LADY STARTUP: At 24, Peta had a health scare. So, she started a business to fix it.

Psssst – We’ve got a discount for Lady Startup readers – enter LADYSTARTUP at checkout to get 40% off your first GoodnessMe Box.

After being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, Peta changed her life, as well as thousands of others.

Tell us a bit about GoodnessMe Box.

GoodnessMe Box is Australia’s largest health food sampling service. We’re passionate about inspiring others to lead a wholefood lifestyle, and we only work with products made with natural and GMO-free ingredients, leaving a positive footprint on the planet. We’d love to see a world where the food we eat is free from artificial and processed ingredients – and we’re doing our part to educate people, and build a strong community around healthy, whole food eating. Ultimately, our purpose is to help people to make better food choices.

The idea for GoodnessMe Box sprung to mind a few years ago, when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. The condition took a heavy toll on my body, it was a struggle to go through the paces of everyday life. I was constantly unwell, and suffering from fatigue, body aches, and headaches. My immune system was shot, and my energy was incredibly low. It was around this time that I started learning about the healing power of whole foods. Along with other lifestyle changes, I cleaned up my diet and turned to foods that were in their closest natural state as possible.

The change was remarkable. I gradually began to feel better and my test results started to improve. Fast forward a few months, and I was obsessed with finding and testing wholefood products. I was discovering all these amazing products on the market, and I thought, why not share this with others? Given my background in publicity, I thought, let’s combine something I’m passionate about with something I’m good at.

Peta Shulman, founder of GoodnessMe Box.

From the beginning, I wanted to spread the word about these incredible products and inspire others to get on board with healthy, whole food eating. I remember thinking if I can make a difference to just one person – whether they save themselves a trip to the hospital, help their condition go into remission, or simply take a preventative approach towards their health – then it was worth it. My mind was set, and I decided to do it. I was 24 at the time.

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As a brand, we’ve touched the lives of thousands of people, and to this day, I love getting emails from GoodnessMe Box customers about how it’s helped them to combat their health issues and intolerances and learn how to cook healthily for their kids. Daily, time-poor professionals and busy mums tell me the box has helped them to navigate nutrition labels and grocery shopping. With our guidance, they now know what’s healthy and what’s not, and that’s huge. We’re also really proud of our approach, which is to make wholefood eating fun, accessible and realistic.

Today, we’re equal parts a marketing service for the brands we work with, and a product and service for our customers.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

I was working as a publicist in the health and wellness sector. In that role, I was learning so much about wholefoods, the benefits of consuming certain ingredients (like turmeric), and gut health – all topics much of the media was hesitant to write about six or seven years ago because they were considered ‘alternative’. Ironically, while I had the knowledge thanks to my work, I wasn’t actively putting it into practice. That shifted when I realised how unwell I was, and the ramifications of that lifestyle. Looking back, it’s ridiculous how long I waited to take action and control of my situation, and I think that mindset is so common. It’s something I’m hoping GoodnessMe Box can help to change. I want people to take control of their health because it’s truly the best thing I ever did.

What made you want to start your own business?

I always had a desire to start my own business. I’m not exactly sure where it came from, but I remember my first interview for a PR role, when I said I wanted to start my own agency one day. Over time, as I noticed a shift in the health market and the media landscape, this goal evolved to GoodnessMe Box. I realised that brands could be cost-effectively promoted via a sampling platform, so I pursued it.

How did you come up with the name?

Well, the business was actually called NourishMe Box up until two weeks before launch. I discovered another ‘box’ company was launching soon with a similar name and I panicked. I thought, how silly will I look launching to the media with a similar name and concept? At the time, I had poured $20,000 into the business, which was all my savings. Everything was printed and branded, and changing the logo and reworking all the materials would be another $3,000 investment. That was enormous at the time, but I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead.

I asked my friends and family to help me to brainstorm new names. I had 12 hours to make a decision, and still remember the lively WhatsApp conversation with everyone. In the end, my father-in-law suggested GoodnessMe Box and it stuck. It resonated with the brand ethos I was hoping to shape, and it pointed to both the business’ purpose while having a little fun. I was passionate about making healthy eating fun and sustainable, rather than intimidating, and GoodnessMe Box was perfect.

Describe the staff/ownership structure of your Ladystartup. 

