#58 Find Your Niche and Thrive: A Conversation with Sal the Nutritionist

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Ever wondered if you’re spreading yourself too thin? Or if you’re focusing on an area you’re actually passionate about?

Sal, an experienced clinical nutritionist from Melbourne shares her journey and insights into the world of nutrition, running a successful practice and the importance of being true to yourself. She offers valuable advice that every aspiring health practitioner MUST hear.

Key takeaways:

  • Find your passion and expertise.
  • Market your business to the right audience.
  • Be prepared to work hard.
  • Stay motivated and productive.

Transcript:

Ameeta
Hello, Sal, and welcome to the Simple Marketing Solutions podcast. I am really excited to have you here. It is something I’ve been wanting to get you on the show for quite a while.

Ameeta
I know that you’ve got a lot of expertise to share with us around nutrition and your drivers for becoming a clinical nutritionist, but before I spill all the beans, how about I have you introduce yourself to our audience?

Sal
Hi, Ameeta. Yeah, thanks for inviting me on your podcast. Yes, as you mentioned, I’m a clinical nutritionist and I graduated in 2015. I did a degree in nutritional medicine because I’ve started my business seven years ago now, not a cell and nutritionist, which you see behind me, but I was called feel well nutrition when I started.

Sal
And I’ve really just been doing my business on and off. I have to admit since then. And now I can actually, I have the ability now to do my business full time, which is great. So I can really focus on it.

Ameeta
Yeah. And that’s great to be able to have, you know, kept it going part time. Because I think that there are a lot of health practitioners out there that feel quite stressed because they think that they have to be in their business full time from day one.

Ameeta
And that can feel daunting for a number of reasons. You know, I’m sure that you would have experienced the fact that you don’t get away. So there’s the financial obligations outside of the business that pull you in different directions.

Ameeta
For you, having started up part time, do you feel that that was a good move?

Sal
I think so. Yeah. So I think when I started my business, I didn’t actually want to do it full time. Because I just couldn’t see myself sitting in my office on my own.

Sal
And, you know, just just working in my business and seeing clients. So, you know, it was also for financial reasons, yes, I thought, you know, I’ll just get a part time job.

Sal
But primarily, I wanted to run my business, say, two or three days a week. And, you know, it sounds great doing it full time now. And there are downsides to that, you know, it can get quite lonely.

Sal
And I’m the type of person where I do like to have people to talk to and bounce off ideas with. So it doesn’t suit me 100% to be sitting here on my own.

Ameeta
Yeah.

Sal
So yeah, I think, you know, as you mentioned, you don’t have that regular income coming in. So it really depends on your circumstances, I think. You know, I’m very lucky in that my husband works full time, and he’s the main owner.

Sal
But if you’re somebody who’s on your own, or you’re a single mom, or whatever position you’re in, you know, you obviously have to take that into consideration in, you know, bringing money in every week to pay the rent or the mortgage. So it’s really a personal thing.

Ameeta
Yeah, it definitely is personal. And, you know, when you mentioned, we were talking before we jumped on the call about the aspect of being lonely in clinical practice. And that’s a common theme that I see and hear with a lot of my clients when they’re, you know, working for themselves in their practice and seeing clients, and especially nowadays with the move of also being able to work from home, that sense of isolation has grown, I think.

Ameeta
For you, what has been one way that has worked for you to break that feeling of isolation?

Sal
Well, I have always attended network meetings, even before I started my business. I mean, I was crazy. I joined a women’s network meeting, and we all sat around a table in a little cafe, because I was that desperate to get out there and meet people.

Sal
And this was even before I started my business. I mean, how silly was I? I met some amazing women, and some of them are still my friends.

Ameeta
Yeah. And that’s great, isn’t it? That way of not only doing business with other women or other businesses, but just building some real solid friendships from it as well.

Sal
That’s right. Yeah. And most of them are small business owners, like myself. And we’re all in the same position. We’re still learning. We still need help with marketing. So we can bounce ideas off each other.

Sal
And then, of course, Covid hit. But I still did online networking. It’s not quite the same.

Ameeta
No.

Sal
And also, aside from that, if you’re not really into that, you can join, just set up a group with other natural health practitioners, which we’re just starting to do now in Melbourne, in the South and the Southeast.

