GoodnessMe Box founder, Peta Shulman’s story is nothing short of extraordinary. The 27-year-old has gone from battling a mystery illness that left her bedridden, to building a multi-million dollar company, in only six years. As a fellow autoimmune warrior and female entrepreneur, I know just how hard that journey must have been. I reached out to Shulman to find out exactly how she turned her health around and continues to thrive while running a booming business.
When did you first become unwell and how were you able to recover?
When I was 21 what I thought was the flu resulted in three months of bed-rest experiencing constant headaches, heavy and achy limbs, low energy and overall fatigue. I saw a number of doctors during this time but received no real answer to the cause of the problem. I eventually got well enough to start work in a remarkable PR role as a publicist, looking after clients in the health and wellness space. It was an exciting time be a part of the ‘preventative health’ industry and during this time I learnt a lot about the vital role exercise, diet, stress and our hormones play in our overall long-term health. The problem was, I was still feeling unwell every other week with a cold or flu. Functioning with a low immune system became my everyday and I accepted it as normal. It was the ninth time I had a cold in a 12-month period and I was told to go on yet another antibiotic.
After further investigation, a doctor discovered I was suffering from an autoimmune condition and as a result a very low immune system. Changing my food choices played a significant role in getting better. I began to cut out all processed and refined foods, only eating whole foods free from artificial ingredients. I also eliminated inflammatory foods from my diet and began to take measures to look after my gut health after learning that over 70% of the immune system is located in our gut. It took three months to begin to feel better. After nine months, I ran tests again and my results had significantly improved. The doctors were astonished. It took two years to receive all my test results in normal range and this showed me truly how powerful food can be to help your body heal.
How is your health now?
My health has significantly improved. When I look back now on how I would function day to day I always think, there is nothing as good as healthy feels. I wake up with energy and a clear mind. I know my limits and I am conscious that lack of sleep can push my immune system over the edge. When running a business I need to put my health first to ensure I am at the top of my game every day.
What do you do to nurture your health now that you are running a very busy business?
- 8 hours sleep – sleep is absolutely critical to my overall health and wellness. I find if I take the time to replenish and recharge it makes all the difference in the world. I know with 8 hours sleep I function at my best.
- Bone Broth – I have a small mug each and every morning to look after my gut health.
- Probiotic and Zinc – I take my probiotic and zinc twice every single day.
- Make time for friends and family – Relationships are critical for support and for emotional wellbeing and I’m lucky to have a very tight network around me.
- See a health practitioner – I am a big believer in not self-prescribing or self-diagnosing be it with supplements or cutting out food groups. Food can be so powerful to help heal. I see my health practitioners regularly as our bodies are constantly changing.
Do you follow any particular eating plan like an autoimmune style protocol now?
Yes I do try and follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle which means eating nourishing wholefoods including good proteins like seafood, chicken and meat, lots of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains including brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes while largely avoiding gluten, refined sugar, trans-fats and alcohol. Eliminating food from your diet is challenging as you are removing familiar and loved foods from your meals. Changing your diet is never easy but the freedom it offers makes it all worthwhile.
Are there any particular wellness experts, writers, bloggers or practitioners you look to or consult with for treatment/guidance or healthy living inspiration?
Yes I have quite a few! I have personal practitioners that I see but I do a lot of reading (I’m currently reading That Sugar Book by Damon Gameau).
A few of my favourite health writers and bloggers include:
- Lee Holmes’s blog Supercharged Food and her book, Heal Your Gut: Supercharged Food
- Clean Gut by Alejandro Junger
- Jessica Sepel’s blog JShealth and her book, The Healthy Life
- Younger You by Eric Braverman
- Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook & Action Plan: A Practical Guide to Easing Your Autoimmune Disease Symptoms with Nourishing Food by Michelle Anderson
- Mind Body Green for health news
- Change the Way You Eat: The Psychology of Food
What does your day on a plate look like?
Wake up: Warm lemon water and a mug of bone broth
Breakfast: Gluten free oats, nut milk, cinnamon, nut butter and berries or lately I’ve been all over sardines, spinach and avocado on gluten free toast!
Mid-morning: I often have a matcha latte with almond milk and cinnamon.
Lunch: A big hearty salad with lots of veggies, sweet potato and chicken.
Afternoon snack: Always changing this up! This week we had a raw lemon cheesecake in the office made from silken tofu so this was afternoon tea.
Dinner: Wild-caught salmon, pumpkin and sautéed greens with tamari.
Dessert: 2 squares of dark chocolate (my latest discovery is BSKT Wholefoods chocolate made with 4
ingredients) and a mug of Teeccino hazelnut tea (delicious caffeine-free herbal tea)
Describe your morning routine…
I’ll wake up with some warm water and lemon and a mug of bone broth. I’m usually off to exercise be it weights, pilates or a walk while listening to a podcast. After this, I’ll sit and enjoy breakfast, followed by checking emails for the morning before I get ready and head to the office.
What are some healthy habits you live by?
- 8 hours sleep is non-negotiable. Sleep is essential to your health and wellbeing; don’t underestimate the value of a good nap.
- I always make time for family. Every Friday night we have dinner together.
- Dividing work time and play time. It can be tough to separate from work as it can be on your mind 24/7 but I’ve become much better at this.
- Can’t is never an option. I’ll always find a solution and I believe this is a pretty healthy attitude.
