One of the biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face when starting their own business is getting their first customer. While it can seem like a small milestone, there’s a huge difference between having an idea for your business, and having a business where someone is willing to pay you money for your product or service.
So, if you are thinking about starting your own nutrition business, where do you start? How do you go from an aspiring entrepreneur to running your own business? We asked 10 experienced nutrition entrepreneurs about how they got their first customer, and their responses were pretty illuminating!
These first three build their online presence through blogging or social media first, which led them to their first customer.
FOUNDER OF DELISH KNOWLEDGE
“Through my website! I had launched my initial site as a nutrition blog and a friend of a friend saw it and booked a session. It was the “aha” moment I needed when I was first starting my private practice. The best marketing is the content I created with the intent of sharing. Much cheaper than other forms of paid advertising!”
FOUNDER OF LOVE & ZEST
“…My social media presence helped me get a head start with my nutrition communications business.”
FOUNDER OF DIETITIAN CASSIE
While leveraging an existing online presence worked for these three, this tactic requires a lot of work before it starts to pay-off. In these cases, the first customer came as a by-product of creating an engaging online presence that people wanted to follow. Once this starts to work, the payoff can be high, but if you’re looking to get your first customer right away, these next two groups of dietitians have some great tips.
The next three didn’t get their first customers in front of their computer — instead, they “optimized for spontaneity” by getting out there in the world and proactively having conversations about nutrition.
“My first customer happened accidentally. I was at a conference and stopped to talk to a company in the expo. I had heard of their product and wanted more information on it. I wasn’t going into it thinking we could work together, however once we started talking the owner realized that we could be a great fit together. He followed up with a week later, and by the end of the month, I had signed a contract with them.”
FOUNDER OF MOM TO MOM NUTRITION
“I belong to a group of moms and tots at our church and when one of the moms asked for help with meal planning + post baby weight-loss, I couldn’t say no! I then knew I wanted to expand my business to working with both individual clients and families as well as small businesses.”
OWNER OF KARA LYDON | THE FOODIE DIETITIAN
“The first big client I got was by walking up to a company at a festival I was volunteering at and introducing myself and my services. I put myself out there and was in the right place at the right time.”
But let’s say you don’t want to wait for the next expo or struggle to spark spontaneous conversations that can lead to your first customer. These next four entrepreneurs did one of the things that has the most predictable return on your time: using your past relationships.
“I sent an email to a contact at an influential PR firm, set up a time to talk, and then pitched my services and how I my experience could benefit their clients. I also set up calls with people in my industry to learn more about what they do and they were very gracious to share contacts names. Word of mouth and a previous relationship were certainly helpful but just letting various people know that I was available and ready to be hired led to immediate work.”
FOUNDER OF AVACADO A DAY NUTRITION
“It was a referral through a personal trainer I shared an office space with. Even though we haven’t been in the same workspace for over a year, I still receive referrals from her.”
OWNER, REAL FOOD FOR FUEL
“I used to be a triathlon coach and a lot of my early nutrition clients were athletes that I also coached (so word of mouth).”
FOUNDER OF THE BLONDE PANTRY
“I used word of mouth through family and friends and even old co-workers who worked as dietitians but had a different specialty, they would refer to me.”
There are many ways to get your first customer, many of which weren’t included in this post. Getting your first paying customer is one of the biggest milestones in the entrepreneurial journey. It doesn’t matter how you get yours, as long as you’re able to get past that first obstacle.
Check out Compass.com for more articles by Mike Wilner.