What a pleasure is was to interview Kelly Mulhall about her wellness brand The Natural Balance. She not only gave us the motivation to believe that it is possible to overcome complex health issues through nutrition, but she positively enlightened us that this can be achieved with just small steps.
If you are interested in entrepreneurship, running your own business and learning how someone overcame their illness and turned it into wellness, then you should read on!
Tell us about the journey that led you to launch your brand The Natural Balance…
It’s ironic really that I ended up launching a wellness brand because I was never very interested in healthy living and I was a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ type of person!
My health issues started in my late teens after picking up a travel bug during a student trip to SE Asia. What followed was over 10 years suffering with IBS and continually going back and forth to the doctors and having every possible test at the hospital to which they found nothing they could treat. The end result was that I was told to just “live with it”. I also suffered with outbreaks of acne when I came off the contraceptive pill and the only option was to go back on the pill or take long term antibiotics.
It took me until my 30’s to realise something needed to change and I decided to look into complementary therapies and functional medicine. I started to see a nutritionist and the results were so astounding that I knew I was finally onto something that could help me. I gradually cleaned up my diet by learning how to cook easy recipes. The more I learnt in the kitchen, the less I relied on ready meals, crisps and pastries. I’m by no means a top chef but by learning the basics of what to cook to stay healthy, with the guidance of a nutritionist, it completely transformed how I felt. Not only did my IBS and skin improve but so did my eczema, my energy levels, my memory and concentration and my fitness level. An extra added bonus was that I stopped getting sick all the time. I always used to have a sore throat, a cough or a cold and this is now a thing of the past!
This all coincided with me not enjoying my job at the time and looking for an alternative career path so I spent a few days researching different nutrition courses and within a week I had quit my job and enrolled at CNM (The College of Naturopathic Medicine) to begin 3 years of study to become a Naturopathic Nutritionist. And as they say, the rest is history…
It soon dawned on me that if I wanted to follow a path into wellness then working part time in events and marketing wouldn’t complement my new career goals, so I trained as a yoga teacher whilst studying. It was then that I launched The Natural Balance; ‘Natural’ – relating to the future naturopathy side of the business and ‘balance’- reflecting yoga.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
By far, the biggest challenge has been learning to run my own business. You spend a lot of time learning your technical skills from incredible teachers but most courses are generally light on how to implement and leverage the skills in a business sense.
I have learned that no-one can know your business better than you. Therefore, you must learn what works for your particular niche and how to grow your business. To help in this process I have spent a lot of time and money investing in courses, coaches, mentors and programmes to help me develop the additional skills to run a business and get where I am today.
The outlay has at times been a bit scary but it has been worth every penny as you simply cannot set up a business and hope clients will just arrive. You must continually follow the cycle of review, learn, adapt and execute in order to develop and grow the business. I think of it as believing in and investing in myself for the sake of the business.
If you were to describe your business mantra in three words, what would they be?
Persistence, Belief and Learning
What advice would you offer anyone interested in venturing into the world of nutrition and holistic health and wellbeing?
I would say go for it! The future of health care will be patient-centred and have much more emphasis on disease prevention and treatment through diet and lifestyle. This will lead to much better job prospects for the whole industry.
The world is considerably more conscious about healthy eating and living these days and I cannot see the developed world stepping backwards with our outlook on health and wellbeing. Health is the new wealth and I imagine in the future that it will be the norm to see your nutritionist more often than your GP.
Talk us through an average business day in your life…
I start the day trying to do something for myself such as a meditation, some stretching, a walk or perhaps a gym class. Even if I only manage 30 minutes of ‘me time’ I try to stay off my phone and tune in with how I feel that day before diving into work.
After a big breakfast (porridge is my go-to energy boosting morning meal!) and herbal tea, I start the workday by attacking emails, checking my socials and catching up with my incredible PA or team of other nutritionists.
I usually only see two to three clients per day so that I can stay focused and give them my undivided attention. Around 1pm I’ll have a long lunch break which includes a cooked meal (usually leftovers, which I encourage all of my clients to do!) and either a short walk, cycle or kick back and relax.
The afternoon will either be spent researching cases, seeing clients or reviewing business plans. I have learned by experience to never underestimate the time it can take to do business admin which includes prospecting, following up leads, newsletters, scheduling programmes, blogs and website SEO, managing ads or bookkeeping.
I try to keep a decent Work-Life balance by logging off by 6pm although sometimes I’ll tune in to workshops or webinars. I find these invaluable to further my knowledge in the field of nutrition and complementary medicine.
