Did you know that I created my own business based helping others to understand how they can also start to heal eczema and allergies from the inside out, as well as supporting New Zealanders to raise their families on real food (and the industry that allows this happen)? Yes, this is my actual job and I love it! If you didn't realise, it turns out you're not the only one and I totally get it - unlike many entrepreneurs or business owners who came up with the business concept first and then created the social media strategy second, I did it the other way around. Like my preference in food, it's all been very organic.
I am a Holistic Health Coach and a Real Food Advocate. Given two contrasting comments I received last week which I've shared below, I thought it's probably time, only a couple of years after the fact, to explain a little more about my background and how I have come to birth a business revolved around some concepts that clearly mean a lot to me. In a nutshell: * I have a daughter who was diagnosed with eczema, failure to thrive and multiple food allergies as an infant. The second she is born my previous hard-earned career in marketing and management stops having any appeal whatsoever (2011). * After reading solidly for six weeks, I decide to use real food and natural health principles to help support her body to resolve them. Not everybody sees this as the action of a normal and sane person because, science. * I create a Facebook group to share as it appeared to be working. I spend an embarrassingly large amount of hours in them trying to help others. I get a reputation as an efficient but slightly scary admin. However my approach is no longer considered quite so insane, and in fact, it seems far more logical than just putting more creams on top and it begins to grow (2012-now) * I studied Holistic Health Coaching to be able to help even more people (2013).
* I create another Facebook group because apparently I really enjoy creating groups. This one is all about real food, and working together to grow the segment from the ground up (2014-now). * I start a business. I am really proud of what I am but I am very, very, very slow in promoting it. I spend more time talking about the brands that I like and putting together recipes and food inspiration (2015-now). * I spend a lot of time working on my blog/website. Designing, redesigning. Waiting a few weeks, redesigning all over again. My logo has gone through at least 10 different formats. Finally I feel ready to officially "launch" my heart led enterprise (today). So, you can stop reading now if you wish, but if you want to learn more about my journey and get to know me a little better, read on!
So here goes. When my 5 month old daughter was diagnosed with allergies and eczema in 2011, I began a massive journey. I really had no idea it would change our lives in the way that it has.
(Awesome photo, right? My skin was terrible but hey, I had just fulfilled my life long dream of becoming a mum albeit after a hugely traumatic birth so I was happy, hormonal and exhausted). It turns out that journey wasn't just our own. It's one I've shared with thousands of people since creating my first Facebook community in 2012 based around healing allergies and eczema naturally - not because I had to but for all children and parents facing something similar. To give them hope. To change the way we are all looking at allergies and eczema. To shake the world and plead with them to put down the steroid cream and start thinking about what is actually happening. Or perhaps it's all just been a handy distraction from the work I need to do on myself. It's actually been many things and I'm honest enough to admit that.
Since starting the group and seeing the huge need and demand out there for the type of information I have to offer, I helped thousands of total strangers for nothing in return. I've received countless notes of gratitude and thanks and and it's been my honour. It has also even been a part of my investment into my own education, but even though there was no exchange of money for a very long time, there has always been a cost.
The cost was ours. Mine. My husband's. Sometimes even our daughter's. The cost was time and money. It cost relationships (it turns out not everyone will be happy for you when you follow your heart) and other things. It was a huge commitment on almost a daily basis.
While I was in full on gut healing mode with my girl, my husband was pursuing his dream which meant taking on vast responsibility by opening his own holistic physiotherapy clinic, Back to Life Wellness in North Auckland. His work has been our main source of income while I contributed pretty much nothing financially, despite "working" several hours a day for many years. He started his clinic from scratch which small business owners will understand the sheer amount of work involved. While we weren't on the poverty line thanks to his very long hours and amazing skills, we didn't have a lot to spare for anything other than the basics. Most of our furniture is still hand me downs from older family members and while it's not a priority for us to have the latest and most modern vehicle, technology or furnishings, it would have been really handy to have been compensated in some way at some point.
For me, it was all about doing things at the right time, rather than forcing them. First I knew I had the actual life experience and understanding to the point I seemed to be able to converse quite happily with medical professionals (the best feeling is presenting gut healing to a panel of GPs - who are genuinely interested and asking YOU questions), but I was missing out on something formal - so I chose to pursue integrative nutrition coaching through IIN to get clear about how I could do this for a living before I shouted it from the rooftops.
