Interested in starting a nutrition business? Tzabia Siegel, The Food Coach, is a great successful example to learn from.
Tzabia Siegel, BAPhED, DHN, RNT is a registered nutritional therapist, life coach and functional nutrition diagnostician, which allows her to read blood and lab tests to personalize nutritional and lifestyle programs. Currently Tzabia, based in Toronto, provides nutrition seminars and programs to corporate clients such as CIBC, TD Bank, Foglers, Norton Rose, Deloitte, Chubb Insurance, Blakes, Miller Thomson, Salesforce, Ontario Power Authority, Kinross, and Barrick Gold and private nutrition coaching to clients in the Toronto area and virtually, as she puts it, to people on three continents. She is the author of Jump Off the Diet Treadmill: 12 Weeks on Your Way to Lifetime Weight Loss.
Tzabia started her nutrition business in 2003, working in clinic in Toronto's financial district for seven years and has been creating and presenting programs for corporate employees and organizations since 2005.
But how did she get to be a successful professional doing what she loves to do? This is Tzabia's success story – a story that provides plenty of tips for anyone who wants to grow their professional services business.
Starting Her Nutrition Business
Even as a teen, Tzabia was fascinated by the human body, how it functioned and how she felt when she ate particular foods and when she moved in different ways. She graduated from university with a degree in Physical Education with a specialty in fitness.
However, she discovered that there was little money to be made in teaching movement and started investigating, in her own words, "what I was interested in, what the world needed and what I could make money doing." This led to her training as a Holistic Nutritionist.
Tzabia was still searching for her "ideal work" though. "I knew there was something that I needed to add to the work I was doing in nutrition and movement to be satisfied that I was contributing to the world and to be financially successful," she says.
That ideal work turned out to be coaching. Coaching "was a natural for me as I had always loved asking people provocative questions. I was naturally curious about what made people tick, what they yearned for, what they are passionate about, what is going on in the deeper recesses of their mind. And it seemed to be a great fit with my prior training as there was an overweight/obesity epidemic and I knew that few people were talking about the real issues beyond food and exercise." So Tzabia trained to become a coach through Coaches Training Institute and Coachville.
Her expenses in the first year of her nutrition business were $8000.00. More than half of that went towards training and being coached. The rest went towards standard operating expenses of a home-based business with some directed towards advertising (mostly online) and web and graphic design.
Her first client was a fellow trainee that she met during her coach training. Other clients came through meeting her as a nutritional adviser or seeing her card at yoga studios.
The Reality of Running a Small Business
It took three years for Tzabia’s nutrition business to become self-supporting.
One-on-one coaching is Tzabia’s bread and butter at this point.
While she loves it, her longer term goal is to reach a larger market which means that speaking and audio/video courses will be a bigger part of her income as she grows the business. "Eventually," Tzabia says, "I will teach others how to coach. From a financial perspective my time will be more richly rewarded for coaching many at a time rather than just one."
Right now, most of her time is spent in one-on-one coaching and product/service development and marketing.
Tzabia generally works between 35 and 60 hours per week. Like most of us, she finds that the higher number of hours is way out of her balance zone.
"I can handle 45 hours per week. This leaves enough time to get my movement in, to get outside, to cook good meals, to hang out with my family, to relax on the weekends, and to occasionally indulge in mid-week time off – a treat that I find luxurious."
Besides work, Tzabia loves to hang out with her family and closest friends, read engaging fiction, and explore world music. She’s also a minor movie buff, a competitive scrabble player and a traveler (the more remote, the better). And of course, she spends time practicing yoga and dance. When she has more time and space, she will, she says, "get back to my art (collage) in a bigger way."
On the upside, Tzabia truly loves what she does and finds it intensely satisfying. She couldn't ask for more satisfying work than being "a part of another person’s transformation to a place of deeper self-respect, confidence, health, inner peace and capacity for self-care".
Startup Business Success Tips
- Focus on a money-making model - Tzabia discovered there was little money in teaching movement and searched for a service that would fill a need, be enjoyable and be financially viable. Teaching movement met the first two requirements but not the third, so she adjusted her business model. See Change Your Business Model and Watch Your Profits Soar! for more on how to develop a business model that makes you more money.
- Get the training/ skills you need - Coaching seemed to be a good idea as Tzabia realized she’d be good at it and that there would be a demand for nutritional coaching. She took the time and spent the money to get the training she needed to practice. As she says, "Develop professionally, personally and as a business person. Learn what your weaknesses in any of the above are and seek to get better in that area or hire someone to help you."
Marketing Professional Services
Tzabia's marketing of her nutritional coaching business developed as she developed professionally. She had to get enough experience as a weight loss coach to understand her target market, develop a model, find a brand... in short, to figure out how to best market her business.
"For the first two and a half years I was marketing myself as The Food Coach. I put my cards out in places, did some networking, some article writing, and had a newsletter. Eventually my marketing strategy shifted into a larger arena; I am focusing on bigger speaking engagements, audio/video podcasts, article and blog exposure, TV appearances and creating alliances."
From the very beginning, Tzabia knew that having a strong web presence would be a key marketing strategy for her. Here are 6 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Website too.
It took Tzabia nine months to birth her first website, with the help of her niece who is a part-time web designer. (If your own small business is not online, here's the first thing you have to do.) Tzabia describes her first website as a turning point - "It became a professional calling card, and a place that I could send people when they expressed any interest in my services but were not clear about what it is that I do."
Marketing Business Success Tips
- Make Web marketing a part of your marketing strategy from the very first - A website can be a real marketing asset, even if you provide professional services to mainly local clients. In addition to the website, Tzabia uses Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote her business.
- Turn your services into products - Tzabia realizes that providing services one-on-one has a built-in income ceiling. Even if you got all the clients, there are only so many hours in a day and realistically, only so much you can charge for your services before you price yourself out of the market. Tzabia's solution to this problem is to develop products and services that allow her to go beyond one-on-one teaching.
Plans for Future Business Success
With her brand established, Tzabia is well positioned to expand her nutrition business and reach a more global market. Part of her specific strategies to accomplish this involve writing e-booklets and developing video courses, while continuing to coach and seek out speaking engagements and media opportunities.
She would also like to get her pet project underway, developing movement salons where people can come to dance/move freely and learn to collaborate creatively, "a gift for both myself and anyone who chooses to participate."
And eventually, with her business "solidly established in virtual space", Tzabia plans to move back to the country, where she can host retreats and training while continuing to travel for group engagements.
Even when your business is already a success story, there are always more peaks to scale!