To the average Joe, Peta Shulman is wellness personified. She has that infectious, unmistakable glow of someone that drinks bone broth daily, workouts regularly and gets a full eight hours of sleep every night. She’s also the founder and director of the incredibly successful subscription-based health food sampling business, GoodnessMe Box. Which, FYI, turned over $1 million in its first 12 months on the market.
But ask her, and Peta will tell you a very different story: eight years ago the then 21-year-old was battling a debilitating autoimmune disease that left her bedridden for three months. Yup, this girl has been through the wringer and back and now, she wants to take what she’s learned and educate the masses. Here, Peta chats all things entrepreneurialism and why she strongly believes in healing yourself from the inside out.
How did your personal health journey inspire you to start up Goodness Me Box?
The idea for GoodnessMe Box came to me when I was struggling with health issues.
When I was 24, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. For three years’ prior, every day, I dealt with fatigue, headaches and body aches, and at one point ended up on bed rest for three months. I had no energy, and my immune system was essentially non-existent. I had an amazing job, partner, family and group of friends, but because I was feeling unwell all the time, life was a drag.
The doctors told me I’d need to go into the hospital monthly for protein antibody transfusions. I really, really wasn’t keen to rely on this for my whole life (I was 24!), so I started researching alternative ways to manage my condition. Soon enough, I learned about the ‘food as medicine’ theory and the healing power of wholefoods. I sought out an integrative doctor, and under her guidance, I began cleaning up my diet and shifting my mindset. I stopped eating artificial, processed and inflammatory foods and filled up with wholefoods. I began to notice a gradual difference, and after nine months, I felt like a new person. I had better energy, moods and digestion, and my body was able to ward off colds – which it couldn’t do before.
The best bit? My new lifestyle helped reverse my symptoms and put my condition in remission. The doctors couldn’t believe it.
While I was reading up on health and nutrition, I had so much fun finding and trying new wholefood products in health food stores. More than that: they tasted delicious. The concept of a monthly subscription box filled with health products to try and sample sprung up in my mind. At the time, I was a publicist for an agency that specialised in health and wellness. I knew that between my personal experience and my professional expertise, I could launch the box to help promote these amazing products made with real food– and a business to go with it.
Had you had any experience running your own business prior to this?
Nope! I was 24 when I started nutting out the details for GoodnessMe Box. I was working at my first job after graduating, and while it was incredibly rewarding, I had no experience in managing a business. I do remember telling my soon-to-be bosses in the interview that I wanted to open my own agency one day, so I guess I was always business-minded.
I Googled a business plan and got to work. And if you’re thinking of turning your idea into reality, my best advice would be to do just that: start!
What was the process of bringing your idea to fruition?
So, I had the idea to promote the amazing, healing health food products I’d tried and help brands to reach a larger audience. At the same time, I wanted to get people excited about eating well. I was working full-time, and spent every spare second I had strategizing, planning, and figuring out how to bring together something I was passionate about (healthy wholefoods) and something I was good at (promoting brands). I was also discovering more and more products to add to the lineup. Around 4 months in, I had a solid plan in place, so I quit my job. For two months, I worked like crazy to organise the first few months’ worth of boxes, filling each with 7-10 products and recipes. Then, 6 months after the idea for a monthly subscription box had blossomed in my head, I launched GoodnessMe Box.
How does GoodnessMe Box work exactly?
It’s a subscription service that’s designed to make healthy eating easy. It helps people to try before they buy, read nutritional labels, plan their meals, whip up delicious and nutritious recipes, and navigate the supermarket.
First, we ask you to fill out a health profile with your dietary requirements. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and so on, all the boxes are low sugar. We’ll then use that information to personalise your box.
Every month, a box is delivered to your door filled with a bunch of health products and samples. You can also join the VIP club and review the products to earn reward points, which then add up to free bonus products.
We have month-to-month, three-month and six-month subscriptions on offer. While everyone receives the same box, you’ll score a cheaper price and more reward points if you choose one of the longer subscriptions.
What does the term ‘wholefood’ mean to you?
In short: real food. At GoodnessMe Box, we’re passionate about sourcing and eating wholefoods – aka food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. That means food that is nutrient-rich, minimally processed and free from artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colours, food additives, synthetic trans fats, MSG, GMO and HFCS. The research is there, and I can tell you from personal experience that if you fuel our body with wholefoods, it’ll reward you with good energy, mood, digestion and skin.
How do your products differ from others on the market?
We have sky-high standards! Our philosophy is ‘food with integrity.’ The products that end up in our boxes have been rigorously researched and tested. They all have to meet that long checklist, and be endorsed by our team of health practitioners. It’s a strict process, but 1.5 million products later, we’ve got it down to an art!
Thanks to our standards, our products are not only healthy, but they’re also suitable for people with a range of dietary requirements. We have dedicated vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free boxes, too, which cuts down on the time and energy it would take to source those products on your own.
Beyond that, the value in our boxes is unparalleled. We’re genuinely passionate about helping people to prioritise their health, and we do whatever we can to prove that.
Lastly, GoodnessMe Box is more than a box – it’s a movement. We have an incredibly engaged community. They inspire and motivate me to keep going, and keep improving, and I think that sets us apart.
The business was successful straight off the bat, turning over $1 million in the first 12 months. What do you credit to this success?
Perseverance, passion, hiring the right talent, and having an ethos to guide the business. But I also need to shout out to our community. Nothing – nothing – is as powerful as word of mouth, and our passionate community did the marketing for us.
You’ve recently launched an online wholefoods store. What’s the next big thing in the pipeline?
I’m so excited to launch a kids box soon, and our GoodnessMe Box Wholefood Night Markets are back next year and set to be better than ever!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with GoodnessMe Box to date and how did you overcome these?
The first challenge was the name! Two weeks out from the launch, I realised another ‘box’ was launching with a similar name. Naturally, I freaked out, and rallied my family and friends to help me to come up with another name. while it was an expensive exercise to reprint and rebrand everything, it was blessing in disguise, as I love the name now!
The second challenge was the rate the company grew. For the first few boxes, I was involved in everything, from sourcing products and meeting suppliers to packing the boxes and speaking to customers. It was insane, and I knew I had to hire excellent people to help or I would drown.
Above all, the number one rule for a start-up is to not run out of money! It sounds so obvious but many make the mistake. We were rebuilding our website one year and costs blew out, and we were backed into the corner. We recovered, thankfully, and GoodnessMe Box had significant growth the next year but I vowed that I would never get into that position again. I got through it by remembering why I started the business.
Without a clear why, when the going gets tough it would be hard to hold on.
What keeps you motivated when things don’t go to plan?
Always come back to your why. We’re here to help people to make better food choices and have a profound impact on their health. I never want anyone to have to go through what I did with my autoimmune condition if something as simple as food can change that.
What do you know now that you wish you did when you first started Goodness Me Box?
Take risks but always protect the downside.
If you could give women one piece of advice about starting their own business, what would it be?
If it doesn't scare you, you're not trying hard enough.