice, to tell us her foundations for a thriving in-person nutrition business.

Shelley will be joining us for a live webinar on Wednesday, January 17 at 6:00pm PST, where you can learn more about her path to in-person business success and ask questions about her career path and the CDC course. Use the signup form to receive updates as well as get the recording of the webinar.

Hi, my name is Shelley Gawith and I’m a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I graduated from the NTA in 2015. 

My story is a little different from other NTPs as I had no interest in food and nutrition before getting unwell. I worked as a Finance Manager for a large investment bank in Australia, and I ate because it was necessary to function, so I could work. In many ways, I lived to work. Eventually my body shut down and I spent the next 18 months in bed. Eventually, I found the NTA and got my health back through diet and nutrition. Now I have a very successful practise in downtown Wellington, New Zealand. I mainly work with corporate clients. My practise has grown so much since the beginning of 2016, when I set up my business (without really wanting a business) to now, working full time in my clinic and having a two month waiting list. I also see clients in different New Zealand locations and Sydney, Australia. I already have a staff member working for me, but this year we are growing the team and I’m really excited with all the opportunities that are in store for Shelley Gawith Functional Nutrition in 2018.

I am also super excited that after being a group leader for the Nutritional Therapy Association, I now get to be a business mentor for their new Career Development Course

Recently, I was catching up with practitioners from different expertise in Australia and they said to me, "How did you grow your business to be so successful, so rapidly?" As I listed off what I had done, I realised there were some common steps that everyone could use.

Here are what I think are the five keys to a thriving and sucessful nutritional therapy practice.

1. Know Your Niche

I know we have read this in every book, but every time I talk to students as a group leader or at conferences it seems like most NTPs or NTCs are too scared to do this, but you really need to know your target market. You need to have a niche. We can’t be everything for everyone. There’s too much to learn as there is. Work out who you want to work with, and go for them. It might be based on demographics, gender, specific conditions or illnesses that you are fascinated with – maybe even something from your own health journey. I only want to work with corporates. I have positioned my office right downtown in my city. Other practitioners often say they feel sorry for me, because I’m right in the hustle. I reply that I love it. When mums ring me wanting me to see their children, unless they are a client already, I say no, I’m not the practitioner for you. When clients do bring their children in, sure, I love them, but that’s not who I want to be working with each day. I also look at my client appointments for the day and I want to smile knowing I’m seeing them. If I don’t smile and that person drains me of my energy, then they are no longer a client. Maybe it’s brutal, but I love going to work each day. If I feel drained by the person, we aren’t the right fit and this enables them to find someone else that they connect better with. I did this right from the beginning. And this leads to my second point, which is to...

2. Cultivate Referrals 

My whole business has been based on referrals. So I need to enjoy each of my clients and make sure they are bringing out the best in me, as they bring me my work. I started off with two practice clients in March 2016. One let me know that she didn’t even believe in alternative medicine and she was only seeing me because there was no other hope. The other was desperate as she had spent two years having multiple diagnosis and organs removed and was still unable to get out of bed. These two then started referring others to me. One of them got me my very first corporate speaking engagement, which lead to the multiple corporate events that I have done since. I never asked these clients to refer others to me, but helping them get better through what we learn at the NTA, changing their lives and their health, that was the testimonial right there. 

3. Build A Referral Network

It's a simple thing, really. But you can’t grow alone. You can’t get your message out there fast enough, without the help of other practitioners. I got asked in Spring 2016 to do a free giveaway for a skincare provider in my area. It was a 12 week challenge, and I had to provide fortnightly (bi-weekly) content and then give away two sessions to the winner. It took up a lot of my time. At that point, I didn’t have lots of content to draw on and I was writing it all from scratch, but this got my name out there to a much wider audience. From that challenge I got so many referrals and they referred people. Now I have a number of GPs [doctors], specialists, physios [physical therapists], massage therapists, skin clinics, and acupuncturists that refer to me. Just start with one other practitioner. Look up someone that you think you would like to work with, do a trade, learn about what they are doing and see how you can refer clients to them. I always want to be more generous, so I’m always looking for new practitioners that I can refer my clients to. I never worry if they don’t refer back to me, but they will. Keep referring, and they will. 

4. Grow Your Audience

For some of you it will be an online presence, webinars, courses, free ebooks, cookbooks, etc.―but look for ways to give a wider audience free information. For me, I love teaching and interacting. So, in my first year I would hold fortnightly hands on workshops. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I would teach fermenting classes, broth classes, group dinners, you name it, I taught it. I always made sure I had the best afternoon tea breaks with delicious foods and drinks. (The funny part is, I had a number of participants then ask me to teach them and their friends how to make the afternoon treats, and then they started creating the workshops for me!) Every workshop I did, I would get one or two new clients, or a new practitioner to refer to. I’m sad to say that in 2017, there was no time for these workshops, although I'm considering bringing them back this year. Some of these participants never became clients, but then they would sign up for another class or do my online challenge. You never know what it will lead to. One thing I didn’t do and I am now changing, is looking back and realizing that I missed so many opportunities. I wasn’t very good at prioritizing building an email list. Yes, you will have read this in books, but now looking back and forwards, I can see why it’s so important. This is something I am now working on although I do wish I had done it from day one. Why build your list? As I said when I first started out, I wasn’t looking to have a business, but now I see that when you want to do online courses and really grow with different offerings, it’s important to have these contacts. 

5. Share Your Story

Having a story to share and knowing why you're doing this is another important key to practitioner success. What made you get into this career? For me, it was my personal health journey. My plea when I was too sick to get out of bed for all those months, was that if I get better, I need to help others. So here I am, wanting to help others and feeling so lucky I get to do it each day. I never take it for granted. It's so important to share your story with your community and your clients, so they understand why you do what you do. It’s worth more than your hourly rate. But, while you are telling your story and building your practice, make sure you are being authentically yourself. I don’t need to appeal to everyone, but once again, being clear about who I am and selective about my clients means that I love my client sessions.

And an extra tip, from my banking days: I always under promise and over deliver. I always want my client to get more value. I’m currently doing an online challenge with my clients and their friends, and I just can’t help but keep giving them extra bonuses. We all know how good it feels to get something extra, but it always feels better to go above and beyond for others. 

Shelley Gawith graduated from the Nutritional Therapy Association in 2015 and is based in Wellington, New Zealand. She works full time in her own busy practise in Wellington’s business district where she combines all of her training, knowledge, and first-hand experience to assist her clients to get to the underlying root causes of their health symptoms. She specialises in working with corporate clients, drawing on her many years of corporate experience. She mainly works with large corporate clients delivering corporate presentations for their staff and clients. She also delivers corporate packages and works with individual staff to help them transform their health, so they too, can live life to their full potential.