I've worked hard for my knowledge. After my daughter received her allergy diagnosis around six months of age, every time she slept, I sat on the computer and spent every second reading and researching and learning, and making food. I haven't watched TV since that time in any real way so I'm pretty much still stuck in the popular culture of 2012 - it's almost like the outside world has stood still for me, while I've been immersed in this one. I was dedicated to the cause, to figuring out what I would do and how I would do it. Trying things. Making errors. Trying again. Throwing meals away. Crying when something worked. Crying when it didn't. Shaking my fist at a world that felt upside down and back to front. Most people seemed totally oblivious to questioning what was happening, they still just wanted to know what magic pill or cream to take. I felt intuitively like I was on the right path, but I also felt quite alone. Around one year after our gut healing journey commenced, my daughter got her second RAST results back and they were good. Really good in a way that apparently doesn't happen very often. However a curious thing happened. Some of the people I had assumed would be cheering us on - other mums of children with allergies especially - weren't and instead they were strangely distant. Perhaps my enthusiasm for our good news was not what they needed to hear although I suspect it was more a case of one person stirring - but it still stung. Back then I was a member of a (now defunct) allergy support group run by Allergy NZ but any talk of gut healing felt censored due to being 'irresponsible', so I decided to start my own space where it could be discussed and embraced. The Healing Tribe was born. The idea was to share information and education with each other to provide hope and support to collectively grow this new movement from the ground up. And I led by sharing our story. Very early on, I knew it wasn't 'just another' Facebook group, it was a movement and like most of my best ideas, it started with a flash of inspiration which just felt right and almost begged not to be questioned too deeply. I was on a journey and the first step had now been taken.
As the group progressed, I was genuinely surprised at the positive comments our story got. In real life, I got more curious looks and "poor you" comments than anything else but online, people were congratulating me, and asking me more and more questions about our story and for my input into theirs. And I gave up pretty much every single evening to answer them. My profile grew because people trusted what I said - perhaps because I had no visible interest in taking anything from them in return. I stayed up until 1am some mornings answering, reading, creating long detailed responses. My daughter would go to sleep quite early in those days and my husband worked long hours. I'd do the dishes, put the broth on and then start my work until around 11pm when my daughter would first wake for the night and then I'd furiously type on my phone while feeding her back to sleep. I was freely sharing my knowledge, my advice and my time. Not everyone liked what I had to say, but issues were pretty rare. More and more people were becoming interested and the questions were coming thick and fast. People were beginning to repeat my words in their responses to others. I created a pinned post to try direct members to the most helpful basics without having to repeat myself over and over. I decided to study holistic health coaching so that I could help people on a more intensive level, and when I completed my study I softly launched my business and convinced myself it wasn't about the money. And it wasn't. It still isn't.
I barely promoted it. The clients that booked me approached me directly every single time. At first it wasn't many. I still probably don't see as many clients as other coaches because the communities still take up so much time. I also really like the advocacy and blogging side as well - I have a passion for writing it seems. If I think long and hard enough, I always have. I just didn't think I could do anything with it as I'd never gotten that formal qualification and now I know that doesn't necessarily matter because we all can connect to hearing real stories from real people. In 2015, I decided to start a second community. Real Food in New Zealand was all about growing the real food segment from the ground up, collectively. I'd always wanted a job working with food (as every foodie does of course), and now indirectly I have created this and it's awesome and still in development.
It took me a perhaps abnormal amount of time to convince myself I am totally cool with having a business. No-one told me how hard it would be when you have to contemplating transitioning your heart-centered work to something you may have to charge for. But a business isn't really a business when you're making nothing but working your guts out. That's a hobby and while hobbies are awesome, they only go so far, and it also really restricts the amount of people who you can help. I have been called very nice things sometimes. Kind, selfless, generous. Sounds lovely (don't worry I've also been called not nice things too) but we are all flawed - these are parts of me I am proud of, but they are not all of me. I am far from perfect.
I now realise that I am worth investing in, and this means I have to invest in myself as well. I could not keep giving so much of myself at our expense - it wasn't fair to myself or my family. We all pay to consult other people who have the wisdom and knowledge to help us when we don't have the skills ourselves, right?
The reality is that I truly believe I have earned my stripes and then some. For others to value what I do, I've learned I have to value it as well and that means putting a value on my time, my knowledge, my experience, my resources, my results. On me.
Like any business, I want to be successful. I want to sell my services and products, I want to help my husband out with our family finances, and give my daughter more experiences. She was the one who actually had the eczema and the allergies and is the one who went on the journey when she was too young to have an opinion of her own. But I have more on my mind than just sales or status. I care deeply about my chosen passions and I really feel like I have paid my dues in showing that it's very important. Malcolm Gladwell in his 'Outliers - The Story of Success' book, claims that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, involves to a large extent, practicing your skill for around 10,000 hours. I'm pretty sure I am almost there.
In Japan, there is a concept called Ikigai (生き甲斐) which means a reason for being. It is believed everyone has an ikigai and is often used to describe "a devotion that we have to something that we find fascinating, to the extent that we may become quite obsessed or even consumed by it... Regardless of the blood, sweat and tears that are shed to put the work in, we tend to stay loyal to our ikigai and weather all storms that attempt to keep us from it once we have evoked and embraced it."
