Ever wondered what’s involved in the transition from being a university student to a business owner in the field of naturopathy and nutrition?
Join us as we chat with Naomi Read, who unveils the challenges she faced setting up her own business after graduating. She brings us face-to-face with the complexity of learning the science and art of herbs and how the journey from academic knowledge to practical business skills is intricate.
Navigating mentorship and professional development opportunities is crucial to any career transition. Naomi and I delve into the importance of a strong support system, mentors, and post-graduation educational opportunities like seminars and conferences.
We highlight the necessity of maintaining professional boundaries when gathering information from commercial interests and highlight how joining associations can provide diverse perspectives that aid in professional development.
Naomi talks shares the emotional roller coaster she experienced while starting her nutrition business. In particular, the lack of guidance for new graduates inspired her to create an e-book titled “Starting a Business as a New Grad” and an Instagram page @thebowloflemons, serving as resources for those striking out on their own in this field.
Join us on this insightful episode and get inspired by Naomi’s determination and success story.
Naomi Read is a clinical nutritionist who studied a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Naturopathic Medicine.
She is the founder of The Bowl of Lemons and loves to promote living a balanced lifestyle and eating whole foods. She has a special interest in gut health, mental health, fatigue, stress, immune health and more.
Since a young age, Naomi has been obsessed with all things food related. She is passionate about helping people to achieve their goals through nutritional intervention with a balanced, realistic approach.
Connect with Naomi:
Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs,” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Today, we are chatting with Naomi Read, and we’re gonna be discussing the transition from uni to business. Welcome to “Wellness by Designs,” Naomi. How are you?
Naomi: Thank you, Andrew. I’m well. How are you?
Andrew: Really good, thank you. Now, firstly, I think we have to go back into history. What drew you to study naturopathy? And how did you choose where to study?
Naomi: Well, I actually started off, from the very beginning, I actually started doing a fitness certificate at TAFE, and once I’d finished that, I realized that I didn’t actually wanna do fitness, I wanted to do nutrition, because I was always very passionate about food and cooking, and I wanted to understand the deep roots about how food…the chemistry of it. So, I looked up online and saw where I could study nutrition, and I found one that was on the Gold Coast. So, I studied there and did my nutrition degree. I completed my nutrition degree, in halfway through 2021, and then, just before I finished, though, I realized I want to become a naturopath. I need to learn the herbs. The herbs are what I actually need. I’m so interested in gut health, and I love how the gut works and all the intertwining of it, and I just couldn’t get there with nutrition. So, then I decided, well, I’m gonna do naturopathy, and I actually changed universities, and now I am about to complete my naturopathy degree. And yes, it’s been one big, wild ride, and I’ve been at university for almost six years now, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Andrew: Professional student.
Naomi: Pretty much.
Andrew: I’ve gotta agree with you about the herbs. If I was restricted to just nutrition, and please, I’m not denigrating nutritionists, but it’s kinda like once you’ve got a taste of it, then you get it taken away, I couldn’t practice. Like, the beautiful complexity, and the balance that herbs bring into practice, is amazing. Of course, then you’ve got that challenge of learning the science, and then the art, of course, haven’t you?
Naomi: Yeah. Definitely. So, it’s one thing going from, I’ve got nutrition and I’ve got all these nutrients, and somebody’s deficient in this, so I give them this nutrient, going to herbs, where it’s, like, you’ve got…I’ve got 50 different herbs that could all have similar actions, and now I’ve gotta pick which herb is right for this person and what’s going on with them, with their signs, their symptoms, their constitution, who they are, where they live. It’s so much more complex than what I ever thought it was gonna be, but I’m absolutely loving it.
Andrew: Yep. And I have to ask, when you use a herb nutritionally, let’s say, for instance, turmeric, and then you use a herb herbally, as in a turmeric fluid extract, or indeed curcumin, do you find there’s vast differences from what you learned with nutrition to what you learned in herbal medicine?
Naomi: Very different, and a lot more emphasis on the contraindications, and how it could really contradict from a fluid extract compared to just as a food. Because I feel like the fluid extract can be so much more powerful than just having, oh, sprinkle some turmeric powder into a curry and it’ll have a therapeutic benefit, or…that way. Yeah.
