How to start a successful wellness business, according to entrepreneurs

It’s now socially acceptable to wear workout leggings to brunch, and yoga studios and juice bars have become more common than your local fish-and-chip shop. Clearly, wellness has gone mainstream and considering the industry is now worth an estimated $6 trillion globally, it’s no surprise that businesses – both small and large – are jumping on the bandwagon.

“The wellness industry is certainly a popular place to play in at the moment,” says Brittany Bennett, founder of online health-and-fitness directory FITtopia. “We have big players like soft-drink and chocolate companies launching the likes of kombucha and sugar-free chocolates. All of this is helping to make wellness more mainstream,” she explains.

But it’s not just the heavy hitters cashing in on the rising wellness economy – by 2023, the number of health-therapy professionals in Australia is expected to grow by 20 per cent, and the number of nutritionists and physiotherapists will increase by 18 and 25 per cent, respectively, according the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Thanks to the combination of promising financial returns and greater health awareness, more and more people from all walks of life are starting to take the plunge and launch their own wellness business and, according to Bennett, money isn’t the only motivator.

“There are so many reasons for starting your own wellness business, but for many it’s a case of becoming burnt out from their corporate job, being inspired by a health issue they’ve struggled with or simply wanting to make a difference,” she says. The Westpac Small Business Report backs this claim, revealing that 34 per cent of small businesses are established for an owner-related reason.

Know your why

Australian accessories brand Real Active is one such business. For founder Carlie Victor, it was a struggle with her mental health that inspired her to leave a career in marketing and start her own business.

“I’ve always been passionate about health and wellness, and I’ve also struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager,” Victor says. “In 2016, my anxiety was at an all-time high and I began to dream of ways that I could make a living doing what I love. I always felt amazing when I bought new activewear but struggled to find accessories that were feminine and stylish, so I went on a mission to design and source unique drink bottles and sweat towels – and that’s how the idea for Real Active was born.”

Real Active has also become a way for Victor to help others struggling with depression and anxiety, with 10 per cent of company profits going straight to mental-health charities.

“My customers can feel pride when using their Real Active bottles or towels, knowing that they’re helping to support a worthy cause.”

Community matters

It’s not just a good-quality product or gap in the market that makes a wellness business stand out – community spirit is also essential. “The wellness industry is a highly competitive market space, so in order to succeed, you need to think about the ecosystem you’re operating in,” says Ganesh Chandrasekkar, general manager for SME Banking at Westpac. “It’s about understanding your customer, their values and how you can support them.”

According to the Westpac Small Business Report, two-thirds of small businesses engage with their community in some way, and around seven per cent are established primarily to achieve a social goal.

For physiotherapist Karn Ghosh, his desire to help disadvantaged Australians reach their wellbeing goals led to him founding health-coaching and meal-delivery service Kinela.

“I spent four months in regional NSW treating a large population of retirees and disenfranchised Indigenous people. The more I got to know my patients, the more I saw how they were struggling with obesity and the disease burden that comes with that. I also saw how they were growing frustrated with their inability to reach their healthcare goals.

The fact that they couldn’t do this because of their postcode didn’t sit well with me, so I looked at starting my own business as a way to solve this problem.”

Although Kinela first started as a healthy meal-delivery service, it has since evolved into an organisation that connects its customers with dietitians, occupational therapists and speech therapists.

“We’ve also designed programs tailored to specific diseases or disabilities, such as supporting people with Down syndrome as they move out of home with cooking classes, supermarket tours and nutrition literacy,” Gosh adds.

“At its heart, Kinela is about addressing a social-justice issue and we’ll keep working to democratise health care and advocate for people with a disability or chronic disease.”

Survival of the fittest

Although finding a cause you’re passionate about is a key step on the road to starting your own wellness business, there are many other factors that need to be considered. Here are the questions you need to ask before you take the leap:

Is your idea viable?

“One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting up a business is to base it on a single experience or anecdotal piece of information,” says Chandrasekkar. “Just because you like one type of product doesn’t mean everybody will buy it, so market research is essential.”

Is your product authentic?

“Understand your customers and provide real transparency in why you’re the best choice,” tips Chandrasekkar. Bennett agrees, adding that this feeds into your word of mouth, which can be a very powerful business tool.

Do you have support?

“Setting up a business is complex,” says Chandrasekkar. “Once you have a business idea that’s viable, consult with a small-business body or network of businesses that have experience in a similar industry.” An accountant or bookkeeper is crucial, but if you can’t employ a professional, invest in accounting software.

For more practical advice on how to stay in control of your business, check out Westpac Business Hub.