Sal
So if you’re listening and you’re a pracke, whether you’re new or experienced, we will be meeting once a month just to have a chat. Yeah.

Ameeta
That’s great. What I’ll do is I’ll put your contact details below with your website and that, and then people can reach out to be able to join that, because I think that that’s really a great initiative.

Ameeta
I know that you mentioned that you and the ladies have been trying to start this pre-COVID and then Covid hit and it disrupted everything. But your motivation and the passion is definitely there because you guys have reconnected and decided to move this forward and make it a reality.

Ameeta
So there’ll be definitely a lot of practitioners out there that would love to join and just have open conversations. So that’s great.

Sal
Yeah. And another way is also to attend seminars now that we only just kind of started going back to attending seminars last year. And that’s run by the supplement companies. And that’s a great way of meeting other practitioners as well.

Ameeta
Absolutely. I remember doing my first seminars I attended were back when I was studying all those, like 23 years ago when I think about it now.

Sal
Oh gosh.

Ameeta
But it was good. It was really good because you’re learning so much information from what they’re teaching. But like you said, it’s a great way to network and meet other students, practitioners in different industries as well, where you can start to build relationships and cross referrals too, which I loved.

Sal
Yeah, that’s right.

Ameeta
That’s right.

Sal
So but you know, if you’re in, if you’re working in say multimodality clinic, then that’s great. You’ve got more support there. And it really depends what type of a person you are.

Sal
I mean, I just like being with people, but you might like to be on your own and then working on your own.

Ameeta
It’s okay.

Sal
It’s not works for you.

Ameeta
Exactly. Exactly. Now, Sal, on your banner at the back there, we’ve got Sal the nutritionist, healthy gut, healthy mind. Now, how did you go about choosing that niche to focus on?

Sal
Oh gosh, where do I start? Can I tell you a bit about my business and how it evolved into that? So when I started my business, I was called Field One Nutrition, and I was just so enthusiastic about food as medicine, you know, what we learned, you know, in our degree, if you’ve done a degree, and I thought, well, everybody will want to know about food as medicine, this is amazing.

Sal
And then, of course, I was quite naive at the time, and I thought, no, it’s not quite like that, not everybody wants to know. And at the time, I just wanted to help everybody.

Sal
But as the years went on, that didn’t really work, because, you know, you can’t know everything about every single condition. And you can’t be an expert in every condition. And, you know, most of us practitioners, you know, we want to be experts.

Sal
And I thought, no, I’ll just kind of, you know, narrow it down a bit. But so, you know, Field One Nutrition, I was up for about a year. And then I transformed into Whole Food Nutrition, with the help of a marketing lady at the time, because that’s what I was all about was Whole Foods.

Sal
But then some people thought I was a grocery store, and didn’t really understand what I thought I was doing. So, you know, it’s really important, I think, to be comfortable with your business name.

Sal
And I wasn’t, I was never 100% comfortable with it, but I just went with it. And I kind of graduated towards, you know, helping teenagers. I don’t quite know how that happened, maybe because I had teenagers myself.

Sal
But I still wasn’t, wasn’t really feeling it. And, you know, because it’s quite challenging, helping kids and teenagers change their needs. Excuse me. And then, probably about five years ago now, my daughter went through quite, quite a difficult and challenging time.

Sal
She had very bad anxiety and depression, and was unable to complete school. And, you know, we went through a couple of years navigating through the mental, the conventional mental health system. And we didn’t really get very far.

Sal
And I thought that, you know, there’s just got to be another way. And I had always been interested in pharmacology, you know, when we did it for, for my degree. And I’ve always been interested in psychology.

Sal
And I remember at college, you know, learning about the neurotransmitters and depression. And I was, I remember being fascinated by, by all that. So I took that and kind of, you know, did my own research and went down that rabbit hole, as we do, to look at food and nutritional supplements, and mental health.

Sal
So I then started, you know, my special interest was then gut health, because everything starts in the gut, and mental health. So, you know, so slowly graduating towards niching. And that was a much better fit, because then I could, I was more confident in, in being an expert in gut health, and mental health, because, you know, obviously, the two are connected.

