In honor of International Women’s Day this month and we’re really excited to introduce you to Jennifer Fugo, Clinical Nutritionist, health advocate, author, and founder of Skinterrupt and Gluten Free School! She’s sharing with us some of the lessons she’s learned while building her businesses.
Hi Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing your journey with us! Would you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and who you work with?
I’m really passionate about helping people reclaim a “normal life”. While that doesn’t sound glamorous, when you’ve been sick for a long time, feeling normal again is a really big deal. And I know that first-hand because I’ve personally run the gamut of dealing with gut problems and eczema (both of which I’ve successfully worked through).
As a clinical nutritionist, I work with (mostly) women who struggle with chronic IBS issues as well as skin rash conditions (like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis) and feel like conventional therapies have failed them. I do this in my private clinical practice (which is 100% virtual) as well as through my podcast called the Healthy Skin Show, and plenty of great articles and resources on my websites (Skinterrupt and JenniferFugo.com).
I have a Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and also attained the CNS. Prior to this schooling, I had practiced as a Certified Health Coach for about 5 years.
How has your experience in running a nutrition business been different from what you expected?
I have to laugh out loud whenever I’m asked this because at the very beginning, I never had any clue how much I’d need to know about marketing, building relationships, managing a virtual team, and becoming savvy in understanding the legal and financial aspects of running a business. I really just wanted to help people… I just didn’t know what that meant.
My business is a combination of different “arms” — virtual clinical private practice with one-on-one clients and group programs, online marketing with digital products and courses, influencer campaigns collaborating with brands, and some other things we’re launching later this year.
If anything, it’s been the biggest personal development process of my life.
What specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become entrepreneurs? Are there specific advantages or disadvantages of being a woman business owner?
The first thing is that contrary to what we’d all like to believe — you can’t have it all. With that in mind, get clear on what you want your life to look like and what size business/income you’re ideally shooting for. The requirements and pressures are quite different between making $75,000 versus $800,000 versus $10 million annually. AND, know that there will be sacrifices you may have to make along the way in order to attain your goals.
Second, practice becoming relentlessly persistent. Business and relationships are a long-game. Don’t expect to meet someone one day and the next, they’re your bestie. It may take multiple touchpoints over the course of months or even years to finally land an account or build a relationship. Keep respectfully following up (and stop worrying that you’re bothering them).
Lastly, don’t get caught up in thinking that you’re oppressed or at a disadvantage because you’re a woman. There certainly can be instances when you might not be taken as seriously, but see that as an opportunity. Challenges are opportunities for you to learn, grow, excel, and stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you want your business to grow, you’ll always end up being uncomfortable.
Costs add up quickly when starting your own business, what cost-saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Get clear on your budget and talk to 3 to 5 different people before making a decision (in addition to doing some research). Automate as must as you possibly can (which can cut down on having to hire out). Create SOPs for all processes that you will eventually hand off to someone else when you do have the money to hire making the training process easier.
Be open to doing the “grunt work” yourself in the beginning. While it will help you save money, it also teaches you how to do tasks in your business as well as how long they should take. This means you’ll hire better, more honest and qualified team members down the road because you actually know what’s involved in the job.
What advice would you give to new health and wellness practitioners looking to establish themselves as experts in a particular area of health and wellness?
Make sure the people you’re looking to serve want, can afford and are willing to pay for your services. It’s easy to look at a particular condition and know that what you do could help these people. But if they don’t have any money, or aren’t into a solution you offer because they think it’s too “woo woo”, then it’s not a good fit.
Also, don’t be afraid to test out your ideas before going all in. This means doing a lot of research (over a significant period of time) to really understand the population you want to serve. And this is before deciding if it’s a good fit for you. If you can’t genuinely speak to their issues, concerns, and fears, your marketing towards them won’t feel genuine.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it helped in generating business for you? Do you have any tips for growing your social media presence?
It has for sure! That said, the landscape of growing social media has changed dramatically in the past ten years. I’d recommend starting a consistent newsletter list and getting really clear on where your audience hangs out. Only focus on the top 1 to 2 platforms (rather than feeling like you need to be everywhere) and share the same content across both. Be consistent in your posting and talk WITH people following you as opposed to lecturing them.
And most importantly, always think about how you can get your followers on to your newsletter list because at any moment your Facebook page or Instagram account could be shut down without warning and all your hard work is gone.
Contrary to some ridiculous things I’ve heard, email is NOT dead… and is the best way to protect your investment in social media.
What tools do you love? And how do they help you in your practice?
Obviously, Practice Better — since it’s allowed me for a long time to operate seeing clients without having to hire an assistant in that area. Having scheduling, processing, note-taking, integration with Fullscript, and client communication all in one spot makes my job so much easier.
Stripe for credit card processing especially because they can process HSA and Flex-spending accounts. This makes working with me (since I don’t take insurance) more affordable for some people. Check with them to see if you qualify.
Envato for all my template, photo, music, and graphics needs. I never want to worry that any graphic or music I download could open my business up to copyright infringement. You can’t just pull images off Google for your blog… and I can tell you from past experience that it can cause a very expensive, stressful problem.
Gusto has been great for payroll and is pretty easy to get set up on once you’re ready to pay team members (including yourself!!).
As a successful woman entrepreneur, how do you balance your work and personal life?
I’m honestly not sure that I can say that I’ve mastered this (even after ten years in business). Plus, I really love what I do so it’s not uncommon for me to work on a client’s case on Saturday afternoon because I truly enjoy it.
What has helped me though is having a “shut down” time at night that I abide by (typically 8 pm unless I’m teaching a course). I also have set times when I see clients so that my days aren’t packed to the brim.
I also have a pretty set morning routine with breakfast and our cats that starts the day on the right foot.
I prioritize things that are really important to me — like family time or unplugging almost completely on the weekends during the summer to be by the Chesapeake Bay.
I read books that have NOTHING to do with business to allow my mind to wander and be in a story.
And I love giving friends a call (many don’t live near me) just to check in and see how they’re doing. That way I have the connection that I need in my life to keep giving.
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jennifer. We love the tips and lessons that you shared and we know that the rest of our community will benefit from your experience.
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