Every business starts with an idea, and those ideas are often found in the most unlikely circumstances.
For entrepreneur Peta Shulman, inspiration arrived in the form of a mystery illness that knocked her for six a little over two years ago. She became unwell after finishing uni, and doctors couldn’t figure out why.
“I had fatigue and constant headaches and aches and heavy limbs, and it got the point where I was in bed for three months,” Shulman recalls.
When the Sydney resident felt she had enough energy, she began working in health and wellness public relations. Her symptoms persisted, but by this point she’d come to accept them as her new normal.
Eventually, Shulman received a diagnosis: an autoimmune condition. As part of her treatment, her doctor adjusted Shulman’s diet, encouraging her to cease eating artificial or processed foods and focus on wholefoods.
"I started seeing improvement quite quickly. I started feeling a lot better and my test results started coming back into normal range," she recalls.
Shulman started thinking about a way to marry her new interest in healthy eating with her product marketing skills.
"I came up with the idea of delivering health food samples to people every month; getting them excited about this lifestyle, and helping these brands market their product to the right audience," Shulman explains.
Six months later, in June 2014, the then-25-year-old launched her health food sampling service GoodnessMe Box.
Initially she'd planned to open a health food store, but in her research she realised the subscription box model had more potential.
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"I noticed companies in the US were doing it quite successfully, and there were some beauty companies in Australia using a very similar business model," she explains.
"Looking after a lot of these wellness brands and health products, I could feel it was on the cusp of booming. I had a gut feeling that if I didn't go to market someone else would come along, so that's what pushed me."
That gut feeling proved accurate. GoodnessMe made $1 million in its first 12 months, and the Bondi-based company is now two years old and well and truly thriving.
Shulman currently has seven staff and sends a few thousand boxes of food and drink samples around the country each month. Customers pay $25 a month, and in each delivery they'll find anything from tea to granola to cooking ingredients.
"Everything in there is made with natural ingredients, GMO free, and nothing that we deliver has anything artificial or processed added to it either," Shulman explains.
"We’ve also got a team of health practitioners that review the nutritional profile of everything that goes into the box."
Not only has GoodnessMe Box tapped into the demand for subcription services, it's captured the growing interest in food and healthy living.
Shulman attributes this largely to social media, the popularity of cooking shows, and growing awareness of what's in our food.
"I think a lot of women have connected with the idea that we don’t necessarily have to diet to be healthy, and it’s just about eating real food at the end of the day. And I think that’s an idea that’s resonated with a lot of women," she adds.
Now 27, Shulman admits the leap from PR to first-time business owner - not to mention working from her apartment and pouring her savings into the endeavour - was a "scary" one.
"I quit my job and gave myself two months before I launched to work on it full time. You start getting nervous a couple weeks before, thinking, ‘How do I pay my rent if it doesn’t work out?'" Shulman says. (Post continues after gallery.)
"But I knew I had three months for the business to make or break."
Of course, there have been challenges along the way. Shulman has also experienced moments of doubt, and encountered people who were skeptical of her idea, but she remained quietly confident.
“Because I had such a good insight into the industry I could see it was something that there would be demand for," she says.
"I also knew I was good at marketing and I think sometimes it can be difficult when you’re a business, knowing how to take it to market. It’s just a matter of recognising what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses."
Shulman works six days a week, with Saturdays off, and she's usually up between 5.30am and 6.30am. Her day-to-day movements vary, but she'll often be busy with meetings, working on website development, speaking with health food brands, event planning, and reviewing Goodness Me's strategy and marketing plan.
Though she admits it can be hard to switch off from work, Shulman loves being her own boss.
“The best thing is waking up every day and doing something that you’re actually really passionate about. It’s really satisfying to see the process from the beginning to the end," she says.
For anyone else considering starting their own business, Shulman has a great piece of advice she learned from a client during her time in PR.
"He said, 'Know your why, and your purpose will always guide you and your business as a vehicle for change.' That’s something that’s always stuck with me," she says.
"I think it’s so important to really have a clear understanding of what the purpose of your business is, and that will run through to your entire team as well."
Featured image: Supplied.