Melissa Fann was a veteran in the finance industry, but she decided to trade looking at figures at health instead. This week, we find out what made her change her career path from the world of “ka-ching” to start The Wellness Insider.
Can you share with us what is The Wellness Insider?
The Wellness Insider is a platform which promotes body confidence. We do that through educating our readers with opinions from experts on fitness, diet, beauty and lifestyle.
We are advocating a healthy lifestyle while also trying to change people’s mindsets and judgements about one’s health or character simply by their body.
How did the idea come about?
I have a medical condition called endometriosis, which made me gain weight very rapidly within a few months and when I was hospitalised for emergency surgery, I had quite a bit of nasty comments from colleagues. Since this is a chronic problem, many couldn’t understand why I took so many days of medical leave and the pressure to not take leave when I was in pain push me into a slight depressive state. It doesn’t help that my mum has always called me fat.
All this while, I was also researching on what foods to eat (or not eat) in order to alleviate the symptoms as well as exploring what types of exercises I enjoyed other than my usual trips to the gym. I discovered a lot of fads, be it in terms of exercises or diets, and many had little or no scientific backing. This made me really irritated because a lot of people were just following fads blindly, hoping for a quick shortcut to losing weight without understanding the health risks or simply just eating foods that they believe have some sort of benefits but are great marketing ploys. The fact that I had to continually explain to those around me about the scientific facts, coupled with many fitness trainers telling me that they too have the same problems with their clients, made me realise that there needs to be a platform that acknowledges all these fads and explain more about it so that people can make informed choices.
Interestingly, through this journey, I met a lot of people with unseen medical issues (including mental health problems) and plus-sized women, and we all had the same complaint – we felt very judged and labelled. And that was how The Wellness Insider was born.
What were the reactions from your loved ones when you told them that you are starting your business?
A lot of scepticism and up till today, my parents don’t really know what I do. They still refer to The Wellness Insider as my “website”, and they were not happy that I quit my job to do my start up.
What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
I had to build my network within the wellness industry from scratch, which was a great learning experience and I love how a lot of people were so open to share contacts to me. The other tough part about starting up is financial – as my business model is very traditional and with no tangible product, nobody wanted to partner up or be an investor. And with no readership initially, it was natural that nobody wanted to advertise with us. As such, I spent a year solely on building up the readership through quality content and improving on The Wellness Insider’s SEO. It definitely worked as we now average about 8,000 readers per month.
Have you ever thought of giving up?
Yes, because there are a lot of things that I wanted to do but couldn’t due to lack of manpower and money. However, whenever I feel that way, I keep getting comments from my growing network within the wellness industry about how they really like the website and what it stands for. Of course, the growing viewership really helped encourage me.
Where do you see The Wellness Insider in five years time?
I want it to evolve and have an app where people can geolocate healthy meal providers near them, or where to sneak in a quick workout either at home or even in the office!
What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start an online business?
Get good partners, plan out your finances and prepare more money than calculated. After which, network, network, network. You will eventually find your ‘tribe’ to rely on for emotional support as well as to bounce off business ideas. You may also end up finding a business mentor, who is also very important to know whether you’re on the right track.