Andrew: Mind you, can. Like, I mean, turmeric is something, when you do a stir fry, you just add, stir, add, stir, add, stir, and it gets this almost caramelized sort of look. A little bit earthy to the taste. You need some other balancing herbs if you’re gonna do a lovely stir fry, but wow, you can add a lot. So, I don’t take away from the nutritionist using these sort of culinary herbs as medicine, but I just think the complexity unfolds when you use herbs and you start to blend herbs, and learn about, as you very importantly says, a patient’s constitution. That’s really interesting.
So, let’s delve a little bit further into the actual, sort of, what you learnt in the course, because we’re gonna be talking about the transition of learning to actual business. So, what did you learn about business? Did you learn enough about starting a business during your courses?
Naomi: So, we only do one subject, one business subject, in the whole… Well, nutrition was a 3-year degree, and now it’s been a year and a half in naturopathy. We only got one subject, which, from going from learning one subject into starting my own business was just mind-blowing. You learn the most minute, tiniest little bit compared to what a business is. Like, it’s this huge, complex thing that nobody tells you about, and nobody tells you the ins and outs and the little tricks of the trade, and what you actually need to know, or getting an accountant, or having your accounting software even, and what you need for tax time. Like, that is such a big part of it. It’s huge. And you can really come unstuck if you don’t have that. So, I think that, yes, it was useful foundations for starting a business, but I don’t think it was in-depth enough to actually what a business entails and what we need to know to how to start a business.
Andrew: You know, this is ubiquitous across all health professionals. Doctors complain about not knowing how to start a general practice. Pharmacists complain about not knowing how to enter pharmacy and be competent in the retail world. And indeed, crossing that bridge between retail and professional dispensing is an interesting one, because, you know, the costs have been cut so much for pharmacists that they’re having to rely on front shop to actually see them through, which is a really interesting conundrum. But, given that everybody has to look further, I think it’s almost a travesty, because you and I were discussing this, in that one subject, I can still remember that our whole class complained, complained about the actual content of the course. It was thrown together. And there was no real competencies in the real world, as measures.
So, I actually urge any and all naturopathic colleges to at least invite a guest lecturer from marketing, from business development, something like that to come in and at least give a talk about what it’s like in the real world. I think that would be so much… Forgive me for diatribing a bit. I’ve met a couple of naturopaths who actually came from marketing prior, and boy, were they well-set-up. It’s amazing conversations.
Naomi: And that’s what I feel as well. I feel like it was useful. Like, we had an assignment about a business plan. And yes, a business plan, you need it. Yes, it is useful. But, in the world of today, where most of my generation, we use a lot of social media… Social media is huge for us. It’s one of the best marketing tools that you can use, but we’re not learn how to market. How are you supposed to market yourself and your business? How are you supposed to put yourself on the line? If you’re not a comfortable and competent person within who you are, who’s gonna teach you how to put yourself out there, and go, “Hey, I know how to do this. I’ve done this degree. Come and see me?” But if you’re not confident, then you’re not gonna be able to put that into practice, and you might even have to do a business degree or a mini course, just to be able to get those foundations for you to put yourself on the line.
Andrew: Yeah. And again, you know, across the various medical or paramedical professions, we see pharmacies advertising online. We see surgeons advertising for their specialty. So, it’s not like we have to do it but nobody else does. Everybody else only has to have word of mouth. Everybody’s finding it. Lawyers are now finding that they’re having to spruik their kind of business approach. So, you know, it’s media, is really a way of grabbing attention, for all of us, yeah. So, what about clinical knowledge, though? Did you feel that you were prepared after graduating to enter the clinical world?
Naomi: Yes and no. There was the sense of I was ready and I was so excited, and I was ready to take that leap and do it, but then once you start having a client and once you start delving into it, it’s that sense of, “Oh, wait. I’ve just gone from being in a classroom, where I can have a conversation about a case with everyone and we can all debunk it, or I can ask my supervisor, to now, I’m in my clinic, alone, and researching all on my own without anyone else.” So, that was a huge adjustment and a very big learning curve, and helped me to really understand, all right, you’re on your own. You’re ready to do this. You’ve gotta put yourself out to know where you’ve gotta get information. And they do really try to help you to get that. Especially, the supervisors are there. They’re trying to help you know how to be on your own when you finish, and it’s so helpful. If they weren’t there supporting you and helping you on your journey, and helping you to get ready to be on your own, they tell you about it, but you’re like, “Oh, I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.” And then you get out in the real world and you’re like, “Whoa. Okay, I should have maybe listened a little bit more. I really did need the help, and now I’m very grateful for the tools that they have given me to set myself up in my own practice.”
