From entrepreneurs launching new healthy food products to food bloggers and vloggers broadcasting their healthy eating ideas to health coaches and healthy food consultants helping people make better eating choices, more and more people seem to be making a career out of healthy food. But while being an entrepreneur sounds sexy, it requires a different skill set than being a chef, dietitian or just a person who's passionate about food and health.
I, for one, am a registered dietitian, spokeswoman, writer and cookbook author, but may not be the best person to ask about breaking into the business since I was self-guided. So, I turned to six entrepreneurs who have broken into the healthy food biz to get their tips to success. Here's what they said:
1. Be authentic.
"The healthy or 'better-for-you' market is made up of real people who are truly concerned about their health. This is not a fad or a trend, nor part of 'the zeitgeist.' It's a movement that's rapidly spreading across America and the world. Concerns about lifestyle diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease are consuming the resources of too many people. In other words, this is serious business. A 'healthy lifestyle expert' must first become the ultimate example of the lifestyle they want to sell. Living the life and using your platform to demonstrate, teach and inform is not only a great form of viral marketing, but also a great way to accelerate the growth of the market. The healthy or better-for-you market is very savvy; they can sense an impostor miles away. Authenticity is everything when it comes to marketing anything, especially a healthy lifestyle."
-- Rocco DiSpirito, James Beard award-winning chef, healthy lifestyle crusader and founder of Rocco's Healthy and Delicious line of protein powder, chocolate bars, shakes and more
2. Stand out from the crowd.
"In every field, there is fierce competition -- and not just competition from across the street but across the world. So creating a successful business is not just about having a good product or service; it's about standing out from the crowd. So how do you do that? You must find 'playgrounds where no one else is playing.' Find a niche, a food industry segment or approach that no one else is pursuing. For example, if you create a healthy food protocol to be used in corporate wellness programs, there will be lots of competition. But if you create a healthy food protocol for corporate wellness programs with a focus on Hispanic and Indian workers, that would be an untapped niche. We all have great passion for healthy food and great skills, but we need tap into our entrepreneurial creativity to come up with these 'playgrounds where no one else is playing.'"
-- Michael Dermer, founder and author of The Lonely Entrepreneur, a community for entrepreneurs to help them becomes better each day, and founder of the first company to reward people for healthy behavior
[See: 8 Ways to Stay Healthy at Work.]
3. Find a mentor.
"It's hard to learn any industry, and there are a lot of potential pitfalls that a good mentor can help you avoid. Mentorship has been invaluable to me personally, and I think finding mentors and people who have been successful in your industry and are willing to advise you is one of the most important parts of being an entrepreneur and building a successful business. One of the most influential mentors in my life built his company from nothing; he had no prior industry experience getting started, but he became a student of the industry, surrounded himself with the right people and advisors, and ultimately led his company to a very profitable exit. He really understands the difficulties we face on a day-to-day basis because he's faced them too. It's wonderful to have people you can count on who have been there, done that, and want to help guide you along to the path to success."
-- Lizzi Ackerman, co-founder and CMO of Birch Benders
4. Fuel your success through passion and enthusiasm.
"I am a huge student of Jack Canfield and attended a luxury retreat at his home in Santa Barbara. This is one of his 'Success Principles' and, for me, it is critical that I wake up every single day fired up to move forward. Some days you will take a few steps back and it can be a little frustrating, but I just focus on moving ahead again and my passion and enthusiasm for my simplyFUEL Protein Balls allow me to do it. When I did my first book, one of the most rewarding but unexpected benefits I received was hearing from people all over the country who loved my recipes and would tell me their favorites. I have been developing recipes ever since, and I love the feeling I get when people tell me that their entire family loves my protein balls. It is very rewarding and helps me to maintain a high level of passion and enthusiasm."
-- Mitzi Dulan, resgistered dietitian, sports dietitian and founder and "chief fueling officer" of simplyFUEL Protein Balls
5. Engage, engage, engage!
"Creating content is only half of the work. If you want to grow in the social space, you have to be social! Reply to comments from your followers. Seek out complementary influencers and collaborate to cross-promote one another. Leave encouraging comments on other creators' content because it's a competitive world out there and kindness goes a long way! There is room for everyone to grow and be successful. Don't compete; collaborate and engage, engage, engage."
-- Megan Roosevelt, registered dietitian, founder, host and producer at Healthy Grocery Girl, a whole-body wellness website, YouTube channel and video production company
6. Get involved with a charity.
"Surround yourself with people with like-minded missions so you are constantly nurturing your passion, unlocking creativity and propelling yourself forward with a built-in support system. One way you can do this is by aligning with a healthy food charity, such as Wellness in the Schools, which brings food and health-focused thought leaders together for a common goal, and carries the 'real food' approach that's made us so successful in restaurants into schools."
-- Bill Telepan, executive chef Oceana Restaurant and Wellness in the Schools
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition and author of the cookbook, "The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day" (Grand Central Publishing 2014). She consults and writes for various organizations, including FoodNetwork.com's "Healthy Eats" blog and "Today's Dietitian" magazine.