Allied Magazine | A Natural Journey with Lesley O’Brien
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A Natural Journey with Lesley O’Brien

Ayurvedic Practitioner, Lesley O’Brien decided to take her passions for natural health, online. It was one of the best decisions she’s ever made…

Tell us a little bit about where everything started. How did you get to where you are now? It’s difficult to define an actual beginning because I’ve known from experience since I was a young child, that food can be medicine and that what we take in through our senses affects us. It wasn’t until I was a young mum living in Asia that I was taught not only specific therapeutic remedies, such as soups and poultices, but also physical treatments and seasonal habits that supported health. This knowledge, combined with growing up around my father’s business savviness, set the scene! Once I obtained qualifications, I was able to really exercise my skills and knowledge. I noticed other health and business professionals were more open to my inquisitive conversations once I expressed some understanding of their fields. My passion for research is continually fed and I’m grateful the health field I’m in can encompass it all and maintain integrity.

Why did you decide to study alternative medicine? Natural medicine was something I was somewhat familiar with from living in Asia. It was simply the done thing and not emphasized as an alternative so it hadn’t formalized in my mind. My best friend returned from a trip to Brisbane one day with a huge Ayurvedic Encyclopedia which he was compelled to buy for me, even though I’d not heard of Ayurveda before, it hit a spot! For two weeks I couldn’t ignore the deep yearning to study this field – so I decided to enroll in formal study. I was lucky to find an accredited Australian course with a master in Ayurveda from India. We’re a family of conventional medicine professionals and my family accepts the path I took to traditional medicine as a natural extension of my nutritious wholefood cooking and creating healthy home environments.

Where did your love for Ayurveda and following the ways of nature come from? My Indian Gypsy grandmother inspired my love of Ayurveda. Originally an Auditor and very much encouraged by my lecturers, I continued to probe and test the principles of Ayurveda and find these ways of nature prove themselves the most sensible, efficacious way to health. That’s worth following! When and why did you decide to create AyurBotanicals? After establishing my own clinic in rural Queensland and working in a multimodality clinic in Byron Bay, I noticed I was treating most of my patients remotely through virtual consultations. I created The Ayurvedic Health Practice as my online clinic, a portal to formalize the process. After a while, it became obvious it was daft for me to pay for clinic rooms when I could do everything except pulse reading and manual therapies online. I’ve since shown many patients how to tend to themselves with medicated oils and remedial massage techniques via Skype and mastered the diagnostic tool of tongue analysis to replace pulse taking. In 2014 I closed the online clinic and created AyurBotanicals, a more approachable online presence offering revised presentations of my existing products and services. Virtual consultations have limitations and my professional associations regulate them for private health fund claims understandably, yet neither my patients, customers nor I notice a lack. I’m able to reach more people with the products and services AyurBotanicals’ offers, including consultations.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve run into while starting your online business? How did you deal with them? I’d already established two different models of clinic practice so I understood some of the business fundamentals, which apply equally online, and I’d learned from first timer mistakes! We ask for advice often and still encounter various difficulties in our manufacturing processes and day to day operations. We deal with them as they arise, discovering how to improve our systems as we go. We prioritize customer service (B2B and B2C) and any mishaps have been carried by us in the background. You could say we grew organically and invested lots of effort and money before we formally employed good strategic planning. Which now sees increased results from our focused efforts and well spent marketing dollars (our biggest expense initially). Just as building a patient base takes time with a clinic, establishing ourselves in a competitive online health and wellness sector was definitely a difficulty we felt the pressure of. We engaged with others in the health and wellness sector online and found ourselves introduced from one person to another, gaining exposure and credibility in the process. We avoid doing this in a superficial or forced way because it’s not good for us and it seems customers can see through it! It is difficult to maintain integrity and we often feel a pressure to waver from our business goals but keeping good company of peers supports our efforts to hold true. Working with a team at AyurBotanicals has been truly great in terms of perspective and skill base, it’s solved many of our problems. If you can find someone to work with and delegate jobs to I recommend it.

I’ve noticed your business is mostly online, what made you go in this direction? I recognise I work best that way overall and it really fits well with current family, time and energy needs and where our customers are at. So it’s the perfect direction for us!

What are some of the techniques you used to get the word about your business out there? Noticing opportunities and actioning them well has been crucial to our success.
We highly recommend collaborations with others to expose products and services and create a credibility for the business. We’ve been approached often and I recommend Instagram as it is a great exposure tool with a moderate conversion rate! We’ve been able to sponsor and support events both online and offline with our product, which is a huge plus. Having a tangible thing, even our online course is good for engagement and leads people to our other services. We have attended a couple of Festivals but it’s not something we’re passionate about so we’ve been lucky that others will take our products to the markets and festivals for us because that exposure and representation is invaluable. Incentivising through competitions via Instagram or offers in our newsletter has been worth-while. We hold true to not paying bloggers and this has meant some good quality promotions!

Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Yes, we’ve often got something active, even if it’s redesigning our course! AyurBotanicals noticed our customers travel a lot and like natural beauty products so we’re creating a herbal face mask and a travel blend you can drink AND apply to wounds. From a wider perspective, I’ve co-founded two new enterprises which both bring us a wider reach into our already target market plus fit neatly into our existing business processes. I’ve also got the beginnings of a collaborative book – releasing in 2018!

You mentioned two new businesses? Tell us more! I created Holistic Resources Co (HR Co), an online peer community for professionals in the health and environment sectors, out of observing and being told about a need my peers experienced. They mentioned they had so much more to offer and learn from than they could express in their working day and that they wanted to meet other like-minded professionals. The idea of how to satisfy these needs came to me as a peer platform and I couldn’t find a reason why not to do it, so I put it to someone else as I wanted support before exhausting myself with another business, and we’ve run with it. Wise Mumma is our third enterprise which completes the way we support the health of people at work and at home. It’s a home delivery of wellness products for the home and family and again it came as an inspiration that I sat on for a while, shared with others and which then became taken up. Now to launch these two in the next couple of months, after much business planning.

Finally, are there any handy hints you’d tell people that want to start their own online business? The same advice applies to starting any new small business….there will be an initial period (could be 1-2 years) of lots of hard work or longer hours as you become established. Don’t give up your current job until you can generate revenue from the new business, and keep motivated by knowing you can fund your new enterprise from your day job. Yes, there are ways to manage running two jobs and no, you can’t use the excuse ‘but I can’t put everything into my new business as I’m time or energy poor’ – you learn to work efficiently very quickly! Do loads of research into what others are doing and small business management, seek quality advice, and don’t simply copy others because not everyone has put consideration into what they’re doing, they just copied someone else and it may not be working the best! Apply your own common sense and heartfelt, knowing how you want to run your business or what you want it to look like, fit that into some worthwhile methods. Then be resilient enough to face your mistakes and learn.
Interestingly, we learnt after AyurBotanicals launched that you can begin to garner interest in your business even before you open the door to your website! You just need an enthralling Instagram page (careful advertising as a health professional) and maybe an offering like a free webinar or PDF offered on a landing page for a small price. If you don’t get much interest then you’ve got a chance to tweak something about the sales process before you open. We’re employing this technique to our two new enterprises successfully.

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