Andrew: You know, it’s really interesting that the… I think students of today, really, and I’m going to concentrate on the natural medicine professions, we really need to take and to hold, with such reverence, the responsibility of patient care that we have. That responsibility that those patients go home and are at least in discomfort and sometimes in absolute agony, very often not being helped by other models, and therefore seeking us out. And so, that real reverence of that responsibility that we have, I think that’s not drummed into us enough. Would you agree?
Naomi: Definitely. And I also think that when you first get into student clinic, you’re so nervous about taking your first case, and you think, “Oh, I’m nervous. I’m freaking out. It’s all about me.” But actually, no. What are we doing? We’re patient-centred care. It’s about our patients, our clients. We’re there for them. This has nothing to do with us. But you’re so wound up in that first sense of getting a client, when you first are in college. But then, yes, now it’s just, I’m here for my clients and my patients. I’m here to help them. All I ever want to do is help. And that is why we did this in the first place, isn’t it? This is why we’re in this industry, to help people.
Andrew: That’s exactly right. You know, a very wise lady, Amie Skilton, taught me, when she was preparing me for something totally different, but she said, “Center yourself by saying, ‘How can I best be of service?'” And that was the… I always remember how she… Whenever all this rubbish is going on in your life, and whenever we’re worried about, you know, our inferiority complexes and things like that, centre yourself by saying, “How can I best be of service to that person there, who is in real need?” So, yeah, take my hat off to you for bringing that point up. Can I ask, do you find that you were in contact and indeed relied on your cohort or other mentors in your early days?
Naomi: I definitely keep in contact with a few of the girls that I went to college with, and we all try to catch up often, even just to have that debunking of, “Oh, my god, I’ve had this,” or, “This has happened to me in business. Has it happened to you?” Just so then we can have that support within each other’s own…because we’re all on our own. None of us are working for anybody else. We have all started our own businesses. So, it’s been a great journey together, to have that support. But then, for me, I didn’t have any mentors when I first started out because, as you know, as a student, you’re quite on the budget. So, when I first finished university, I was like, “Oh, I’m just gonna slowly go through the moments on my own, and see where I can get until I build it up to a point where I can get a mentor and I can afford that and I’m in that position to do it.” But yeah, I think making sure that you make friends within uni that you can really rely on out of university and have that help and that support… Because we’re all going through it together. So, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. And what about further education? So, you know, this has been… For me, it’s a double-edged sword. I’ve found them invaluable, but I am very thankful for my prior knowledge, to be able to keep a professional distance of commercial interference, if you like, because a lot of the seminars are given by commercial interests, conferences and things like that. And the ones that aren’t are the ones that cost way more, you know, which obviously, as a new, fledgling practitioner, they’re the ones that are very often out of reach. So, what did you find was the usefulness, and how did you navigate that professional distance to keep?
Naomi: So, I actually, last year, went to the NHAA seminar, down in Sydney, and that was the first time that I actually put myself on the line. I went down by myself. It was a solo trip, and I booked a hotel, went on my own. I thought, “This is gonna be a great introduction for me into the naturopathic industry,” because I felt like I’d just been very on the nutrition side for so long, I really wanted to see what the naturopathy, our community, was bringing. So, I went to the seminar, and that’s where I met Designs for Health and all the other companies. And I saw many speakers that really inspired my passion for herbs and helping people, and it made me realize that I’m in such a supported industry. We’re in this very niche market of helping people through herbal medicine, and it really inspired me to go, “Okay, this is what I wanna do. This is where I’m leading.” And I was so grateful for that. That was the first time that I went, “I can’t wait to go to more seminars. I can’t wait to go to more talks like this where you’re getting information from all different people.” It’s not just one mentor and one point of view. You’re having a lot of different point of views within our industry, and I think that was very important, so…
Andrew: Yeah. I take my hat off, actually, to what you said then, you know, that, by going to an association, in this case, the NHAA, the Naturopaths & Herbalist Association of Australia, you’ve got such broad support because there’s so many people. It’s not just herbalists that go there. It’s naturopaths and herbalists. So, you’ve got this broad mix of professions there, each sort of giving their piece into the puzzle. But I also take my hat off to those other associations. For instance, I know that ATMS do a lot of work with… They do heaps of seminars. And these are association-driven, not industry-driven, but sometimes can be supported by industry, sure. And forgive me for those associations that I haven’t mentioned. Those two just come to mind. acnem is another one, AIM [SP] is another one. So, there’s a lot. And they can all support you in a non-commercial way. Having said that, some of the cutting-edge information has been given, and delivered to practitioners by commercial interests. For instance, interleukins were introduced to our brethren by a commercial interest. You know, the use of certain mineral chelates, like magnesium bisglycinate or diglycinate, was introduced by a commercial interest. So, we have to sort of take what we can, and just have that professional boundary but openness. Would you agree with that?