Sal
But I was still getting people just coming for gut health, you know, which is fine. Yeah, that’s fine. But I think it’s a matter of educating people, they, you know, they still don’t really understand how the two are connected.

Sal
That is my mission to educate people about gut health, food, you know, and mental health, which is really part of it is nutritional psychiatry, which I’m fascinated in. And now, as you can see, yes, I’m self a nutritionist with your help, Ameeta.

Sal
So I was, I was sick and tired of whole food nutrition. And, and also my website actually needed updating. And my husband had always helped me with that. And I thought, no, I just need a fresh pair of eyes to look at it.

Sal
I can’t look at it anymore. I can’t improve it anymore. So I found Ameeta. And we started talking about redesigning my website. But then my husband said, Well, what about just changing your name?

Sal
And initially, I thought, Oh, no, it’s just too difficult. I don’t know. And I mentioned it to Ameeta. And so with your help, Ameeta, you know, you were the one who suggested Sal the nutritionist. So I have to thank you for that.

Ameeta
That’s my pleasure. I do remember there was some resistance with the name in Italy, where you didn’t want your name to be a part of it.

Sal
Well, because you’re in Australia, people think I’m a man. You know, Sal is Salvatore. Or it’s salt in Spanish.

Ameeta
Yeah, true.

Sal
I couldn’t use my whole name. Yes. Well, Sal, we’ll just about go with Sal. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Ameeta
I hope that it feels like it resonates with you now. Yes, it does.

Sal
It does.

Ameeta
And that’s important. You know, you mentioned transitioning from three different names over the years, you know. And it is a progression because as you grow within your business, and as you start to niche down and find what your real passion is, what your real interests are, and where you’re seeing the biggest success with your clients as well, then those are the things I can think, okay, well, I’m going to redefine my business.

Ameeta
And sometimes that comes as a name change as well. I went through that. So when I had my health food store, it was organic matters, which it was an organic health food store.

Ameeta
So everything in it was organic. So that, you know, made sense. I then transitioned into purely a naturopathic clinic. And I kept the name because people knew me with that name. But there was a disconnect because I wasn’t selling products.

Ameeta
I wasn’t selling food anymore. I was just doing the naturopathic appointments. And I had to redefine myself. And I went through a period of understanding, well, you know, the importance of the name and what people associate with that and how you want to come across to your audience.

Ameeta
And so from that, I went to Zest Health Centre, which for me, my niche at that time was a woman with burnout and hormonal imbalance. And so the Zest Health Centre made sense.

Ameeta
But it’s feeling comfortable and just being open to change. I think, you know, sometimes we get stuck and we feel we have to hang on. But change is a good thing sometimes.

Sal
And I think as a nutritionist, I think you’ve just got to work a bit harder to inform the public about what you do. Because I think people think of naturopaths as being, you know, an alternative doctor, if you like, you know, a complementary health doctor.

Sal
But people tend to think of nutritionists as only dealing in weight loss and a dentist of health. That’s it.

Ameeta
Yeah, there is quite still a quite a big misconception out there about the role that nutritionists have. So, you know, it is important for practitioners like you to go out there and keep spreading that word and the education.

Ameeta
The more we talk about it, the more we share that message, the more it will become easier. The same as with naturopaths. I remember 20 years ago, you know, we went through a very similar thing where you would say that you’re a naturopath and people would look at you and they wouldn’t know what a naturopath was back then.

Ameeta
We’ve come, you know, a long way now, but it’s the same progression with the industry that nutritionists are going through right now. Yeah. Yeah.

Sal
And also, you know, you’re up against dietitians as well. So, you know, I in the end, I just wrote a blog about what’s the difference between a naturopath, nutritionist and a dietitian. I love that. You kept asking me.

Ameeta
I am putting the link to that blog in this podcast episode because I think everybody needs to read that.

Sal
Yeah. I mean, I wrote it a long time, quite a while ago. So I think it’s still the same. I don’t think it’s changed that much.

Ameeta
No, no, that would be a great one. Definitely. And for you, Sal, you know, being in business for all these years, what sustains you in your business?

Sal
I can say it now, but if you’d asked me five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer you. I think just looking after yourself is the most important thing.