I’m the Director and sole owner of the company. When I started out, the ‘business’ consisted of me working away in my apartment. That lasted all of four weeks – the demand for customer service was overwhelming, so I began to hire people month by month. I firmly believe you’re only as strong as your team, and I’m so grateful to have a dedicated team who are talented at what they do and believe in the vision of the company. I’m also a big believer in knowing your strengths and weaknesses – I’m not an expert in everything, so I hire people accordingly.

Did you require investment to start your business? 

I started the business with $20,000 of savings. We’ve never had outside investment, though have been approached over the years. I was very adamant about not bringing anyone on board in the early days, but now my ambitions have grown with the company.

What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?

I asked for advice from absolutely everyone. Family, friends, colleagues – really anyone who would listen to me! However, I was very selective in whose advice I actioned.

That being said, you will be surprised by how eager people are to help and give you advice. All you have to do is ask! I had friends who specialised in market research and data, finance, legal matters, PR, tech, and so on, and I used those contacts. On the flipside, I had a couple of successful people tell me the business idea wouldn’t work, but I believed in it and in myself – and that was most important.

What’s the single best piece advice you got?

Any successful business requires perseverance and grit. It sounds simple, but I’ve found it to be true.

The Out Loud crew discuss the new diet that combines paleo and veganism. Peta's story continues after post.

What’s the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?

Get your tech right. I was essentially entering the health space as a tech entrepreneur and was completely unaware. I had no experience in the space, and that led to major hurdles in the early days that slowed down our growth. Now, there are fantastic support systems and networking opportunities for women in tech, and I believe every tech founder – small or large – should seek them out.

Your website is the foundation of your business. At the time, I wanted to be the first to launch the subscription model in the health space. That advantage proved to be helpful, but it meant compromising months and months of research to perfect the platform.

At Mamamia we have an expression “flearning” - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started your business?

I love that expression! There have been so many ‘flearnings’, and every company has them but since they’re not part of the ‘show reel,’ they’re often not spoken about. My biggest flearning has been the website. In 3.5 years, it has been rebuilt three times, and for the past 18 months, we’ve finally been on a robust platform. That was something we celebrated! I entered the industry knowing nothing about tech, and every day was a crash course. I finally feel like I’ve wrapped my head around it, but I want to expand my knowledge as the business evolves so I try to stay up-to-date with new developments.

What is the smartest thing you’ve done since starting your business?

The smartest thing we’ve done is to listen to our customers. There’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth and we’ve managed to build a loyal and engaged community. As a result, they do a huge chunk of the marketing for us. We know that we’re nothing without our incredible community, and we’re always open to their opinions and feedback. It’s so valuable.

Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?

Yes, there are a bunch of apps I swear by!

Slack is a game-changer. When we were starting up, our developer would often say, “slack me,” to get the team consistently using the app.

Evernote is where I write down all my thoughts and ideas, plus my to-do list. That way, I know I won’t forget anything – even if it’s an idea that popped up in the middle of the night. The app syncs to all your devices.

Canva is incredible for design, and has saved us so much money over the years.

In terms of project management apps, we’ve settled on Wrike and love it.

Jotnot - This is a small one, but who owns a scanner these days? Jotnot does the job, although I hear Dropbox has just launched a document scanning feature.

What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally (or financially)? How do you handle those ‘deep-trough-of-pain’ startup moments?

My partner is my biggest support. Running a business is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It inevitably comes with so many ups and downs, so it’s important to go home to a stable space. My husband reminds me that ‘I can do it’ when I’m having a moment of doubt, and he’s always there to listen. He builds me up emotionally, and I’m thankful for that

In many cases, sleep is the best medicine. I could be in a “deep-trough” one evening, and then wake up feeling refreshed, with a new outlook on life (and maybe a few ideas jotted down in Evernote!).

I listen to podcasts whenever I have a spare moment, whether that’s when I’m traveling to the office or exercising. I probably clock up two hours per day. I obsessively listen to and read other founder stories, and they give me a sense of perspective and often, calm. Ultimately, business is a test in passion and perseverance – you just have to remember that you can only do your best.

Lastly, in those challenging start-up moments, I go back to my WHY. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why did I start the business? Without your why, your purpose, you have nothing – so that’s what gets you through the tough times.

How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed? How do you manage your time?