Naomi: Definitely. And I think that comes into line with everything in our lives. You need the balance of it all, and we’re all intertwined to help each other in a way, one way or another. If you have this goal of money or if you have the goal of help, or whatever your drive is, I think we can all help each other in our own retrospects as well.
Andrew: Yeah. And particularly when you see companies put on these other professional seminar symposiums that aren’t driven commercially. They’re, you know, international speakers, often. Sometimes, obviously, we’ve got our own Australian experts, but… And they tend to be of a non-commercial nature. It’s just that, it’s a funny line. Like, I don’t have a problem with commerce. It really bugs me when commerce overrides patient health. That’s what gets my goat. But commerce in itself isn’t the enemy, as I said. I mean, that’s how we find out about these really cool things, you know? Different extracts of ashwagandha that have particular aspects to their usage, and things like that.
So, Naomi, just a couple of last questions, and one is, you’re very young, I’m very old, but how do you cross that bridge? How do you approach that issue of ageism, versus, say, life experience with me?
Naomi: Well, I think…
Andrew: I’ve got life experience, not age.
Naomi: Yeah. Well, that’s it. And I think that even in the setting of… In our industry, there’s very, very young, straight out of high school, and then there’s very…who’s been in the industry for 40, 50 years, who has seen the whole aspects of where it has led from years and years ago till today. And I think that we all have our role within this industry. I feel like we’re all are helping on one way or another. Like, I find all my clients and the people that are drawn to me are my age and similar within my age, because they trust me and they know maybe world experience that I’ve been going through and what we’ve grown up with and how we are in this industry compared to, say, if you had a client my age, you might not understand the struggles that we are going through now, or things that might have happened when we were younger or… And I think that’s very important, to understand that we do all have our role within this.
Andrew: Yeah. And so, you’re obviously, you know, you’re a qualified nutritionist. You’re gonna be finishing in naturopathy. So, in your first year in business as a nutritionist, can you take us through some of the hurdles that you’ve faced? Some of the, “Oh, my god, I can’t do this”? And then how you surmounted them.
Naomi: Wow, there were so many. Even just from starting it. Even just pushing through and going, “I am going to start a business,” I think that was the hardest part. I went, “I’m gonna do this. I’m quite young. I don’t have the experience. I don’t know what I’m doing. I haven’t come from a business background, but I’m going to do it, and I’m gonna see where it takes me.” So, I decided this when I was about to finish my nutrition degree, and I was reading business books, and watching online webinars and YouTube, and looking at all the things, the business websites on the government, and, like, everything that I possibly could to get all the information, because we weren’t given a step-by-step handbook. And that’s how I actually started. I actually made an eBook for me and all my fellow practitioners and students, because we didn’t have a reference. We didn’t have a guide to tell us, “Okay, so, if I wanna start a business, what’s the very first step that I do to create my own business?”
So, I actually made a mini eBook to help us all understand from the get-go, from the start, all the way up until when you might be a year or two down the track and all the things that you might need then, like coming up to having your… For us, I learned how to do compounding. So, making a compounding studio for instance, and where to source all the products, and where to get the jars even, or understand, like, that side of things. So, yes, the first year of business was a very big rollercoaster. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but, so many emotions, so many highs and lows, so much things that people can’t tell you or get you ready for. But, yeah, it was beautiful, it was wonderful, and I’m so glad I made the leap.
