Inspired by a series of life events that forced her to change paths, Melissa dedicated herself to becoming a health professional. She now runs a naturopathic practice from her farm in Australia, where she is able to show her clients what healthy living looks like in action. Her interview inspires us to find a mentor for our own businesses and to embrace the fact that we don’t have to do this work alone.
What inspired you to become a holistic entrepreneur?
A cascade of events forced me to face the fact that I needed to change paths. Years of ill health and high levels of prescribed medications were making me sicker rather than helping. That should have been my wakeup call but I didn’t yet value myself enough to make a change. Then one of my ponies, Pippi, developed a form of diabetes and severe kidney damage after being prescribed a cocktail of antibiotics, I dropped everything and dedicated myself to helping him. Pippi was not only an inspiration for me but I believe my greatest teacher into trusting my instincts and going back to study as a health professional. As far as becoming an entrepreneur, I don’t think I’m cut out to work for others. I have an extremely strong sense of how I want to make a difference in this world as well as what I won’t tolerate. Creating my own business meant I could follow those ideals and my vision without compromise.
Tell us about your business or practice.
I run a naturopathic practice from my small farm. It’s a very special environment here and my clients can actually see how I put what I talk about into practice with a large organic garden full of fruit and vegetables, and of course free ranging chickens amongst our other animals. To be able to take someone into the garden and show them what the herb looks and smells like, for them to experience natural living first-hand is a joy to share. I focus on a few special areas of interest, supporting women through the menopause transition is an absolute privilege that I adore. To witness them change their perspective from dread to welcoming the positives it brings is very special. Then I do a lot of work in supporting people with mental health issues and children with sensory disorders and the autism spectrum. Each day brings me new challenges and the chance to learn from my clients while supporting them to heal and grow at the same time.
What is your current business model?
At the moment the majority of my work is one to one consultations and I run a few workshops each year. I’m currently developing some virtual programs that expand on my clinic work and will allow me to reach more women who can’t travel to see me.
What has been one of your favorite moments as a business owner thus far?
Seeing the transformation in a four year old who would hardly eat and got most of her energy from fruit drinks. I suspected she was having a reaction to foods and was actually in great pain when she ate. After eliminating the problem foods she transformed – brighter, more colour in her skin, and she wanted to eat! And to see the relief on a parents face when their child’s health turns around is something you never forget.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running your business or practice?
Many! For me the hardest was getting my name out there when I work from a home-based clinic on my country property. The second biggest has been having to learn so many new skills in order to market myself, tackle social media, create a website from scratch and all the other jobs a business owner must do when starting on a small budget.
How have you overcome those challenges?
Facebook was a breakthrough in reaching people and letting them know I existed. It allowed me to show people who I am and what I stand for before they booked in, it created a safety net of sorts for them and helped me build relationships with potential clients. As far as all those new skills go I just dived into the online world and researched like a woman possessed! I took courses and employed a business coach, which was a game changer for me.
How do you find new clients?
Facebook and word of mouth referrals. I also do talks for health groups or other businesses and they are also a great way to introduce people to my services.
What have you found to be most effective in securing new clients to sign up for your services?
Word of mouth referrals and Facebook are fairly much on a level for me at the moment. After that my website is also a source of new clients. Making myself available to have a quick chat to people over the phone first is always good so I can address any questions or fears they may have.
What do you do to keep your existing clients engaged in the long term?
I have a monthly newsletter with all the latest news and offerings as well as health articles. I also encourage them to join my Facebook page. I’m probably a little different to typical businesses as my aim is to get people well and empower them with knowledge so they become more confident in their choices rather than dependent on me. If people are continually dependent on me then I’m not doing my job well enough. On the other hand, if once they’re well they come back for workshops to expand their knowledge then that tells me I’m making a positive difference.
As your own boss, what is your best strategy for staying focused and productive during your workday?
Turn off your email alerts so you’re not constantly distracted! I also try to stick to a schedule of what I want to achieve for that day and work through a written list. There’s something very satisfying about ticking things off a list, it’s a positive way of creating momentum. Do the hardest thing on your list first – once you’ve done that everything else seems easy in comparison and you’ll feel a sense of achievement early on in your day.
If you could start your business over again from the beginning, what would you do differently?
If I had known just how valuable the right business coach can be I wouldn’t have waited over a year to find one. Having an outside perspective on you and your business is an amazing asset, not to mention the insights I gained into marketing and structuring my business offerings.
What were some of the first mistakes you made that you would tell a new holistic entrepreneur to avoid?
Don’t try to do it alone, no matter how smart you are. Get help with your weak areas whether it’s a bookkeeper to free up some time on paperwork or a cleaner to take care of the housework so you can focus your energies on where they are most needed and profitable.
What are the top three business tools or resources you couldn’t live without?
Firstly a good business coach. Then the right software for your business – for me that meant clinic software and accounting software. I actually found two that integrated with each other and cut my paperwork time down to an absolute fraction of what it was. Lastly Facebook, it has helped me grow my business tremendously and without it I wouldn’t have survived.
What has been your most effective method for growing your business?
Again, Facebook. Relationship marketing is priceless for service based businesses. Let people see who you truly are and the ones who identify with your message and personality will feel they know you before they even walk in the door.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever for done for your business?
As a die-hard introvert that dislikes crowds I have to say it was booking a conference room at a local function centre and holding my first public event, let alone charging for tickets. I stood there trembling like a leaf and nearly passed out from fear, by the end of the night I was drenched in sweat (not very attractive I know) yet no-one noticed and I had nearly half the room book consultations with me over the next few months. I can’t say I’ll ever find it comfortable, but it does get easier and is worth it to grow your business.
What is your favorite indulgence?
Chocolate, 85% cacao on a daily basis. Bet you weren’t expecting that!
Most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
I can’t say I actually swallowed it, but when I was twelve I travelled to China with my gymnastics team and one night at dinner we were presented with 100-day-old eggs. They were dark green! We were told by our coach it was an insult not to eat them, but mine may have found its way back into the napkin rather than my stomach.
Most memorable place you’ve ever visited?
I can’t pick one, I’ve been very lucky to have seen some amazing places. But my favourite is the South Island of New Zealand, those mountains have extraordinary spiritual energy in them. The first time I travelled there I was so emotionally broken and it was transforming to be amongst such raw, wild beauty. I’ll never forget that healing gift it gave me.
Last book you read?
Your Personal Paleo Diet, by Chris Kresser. I admire his work tremendously.
If you could only have one kind of food for the rest of your life, it would be…
That would have to be dark, organic chocolate. You can’t get sick of good chocolate I’m sure. I should have been a chocolatier perhaps.
What is your go-to breakfast?
In winter – two poached eggs on mashed avocado with a good sprinkle of Himalayan salt. Packed with protein, good fat (the cholesterol issue is a myth), and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
In summer – goat’s yoghurt with fresh strawberries, passion fruit, flaxmeal and chia seeds.
What do you find most fascinating about the human body?
Its ability to always work towards health, such an extraordinarily complex system yet what it wants is so very simple. You really just have to give it the right conditions to allow it to do its job.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
At the end of the day it comes back to creating a business that not only fuels my desire to create my own future, but also creates a positive ripple in the world by healing others and watching them thrive. I get to steer the course of my business in the direction I choose and don’t have to compromise my vision or ethics for anyone, that’s liberating.
Melissa Rolfe is a Naturopath, Nutritionist & Herbalist based out of Melbourne, Australia. You can find out more about her and her practice, Elixir Natural Medicine, by visiting https://www.facebook.com/ElixirNaturalMedicine/