Sal
And, you know, we’re all busy with our businesses. If we have family, you know, if we’re a mother or, you know, whatever is going on in your life, you have to put yourself number one.

Sal
You have to put yourself first because, you know, to see clients, I mean, I don’t have, you know, a full days like some practitioners do. I don’t think I even want to have full days because it’s really, really, you know, it kind of accepts your energy.

Sal
And there’s a lot of practitioners who burn out, you know, the really successful ones, you know, unless they have some help. So that’s really important. And I think if you work on your own, you know, in your own practice, then getting out there and, you know, talking to other people, you know, because you do have to, I’m not going to mince my words, you have to have a passion for what you do.

Sal
And, you know, there are several times when I felt like giving up. Yeah, you know, there are lots of other practice who feel like that. But you’ve really got to have a passion and really believe in what you do and have the confidence to do that. Yeah, I think I’ve answered your question.

Ameeta
Yeah, you have definitely. The self-care element, you know, that’s something that’s really close to my heart. Having worked with hundreds of patients over the years that went through burnout, you know, like chronic burnout, because we just keep pushing, pushing, pushing.

Ameeta
There has to be a point where we are able to stop and look after ourselves. If we’re not looking after ourselves, then we can’t look after anybody else. And as health professionals, as much as we know that, I think sometimes we feel that this overwhelming sense of responsibility to our community and to our patients at the expense of our own health.

Ameeta
And that does need to change. That balance needs to shift.

Sal
Yeah, because women in particular, we’re very good at helping everyone else. Yeah. And we’ve got ourselves last.

Ameeta
We do. Yes, we do. For you, Sal, talking about self-care, what would be two things that you do in your routine as part of your self-care routine?

Sal
Well, I love nature and, you know, living in a city, I don’t, you know, obviously don’t have nature on my doorstep, but at least I have a green grass at the back of my house.

Sal
I live quite close to the bay in Melbourne. And that really is my happy place, and it was when I was studying at Endeavor and doing all their student clinics and a really stressful time at the station, you know, I felt like a different person.

Sal
So I really try and go down to the bay a few times a week. And that’s, you know, I really need that. I wish I could say that I do meditation and things that I’m supposed to but It’s not fair, buddy.

Sal
But no, I mean, the world’s worst when it comes to self care. I’m always doing something in my business. And I just went on a women’s retreat just last weekend, which kind of kicked me up the backside and said, right, you’ve really got to look after yourself. So retreats like that.

Sal
And, you know, I just. I guess, I guess I just now, I’m just more mindful. So instead of meditation, I do mindfulness, and you know, just checking in with myself every couple of hours.

Sal
And I’ve slowed right down. You know, before I used to be running around like a headless chicken, like I had to do everything, you know, business, coffees, part-time job, friends, whatever. But now I just, I’ve really taught myself to say no, a lot.

Sal
And I think, I think that’s really important. Because otherwise, it’s just too stressful, trying to fit everything.

Ameeta
Yeah, you know, and the ability to say no and set that boundary, as much as sometimes you feel conflicted, but you know that you have to, for your own sanity. It’s the biggest lesson, I think, that we can learn right now around boundaries for ourselves.

Ameeta
And for those around us in the relationships that we’re in, whether that be personal relationships, business relationships with clients, patients, etc, as well, you know, working all the time consistently, seven days a week.

Ameeta
It’s, it’s too much. And I find that that’s where a lot of business owners, especially in the health industry, we, we lose that creativity, we lose that ability to even look at our patients and treatment plans more objectively as well, because we’re so engrossed in it, every minute of the day.

Ameeta
So when we can just step back, things, you come up with ideas and inspiration of, I didn’t think that I could, you know, I haven’t thought of that for that patient or haven’t That’s right.

Sal
Yeah, very true. Yeah, you’ve just reminded me.

Ameeta
There you go. I love it.

Ameeta
And so one last question that I wanted to really ask you, because I know that a lot of listeners would get value from this, is For those new grads out there that are about to start or just starting out with their business, are there any pearls of wisdom, any tips that you would share with them?

Sal
Yeah, when I look back to when I graduated, all I knew was that I had to get an ABN number you know, become part of a professional association. That’s all. We weren’t told much.