This varies depending on what projects are on-the-go at the time. I have a tendency to jump to another project as soon as I wrap up the last one, without having a breather. As a founder and director, it’s my job to push the business. Honestly, I work around 11 hours a day, and may also do a day on the weekend. Like I said earlier, it takes perseverance and grit.

In terms of managing my time, my health always comes first. I’m a better boss, leader, wife, friend and decision-maker when I feel healthy, rested and confident. Eight hours sleep is non-negotiable – without it, my immune system takes a hit. Along with sleep, I’m committed to exercising 4-5 mornings a week. I go early and get it out of the way, and I always emerge feeling energised and ready to tackle my to-do list. Friday nights are family time which I cherish. On the weekends, I set aside an evening and a day to catch up with my friends.

What are your non-negotiables? (eg: exercise, putting your kids to bed, meditation, not going out on weeknights….)

They’re very much in line with the business: a healthy, wholefood diet that fuels and nourishes my body, daily exercise, rest, and quality time with my husband, family and friends. I work hard, but I’m also very aware of the effects of letting health and wellbeing fall to the wayside.

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What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business - how is it different to what you'd imagined?

Nothing can ever prepare you for how tough and challenging it is. But at the same time, nothing can prepare you for how rewarding it is.

As a director and founder of a start-up, I feel an enormous responsibility for the success of the business. It’s not always easy, but ultimately, every challenge, late night, and hard decision is a step forward.

Tell us about your proudest moment?

I feel most proud when I receive emails from members of our community saying how transitioning to a wholefood lifestyle has helped change their lives. It’s the best feeling. To this day, I still can’t believe how much time and effort goes into some of those long emails. I also can’t believe that something as simple as a box – that humble idea I had just a few years ago – has had such an impact.

Another proud moment was running our first GoodnessMe Box Wholefood Markets. As a digital company, this was the first opportunity we had to meet our community in person, and to bring our brand to life. We had nearly 1000 people in a space and the energy was insane. There was so much excitement around wholefoods, and it blew my mind. It was a surreal and very proud moment that proved how far we’ve come.

What does your personal life look like? Who are the important people in your life and work?

On weekdays, I aim to fit in a walk with a friend. Lately, my husband and I have been going to the gym together twice a week. We do a circuit, and it’s a great way to catch up while starting the day energised. My weekday evenings are usually filled with work or events, so I don’t tend to have purely social outings.

I’m lucky to be close friends with the GoodnessMe Box health practitioners, so Thursdays are fun – we have our Facebook Live session, and then enjoy dinner together afterwards. Friday nights are always reserved for family, while the rest of the weekend is a little more open. I love to meet up with friends, whether it’s at the beach, a class, or for a meal at a new restaurant or café.

How much sleep do you get every night?

That’s an easy one: eight hours. My husband often says, “When are you getting up?” and I always give the same answer, “In 8 hours”. I think he just does it now to get a laugh. It’s my non-negotiable!

What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?

Believe in yourself. Know your market. Be persistent.

Do you have a mentor? Who do you go to for help and advice now?

I have a few mentors with expertise in different areas, such as marketing, tech and finance. These relationships have happened organically, and they’re two-way – we both have something to offer the other, and that’s why it works.

Since we’re in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Startups do you recommend? Who should we be looking out for?

  • Sisters Marissa and Lauren Sandler, who co-founded Careseekers.com.au. They’re doing incredible things connecting care workers with aged care, disability support, medical assistance and in-home care opportunities.
  • Melanie Perkins from Canva. She’s a tech entrepreneur whose journey I’ve been following since day one, and she’s truly someone to admire. She’s been instrumental in changing not only the design space, but also how many businesses operate.
  • Lorna Jane. We’ve recently engaged in a partnership, and given how large the company is, I’ve been blown away by how hands-on and engaged she is across every decision. She is the real deal!
  • Carla Oates from The Beauty Chef. She’s revolutionising beauty from the inside out. We’ve hosted her at our events – she’s very personable and and everyone walks out feeling inspired.
  • Kate Weiss from Table of Plenty. She’s managed to bridge the gap at the supermarket so the consumer feels comfortable to try her wholefood products.

You can check out GoodnessMe Box at:

Web: www.goodnessmebox.com

Instagram: @goodnessmebox

Facebook: facebook.com/GoodnessMeBox

Twitter: @goodnessmebox

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXwZIgl5G81CnWp9xRFBq1Q

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