It really has felt like I have found my Ikigai. I mean, how did I NOT write the below?
"The basis of an ikigai is that it is immensely pleasurable and that it not only benefits and enriches our own life, but that it also enhances other people’s lives too. It is about finding value in something that we love doing while mastering and developing talents and skills to ensure that it is sustainable... Since starting to write and share my experiences, I have been amazed and somewhat bewildered to hear that my words often reach people on all corners of the planet who have also battled through very similar situations to the ones that I experienced. Sharing my ikigai and finding other people who resonate with it empowers, motivates and inspires me further to continue with this impulsive need to further explore and expose the shadows that accompany me as well as of humanity... I do, however, strongly believe that when we are fully ready, our ikigai will dramatically reveal itself and call us to action in a way that we cannot fail to take notice. When this happens we will find it almost impossible to resist the urge to faithfully follow wherever our heart is leading us to....." Holy shit.
I find joy in my work. Anyone who knows me, knows that if you bring up any of the topics of allergies, eczema, natural health and real food around me, I have no shortage of things to say. I spark up, my eyes become alive, I am more animated. I've found my passion. And I'm really good at it and what I know, I know well. But it can also get very overwhelming when getting asked questions and advice all the time and at times life has been very one-dimensional.
I've learned my time, my knowledge and my offering is valuable. If I don't value it, others won't and it easily can get lost in the noise. I've learned it's important to put boundaries around how much I can give, because otherwise there is a huge energetic and physical imbalance which does not serve me, and ultimately also anyone close to me. My own family deserves me too, and I deserve the time to focus on myself and my own healing journey. I've learned it will never be about the money, but that money is a symbol of value and intent. It's an investment into our commitment. My mother has always told me that if something comes to you too easily, you don't really value it as much and I think that is true. I've learned that sometimes your ideas and thoughts will change and that's called evolving, and you have to go with what feels best and right and in your own highest good. I've learned sometimes people are so grateful for what you do and in the absence of having anything to buy from you but still having benefited from what you share, they will message you and ask if they can help in some way. And you say thanks but no thanks, even when you desperately could have used that help because you felt like being noble was more important. And sometimes you regretted being noble. I've learned when people aren't kind to you or happy for you, it's more a reflection of them and where they sit with their own challenges rather than of you. That one was hard.
So what does this post mean for anyone reading it? Nothing, necessarily. I have amassed four years of advice, information and links that I hold in my groups and on my website. Those will always be freely available without a single cent needed to access and read. My contributions going forward however will become more focused and sustainable. I'll mention by business and it's activities from time to time in my spaces for those who I feel may benefit from it, and I'll aim to do that proudly and respectfully. Many people are no longer in a position to even need to contemplate paying for my help, because they've gotten what they needed already from the last four years. And that is cool. Awesome you're now just here for the ride. I'm so so so glad I've been able to help so many. It's more than what most of us could say, and I learned from you all as well. And I hope you'll share what you learned with others and let them know about my business if the time calls for it too. There are those who may need my help in the future. And to those who were around for the first few years and wonder if I'm now selling out, please know I'm not. We are just a regular family. Our goals don't really stretch further to aspiring to do something we love to do, put real food on our table, petrol in our car, power for our home and anything left gets put towards our health and the occasional happiness. You see, we've been trying for four years to make a sibling for our wee girl and with myself having a thyroid autoimmune condition, it's not been easy - despite everything I know about health - and we've spent any spare cent we had the last few years across a range of modalities to help make this happen, and more time and investment is needed.
My business isn't for everyone. People who don't believe in paying for my kind of service may never believe in it and that's okay - those people are not my target market. I know I provide a valuable service and I'm only wanting to work with those who recognise the value and are willing to do their side of the work as well. In my advocacy work, I'm hoping to work with businesses to collaborate and connect consumers to the brands, products and services I believe in. In my blogging work, I want to share inspiration, recipes and practical information. I want to help kiwis become proudly #raisedonrealfood. I want to write and connect. In my coaching work, I want to work with individuals who want to commit to the gut healing/natural health journey but could very much do with some extra guidance and support. I do this via SKYPE and email consults, and I seen clients from across the world. There is no pushiness, guilt trips or demands to buy my services. I am confident my heart and head are in the right place and that the right person and brands will be motivated to connect with me. I'd been so bloody subtle not many people even realise I even had a business. Do I plan on becoming a spamming machine? Well no, given my open criticism when some seem to treat their communities as mere databases that would not be a great move - it's important for me to go about my work in a way that is transparent and open. All the work I did in the last four years taught me so much. It's just that there is only so much time in a day and there is only so much to give.
It really has been the most amazing of rides so far. And it goes to show, if you ever get a random thought one morning and that thought is too compelling to drop, follow it. You never know where it will take you. M xx