Business can be an upward struggle at times, what do you do to stay positive?
I remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’. Sometimes it can be really tough going when you feel that there are not enough hours in the day but I have learned to prioritise and push projects back when there is too much going on. I also make sure I have lots in my social diary to look forward to. There is no point in working hard but not getting to enjoy the downtime right?!
What is your go-to quote when under pressure?
“High Pressure makes diamonds”. Running your own business is challenging and most start-ups do not have a battery of advisors to lean on, especially in the early days.
Usually it’s just you and your laptop taking on the world and you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to work all the hours possible to get your business off the ground. However, once you have done the initial hard work, things start to fall into place more easily and you can enjoy the fruits of your labour (or diamonds!).
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
Truthfully, I have not leveraged social media enough as a regular source of leads and opportunities. Social media is its own beast and it requires so much time and money to make it work.
Therefore, I have tended to use my social platforms as a way for people to verify who and what The Natural Balance is and to research both me and my brand when they are considering working with me.
Historically, I have made my business grow through other avenues such as website SEO, paid advertising, PR and referrals. However, despite my initial reticence, social media is definitely a growth area for The Natural Balance and I am going to invest more time in it in the future.
In the video on your website you say that yoga got you into nutrition and holistic wellbeing, would you recommend yoga as a starting point for someone looking to start a healthier life journey?
For me it transpired that yoga was a starting point for my journey but I would not go as far as stating it is a necessity for other people. Any activity/hobby that relaxes you is key to a healthier life. I do recommend yoga (or pilates, walking or meditation) as a way for people to bring their body into their ‘rest and digest’ nervous system.
We spend so much of our lives in a stressed state (our fight or flight nervous system) that it can negatively impact our health. Stress is one of the major contributing factors in the clients’ symptoms that we see in our clinic.
So be warned that high intensity exercise can make symptoms worse when it comes to hormonal imbalance, IBS, poor sleep, anxiety or fatigue as you are putting more stress on the body, making it harder to recover.
How do you want your clients to feel after they have had their first consultation with you?
That there is hope! So many clients come to us as a last resort as they have tried every other medicine or intervention. There is almost nothing that healthy eating and living can’t help to improve. Sometimes all one needs is very small tweaks to the diet and you can see such huge improvements within a very short space of time.
I once had a client who was suffering from severe PMS, painful periods and fatigue. We literally just removed some of her usual snack items and encouraged her to eat bigger meals at lunch and within just one month, she was like a new person!
We want our clients to feel empowered to make the right choices to help them live longer, happier and healthier and by understanding the basics of a healthy balanced diet we help them to help themselves.
As part of your nutritional guidance is there one specific food or drink product that you advise everyone to eat/drink?
Water – a non-negotiable 2 litres per day. Our bodies are mostly made of water and when we are dehydrated it impacts every process in our body from digestion to influencing blood pressure, flushing out toxins and keeping our skin supple.
It is amazing how many clients have more energy and snack less in the afternoon when they are fully hydrated!
But always remember, caffeine acts like a diuretic in the body so increases water loss. You should always have a glass of water after tea, coffee or alcohol (and no more than two a day).
Our readers love to travel, have you ever been overseas on a health and wellbeing retreat that you would recommend?
I have actually just been to a 4 day silent meditation and yoga retreat in Mallorca which was incredible! The concept is that by removing all the superfluous noise from the world around us, you realise how much energy it drains from us and then we can learn to develop inner stillness and peace. I’ve never felt so relaxed in my life!
I’ve not been to one yet but going to a ‘Mad to Live Retreat’ is on my bucket list. It’s a women’s adventure retreat packed with outdoor activities. I love extreme sports, whether it’s skiing, surfing, mountain biking or hiking so I will be going on one of these in the near future!
What’s next for you and your brand?
I am hoping to expand my team of nutritional therapists to include more specialist areas of health. At the moment I have a great team who are highly trained in naturopathic nutrition and cover everything from gut disorders to womens’ health, hormonal imbalance, weight loss and metabolic disorders and more recently we have taken on a fertility and pregnancy specialist.
Further down the line I would like to be a one-stop shop for all wellness disciplines and incorporate more therapists for total mental and physical well-being. This could include physiotherapists, psychotherapists and massage therapists. Watch this space!
Where can people find out more about The Natural Balance?
We would love to connect with you so please get in touch via Instagram @thenaturalbalance_ or if you have a specific health concern you would like to discuss then book a Free 20 minute nutrition call with myself or one of the team at The Natural Balance.