Entrepreneurship’s old connotation of power ties and board rooms has, in recent years, melded into ideas of digital start-up culture. Unfortunately, the title of entrepreneur is not strung together in a sentence with the words ‘female’ and ‘under 30’ nearly enough.
Rachel Hawkins is breaking this mould after solely developing her nutrition consulting and communication business The Naked Truth.
At just 27, Hawkins has partnered with some of the biggest food companies and nutrition ambassadors in Australia – building a brand for herself as a trustworthy source for food and nutrition information.
Hawkins’ business developed from an Instagram page that she started while studying – she used the platform to share her passions of food and nutrition.
After graduating with a Master of Dietetic Studies, Hawkins realised that the work opportunities available in both clinical roles and private practice weren’t particularly areas that what she was interested in working in.
Through Instagram, Hawkins had instead identified that there was a need for reliable nutrition information to be shared online.
“I had my Instagram for just about a year, so I was at a point where I had started to build a few connections online and I was seeing that there was actually work opportunities for dietitians through social media,” Hawkins said.
“I just thought, why don’t I try and do this by myself?”
Hawkins was fortunate enough to complete a marketing elective in her last semester of university and a subject that focused on business and dietetics.
Other than this knowledge, Hawkins started The Naked Truth with no business plan, no mentor and no assistance.
“I did my own education and listened to business marketing podcasts,” Hawkins said.
“It was really trial and error … I guess I started to pick up trends in my engagement, people really started to be into posts I did about dieting or weight loss and it just kind of happened organically that my target audience became women between the age of 18 to 30.”
Social media played a large role in the success of The Naked Truth, particularly regarding the ability to create a community and network with like-minded individuals.
Hawkins was contacted via her Instagram page by companies wanting her to promote their products through recipe creations and the public asking for online consultations.
Hawkins used this information to build her website and base the services she offered on what she was contacted about most.
This has developed into a successful brand with Hawkins providing services of nutrition consultations, media and nutrition communications, nutrition writing, presentations and workshops, recipe development and product and menu reviews.
For every success, Hawkins is quick to note the lessons she has learnt along the way – the mistakes, the growth and importantly, the copious amounts of hard work.
“I had wanted to start an Instagram two years prior and I wish I had – two years prior Instagram was only really starting to take off and now it is a fairly saturated market so to build a following now is so much more difficult than what it would have been three or four years ago,” Hawkins said.
“It’s a lot of time and effort, I didn’t even realise that before starting.
“Naivety got me started and my persistence and passion are keeping me going and giving me the drive to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Hawkins still holds a part-time day job four days per week which means she spends six to eight hours per night responding to emails, writing blog posts and creating website content.
She worries about job security, consistent income and says that sometimes working alone can feel isolating.
When asked about her greatest accomplishments so far Hawkins is incredibly humble and almost lost for words.
“The more people that start to follow me, the more I realise what a great community I have,” she said.
“I’ve continued to grow my business and I’m picking up traction with the general public and with my colleagues.
“Well known dietitians in the industry know my name and know my brand, social media has allowed me the opportunity to network with them and share my work with them.
“Everything that I do is building my own business and something that I get direct reward from.”
Female entrepreneurs, like Hawkins, are being strongly encouraged and supported by many businesses, companies and programs.
Diletta Legowo works with SPARK Deakin, a program that encourages entrepreneurship through funding, co-working spaces and networking within the start-up community for Deakin University students, graduates and staff.
“At Spark we definitely prioritise applications for our accelerator program from founders who are women and people of colour … this idea of having women representing more businesses in Australia is going to help consumers have more products that will help them, products made by women for women,” Legowo said.
“As part of an institution we play an important role in championing that and helping students and alumni access those kinds of opportunities.”
SPARK regularly partners with female mentors and real women in the community who are doing great work as successful entrepreneurs.
“I think what’s great about it is that your average female student or mum can look it up and when they see real women doing these things … it’s like you can’t be what you can’t see,” Legowo said.
She also believes that encouraging female entrepreneurship is helping to break gender stereotypes in a career path where you need to make up the rules as you go.
“I think the more women get into the space and the more women supporting one another, the more quickly we can see a real change start to happen,” she said.
For anyone with a business or start-up idea that they want to pursue, Legowo’s key tip is to surround yourself with a strong support network.
“Identifying your tribe and having a really solid network and community that backs one another and cares about one another is really valuable in this journey of starting a business,” she said.
She believes that entrepreneurialism is extremely valuable to create new jobs and give people the tools to define and fill the needs of their communities and influence their environment.
“If you have an idea, even a small seed brewing in your mind, don’t shy away from it,” Legowo said.
“Entrepreneurship is a challenging and very courageous thing to do in life.”