Andrew: Well, it’s interesting. You know, like, I’ve made that leap in the last few years, after being made redundant, and, I mean, scary as hell, but I would find it very hard to go back to being solely an employee. I am an employee in one capacity of my work, not this, but I would find it very hard to go back to 100% being an employee and leaving what I do as a freelance podcaster behind. And so, I wouldn’t change that for the world. But I take your point about highs and lows. Like, oh, my god, the things that I thought that I could do, and there’s no way I can. Like, it’s just, there’s so many aspects, aren’t there?
Naomi: Yeah, so many. And even just from the sense of, like, money is a huge stressor, and I feel like everybody understands that, even in the current time, with all the housing crises and everything happening at the moment, that’s one huge stress, but also, when you take that away, if money wasn’t even a thing, what would you be doing? And it’s like, you’ve got dreams and goals and aspirations and you’ve just gotta hold onto that and go, “I’m gonna make it.” And the things… Like, I have very big dreams and things I eventually wanna do, but that’s why we do it, isn’t it? Because one day, you will get there.
Andrew: So, this is something against ageism, because they are extremely wise words, young lady. Thank you so much. I’ll take them on board. Naomi, one last question. Where can we find out more? Now, you’ve written that eBook. You need to tell us about this. This is really important.
Naomi: Yes. So, I wrote an eBook. It’s on my website for download, and it’s called “Starting a Business as a New Grad.” I wrote it because all my other fellow students were coming up to me and they were going, “Oh, where are you getting all this information? How are you understanding this? You should write a book.” So I did. I was like, “I’m just gonna pop all this information into a mini eBook for all my fellow students and for the people that I have on Instagram, to help them have a step-by-step guide within our profession. Because I feel like, yes, there’s some little checklists or things that you find from other practitioners that have tried to help, but there wasn’t a specific step-by-step individual guide to understand exactly what we need to do.
So, yes, I wrote this eBook to help my fellow students because we all know what it’s like to be in uni and then finish and then have all this whirlwind of, you’ve just finished this crazy big degree and now you’re like, “Oh, my god, I’m on my own. What do I do? How do I go about this?” It’s, like, the high energy. So, yeah, I just really wanted to help my fellow students because I understand how hard it is. So, yeah, I wrote that. And then, you can also find me on my business Instagram, which is @thebowloflemons. And my website is thebowloflemons.com.au.
Andrew: I’m glad you mentioned it. I was gonna hassle you and say, “Well, hang on. Which website?” Now, you have to take us through though. The Bowl of Lemons. Tell us about this. How did that come about?
Naomi: Yeah, so The Bowl of Lemons actually began before I even started my degree. My best friend, she is a Pilates instructor, and she had just started her Pilates Instagram, and I was going, “Oh, well, I’ve been in my health and nutrition and fitness, and I’ve been loving this space for ages. Maybe I’ll make an account.” And we were sitting in the car one day and I was like, “Oh.” We were just rambling off different names, and I said, “Life gives you lemons. Life gives you lemons.” And she goes, “The bowl of lemons.” She goes, “You always have a bowl of lemons on your counter.” And I was like, “The Bowl of Lemons.” And it just stuck. And I wouldn’t change it for the world now. The Bowl of Lemons is a part of me. It’s like my child. I’m never gonna get rid of that name. I love it so much.
Andrew: I think it’s fantastic, because it actually means something, you know, like to a patient. You know, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Here’s the lemonade.” You know? So it actually means something about their health journey, about changing into something positive. Well done, you, I’ve gotta say.
Naomi: Yeah. Thank you.
Andrew: Naomi, we’re obviously gonna hear more from you. Obviously, as you say, you’ve got big aspirations, but I can see you, with your positive outlook on life, but also your experience that you’ve gained so far, and how you’re sharing things for others. You got it. You’ve got it. You’re just on your journey. Well done to you.
Naomi: Thank you so much, Andrew, and thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to be on the podcast.
Andrew: Our pleasure. And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. You’re gonna find the show notes and the links to Naomi’s Bowl of Lemons on the Designs for Health website, as well as the other podcasts. This is “Wellness by Designs.” I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook.