Q&A with Lea Sharp of Organiccoconut.com.au
Lea Sharp is a Holistic Coach, Mompreneur, and Mental Health Advocate from Queensland, Australia. As the owner of Organic Coconut - an online health food store and healthy living blog - Lea aims to help people improve their mood, heal their body, and enhance their life through an integrative approach.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I have a background in retail and animal care, but I never felt like anything 'fit' and I ended up floating between jobs with no real direction. When my son was born in 2012, I finally tuned into my inner ambition and started to pursue personal development and further education.
What inspired you to start your business?
I want to help people navigate through and heal from depression. After struggling with PTSD since I was 9, clinical depression and anxiety had consumed my life. In 2011, I made a serious attempt on my life and was hospitalized.
After returning home, I decided something had to change and spent years exhausting every therapy and medication and slowly spending every cent I had while desperately trying to find answers. My struggles led me to Naturopathy and through adopting a healthy lifestyle, I drastically improved my quality of life. I don't want others to suffer the same way I did; I want to help them see the way out.
Where is your business based?
My business is run from my home in Toowoomba, Queensland. We ship our products nation-wide and attend local markets regularly to connect with our customers face-to-face.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
The first thing I did was Google product trends to decide on my niche. Coconut oil had a huge growth rate and I was already in love with the stuff. I'm currently studying Naturopathy but knew I couldn't practice as a Naturopath for a few years yet and I was dying to have my own goals and accomplishments in the meantime.
I registered my business name, ABN and bought my domain - then had a logo created. After writing budgets and working out profit and loss, I started my website on Squarespace (super easy for beginners), signed up to every social media platform I could find (great for SEO even if you don't actively use all of them) and ordered my products!
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Social media by far! I can't stress enough how important it is to have a high quality, user-friendly website to drive customers to but social media has been king for me. I know my marketing is working because people around town refer to me as 'the Coconut Lady'. I also joined relevant Facebook groups and made lots of connections with other moms in business.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Money, of course! We had to have the funds to start up and there was a lot of trial and error with the way we ran our business, which meant many changes along the way. We got through by reselling op-shop finds, decluttering our house, and having garage sales. Budgeting is essential.
How do you stay focused?
I keep a rough daily routine complete with family time, business tasks, and self-care practices as well as a to-do list and achievable goals. I also have made myself a beautiful vision board and write affirmations on my mirrors.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
I went into this thinking I had to be the quickest and cheapest to compete. I quickly learned that this meant a very small profit margin! I have now raised my prices to be higher than my competitors and focus on giving my customers more VALUE. I pride myself on knowing more than my competitors, specializing in all things coconut. I provide a high-quality service with excellent customer service and make everything as convenient as possible.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Early on, I had shirts printed with fun, memorable slogans including 'I've got 99 problems but coconut oil solved like, 86 of them' as well as our logo and had my car covered with decals. We also lived on the main street in town and hung a banner from our house. When people see me out, they immediately recognize the brand.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Choosing one piece of advice is hard! I know when we are just getting started in our new entrepreneurial ventures our reflex is to save money but I highly recommend spending what you can on a business mentor. This can help you to avoid costly mistakes and having to make huge changes as you learn the hard way.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is Evernote; it's extremely simple, but it means I can jot down any business ideas I get at 3 am on my phone, access my to-do list anywhere and file all information for easy access.
My favorite blog is byRegina.com, she gives great advice on marketing and business in general. And I love her personality.
My favorite book? I love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and anything by Tony Robbins. Mindset is so important in business!
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I'm quickly warming up to Wordpress after switching my website from Squarespace. It's user-friendly once you get the hang of it, the plug ins make almost anything possible and of course, it's where the money comes in! I also love Buffer for scheduling social media.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I love Richard Branson for his business model, his values, and ethos and his book. The Virgin Way has played an integral part of my development. Oprah comes in a close second because of her massive success and values, as well as the ways she uses her success to help others.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Our website is currently in redevelopment and we are expanding from one supplier to six! Once this settles, I'll be automating and outsourcing where I can so that I can move on to other ventures including defining my personal brand, releasing motivational daily planners, a range of t-shirts and a not-for-profit drop in center for parents with depression.
How can our readers connect with you?
You can find my website at www.organiccoconut.com.au