Sal
You know, you really do learn on the job. So, yes, I mean, I’ve got so much advice, but just to bring it back to a few, you know, really do your research.

Sal
You know, when people used to say to me, research, I go, no, no, I hate research. No. But, you know, you don’t have to, you don’t have to particularly pay somebody to do your market research.

Sal
You know, you can do your own research, talk to people, just get out there in your community, online, you learn a lot, and just get a feel for what you’re interested in, you know, and don’t treat everything.

Sal
I really think that’s a mistake and have your own niche. And don’t think, you know, like I did at first, oh, well, so-and-so is doing that. I won’t do it. But, you know, they’re not you.

Sal
So, you, every professional has their own way of working and people will come to you for, you know, for you, you know, so it’s not just the treatment plans that you write out, it’s your personality, it’s you as a person.

Sal
So, yeah, I think I just kind of, and wait as well, you know, I just rushed into everything. I was so enthusiastic. I thought, I’ve got to do everything. And that was a mistake.

Sal
So, please don’t do that. Just take your time. Because, you know, I know we all learned from the mistakes, and it’s good to have mistakes.

Sal
But we don’t want too many mistakes. And I wasted the first couple of years, I think, by doing that.

Ameeta
Yeah. Yeah, I think that that’s, you know, really sound advice. Thank you for sharing that. And being open about your journey as well, and how it impacted you in those first few years.

Ameeta
There is a tendency, I’ve noticed with practitioners, and we had Lisa on a few weeks ago, and she, you know, she brought up a similar theme of grads rushing out there and feeling that they need to have their business up and running even before they graduate, you know, and there’s this real pressure.

Ameeta
And I don’t know if it’s self-imposed pressure or pressure from or where it’s actually coming from, like haven’t done that research, and maybe I should. But there is that tendency of rushing into business.

Ameeta
And I think that taking it slow and even just getting more work experience initially to see what a clinic is like to run, what a business is like to be involved in.

Ameeta
Is that really what you want to be doing? Because once you start a business, I mean, you want it to work, right? You want it to be there for years to come.

Ameeta
So it’s a big commitment. And you’ve been, you’ve had yours now for quite a few years, which is brilliant. Is there, and I know I was saying it’s the last question, but this is the last question, I promise.

Ameeta
So for you being in business, what been the biggest highlight for you.

Sal
For me personally is when I change someone’s life I guess, I mean that’s a bit dramatic but they come to you with hope that they’re sick and a lot of the time we can over complicate things, I’m guilty of that in terms of treating someone but a lot of the time it’s actually just simple changes that they can make and and now I have four-month programs so I’m more guaranteed of seeing results so that’s another bit of advice maybe if you want to call it advice, we all start out doing consultations, one-to-one consultations and that’s great don’t get me wrong when you should do that when you graduate but further down the line I actually got frustrated because I just found that some people didn’t comply, they weren’t really taking it that seriously and I got frustrated which is not a good thing and that’s why I now have four-month programs so you can see it from start to finish, well there’s still things going on after four months but that’s the greatest thing for me is to think that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life Yeah,

Ameeta
I think it’s really powerful to know that we’ve played some little part in that journey with them and just being their guide to getting the results and helping them to live a healthier life and be who they really want to be in their life so yeah.

Sal
And also just want to add to that you know that a lot of people have been to see so many specialists, so many GPs and they come to you because they don’t know you know they’re not getting anywhere so you know so there is pressure then or new you know they want a quick fix and of course as you know it’s not a quick fix so you have to manage people’s expectations.

Ameeta
And that’s where you know I think the value in a longer term treatment plan like a program can really help with that expectations and to give them enough time to really see the progression with the results with those check-ins every month as well so yeah. Yeah thank you to

Sal
you for helping me set them up.

Ameeta
That’s okay, my pleasure, my pleasure. Thank you Sal, thank you for being here, sharing your expertise as a clinical nutritionist, as a business owner, somebody who’s been on the journey for a number of years now and successfully you know transitioned from part-time into full-time and I hope that it continues to fulfill you being in your business full-time so well done on all that you’ve achieved. Thank you.

Sal
Thank you very much, thanks Amita.

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