- I see food as something to enjoy to make you feel good, to heal and to nourish your body. When you start thinking about food for good health long-term, rather than something to control, to be fearful of or to use as a crutch emotionally, it is extremely rewarding.
- Learn to read the ingredients and nutritional panel of the foods that you purchase. There are some clever marketing techniques out there so it is important we know how to ‘outsmart’ the food industry.
- I shop for food as close to its natural state as possible and search for foods that are GMO-free. This forms our philosophy at GoodnessMe Box.
When was the moment when you came up with the idea for the GoodnessMe Box?
I always wanted to start a PR agency from day one when I entered the industry. Through my health journey as I began to manage my condition I became inspired by the power of food. What I found is there are the most amazing wholefoods out there and I realised that you can reclaim your health with nourishing foods. I was so excited, thrilled, inspired by what food had quite simply done for my health I wanted to share it. I always dreamed of starting a PR agency but then I had another idea. What if I can combine what I’m passionate about and what I’m good at?
Describe your typical GoodnessMe Box customer…
A GoodnessMe Box customer ranges from those who are already health conscious and ingredient-focused and trying to keep their lifestyle on track to those who are seeking to better their food choices and eating habits and trying to learn how to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
How do you choose the products that go into the monthly box?
We have a remarkable team of health practitioners that review the nutritional profile of each product that goes into the box. They ensure all products are natural and GMO-free, free of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, food additives, synthetic trans fats, flavours, colours, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
Do you have any favourite products that you still use regularly?
Absolutely! There are so many favourites but a few include Pics Peanut Butter, BSKT Wholefoods vegan chocolate, Food To Nourish Bliss Balls, Table of Plenty Dukkah, Thomas Chipman beetroot chips, Banting Food Co Muesli, Pure Harvest Cocoquench, The Carob Kitchen Banjo Bear, Love My Earth spices, The Fit Foodie Fit Mixes, Pukka tea, Jomeis Fine Foods sugar free balsamic reduction, Farmer Jo Cacao Paleo granola, Cocolife coconut oil spray and Pure Phytocare Papaya ointment (we do a bonus beauty item some months!).
Why do you think people love the concept so much?
So many of our customers say they feel like they are receiving a birthday gift each month when the beautiful package arrives on their door step. Above all, we want to get them excited about the wonderful new options on the market and empowering everyone to live a healthier life. I think an email I received the other week from a lady named Rebecca would sum it up best, “It has really helped me to be more innovative with my cooking and healthy eating has become a part of everyday rather than an effort that I give up on when life gets in the way. It’s a practice I am so lucky to now have and trying new products from the boxes each month has really assisted me to see how simple it can be and what is the really beneficial items out of the ‘healthy’ products.”
What have been the biggest challenges in running your first business, particularly one that has grown so quickly?
The biggest challenge has been growth. GoodnessMe Box became a fully operational business from day one. Within a couple of months, I found myself having to manage a growing team, thousands of customers, multiple suppliers, logistical relationships and internal systems and processes.
Having never run a business before, I was in a position to either sink or swim! We had to hit the ground running, make decisions fast, keep our customers happy, uphold our external relationships and continue to build the brand and innovate.
I learnt to never lose sight of our purpose, putting the needs of our customers and suppliers first, recognising when to engage external advice, understanding my weakness and strengths and growing the team accordingly and consistently speaking and listening to our customers.
Do you have any mentors that have helped guide you through the process?
Absolutely, I’ve found it important to surround myself with mentors who I trust implicitly, who believe in the business purpose and who I can go to for advice and to bounce around ideas.
You now have a team that works with you. What traits and experience were important to you when putting together that team?
Honesty, integrity, a belief in our business and a strong work ethic. I am a big believer that I am only as strong as my team. I like to ensure that the team is made up of a variety of expertise so that everyone brings a valuable perspective to the table.
What would be your advice for young entrepreneurs who want to emulate what you have done with GoodnessMe Box?
- Understand your customer. You can’t be everything to everyone.
- Persistence is key. You will get shut down, you need to get back up and try again.
- Have confidence in yourself. Your belief in your business idea is contagious to every person you meet.
- Know your why. Your higher purpose will drive you to use your business as a vehicle for change.
- Ask yourself “what am I passionate about and what am I good at?”. These 2 factors combined can make you unstoppable.
- You can’t be good at everything, identify your weaknesses and ask for help.
How important has your background in public relations been in building the business?
Understanding how to market your product is a key part of building a business. There are so many great ideas but if you don’t know who your target market is and how to get them to know about you then it is problematic. It comes down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses and not being afraid to reach out for help in areas that you do not have expertise in.
Social media is a big part of your strategy. How has that helped grow the business?
Social media is a great way to engage your customers, listen to feedback to help constantly adjust your offering and to spread brand awareness. It is one of the most cost-effective channels for brand awareness.
What are your plans for GoodnessMe Box in the next year?
We have exciting plans including the launch of a new website enabling us to provide a better service and overall experience. On July 28th we will be hosting the GoodnessMe Box Dessert Wholefood Markets at The Grounds of Alexandria with an incredible line up of cooking demonstrations and speakers including Luke Hines, Jessica Sepel, The Brown Paper Bag and others, followed by another event in November. We also have a number of exciting projects in the works to roll out later in the year. To keep up to date with all events and news you can sign up to our newsletter here.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.