Rebecca Coomes is the founder of The Healthy Gut where she coaches people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and guides them on how to live well with SIBO. She achieves that by sharing her SIBO friendly recipes in her cookbooks, on her SIBO Cooking Show and on her blog. Rebecca hosts a popular podcast called The Healthy Gut Podcast where she interviews the world’s leading SIBO specialists. She is also a marketing consultant who knows how to grow a global audience in a short space of time.
Transitioning out of the corporate world
Rebecca used to work with a big hospitality company in Melbourne whose management changed at some point and that negatively affected the work environment to the point where Rebecca didn’t like working there anymore.
She therefore took some time out and travelled around South America where she had a near fatal diving accident which gave her a perspective on what she wanted in life. When she got back to Australia, she decided to try her hand in the not-for-profit sector specifically working with animals. Later on she realised that she was too commercially-minded to work with people with no commercial experience. In the meantime, her health and work enjoyment were deteriorating so she had to make a change. In her early twenties she had her own business and she loved it.
Eventually she started her own marketing consultancy because she wanted to be the master of her own destiny. She was able to secure clients quickly and at some point her major challenge was having so much work that she didn’t know how she would manage it.
Getting the first clients
She had been working in hospitality and events, and was also an executive member of the Special Events Society which exposed her to a broad network of people and businesses. She started by sending out an email to the network to pitch her new marketing services and within 30 seconds she got a response from one of her associates who said their company was rebranding and needed marketing support. She got other clients from then on through referrals and her network. Within 3 months, she was so exhausted from working so hard because she used to work 80 hour weeks.
Fully exploiting her enormous network
Rebecca started by going through her email list, Facebook and LinkedIn to look for everybody she knew in the hospitality and events industry in Melbourne. She then emailed them all with details of her new marketing consultancy business. She used to target small to medium sized businesses that didn’t have a marketing manager, but needed marketing support. Her great marketing experience appealed immensely to those businesses. One of her first clients had a successful business but the sales were not good because their marketing strategy was not well developed.
Rebecca helped the businesses with planning to determine where they wanted to go and the future they wanted. She even helped them identify inefficiencies in their operations and streamline their marketing activities to achieve maximum sales. Her support would enable her clients to do a full overview of their business and determine what works for them and what doesn’t.
Before working in the hospitality and events industry, Rebecca also worked in the Australian and UK retail industries where she ran more 400 stores and that equipped her with operations management skills that were highly applicable in her marketing consultancy.
The light bulb moment
Rebecca was in the Dent Business Accelerator Program about two and a half years ago and it was very beneficial to her. As she went through the program, she realised that she was standing on a mountain of value made up of 36 years of personal experience with chronic illness (SIBO) and a passion for cooking. She could see an immediate gap in the market because there were no recipes or cook books for people who suffered from SIBO.
It took her a month to launch her first cook book and it was the world’s first cook book for people being treated of SIBO. Despite that, she faced a lot of challenges especially because she doubted her credibility to talk to people about their health.
She launched the first cook book as an ebook and within no time she was getting emails from different people in the US and UK requesting for a printed copy of the book. They used to ask for her help and support in getting themselves treated of SIBO.
The cook book
Rebecca decided to do the cook book because part of her SIBO treatment was avoiding a lot of food groups. She had to cook all her food from scratch and there were no recipes for that, which was a big problem not just for her, but also everyone in the world who was being treated for the condition. That problem would be a huge barrier to people getting healed of SIBO. Rebecca’s cook book solved that problem. It has helped people with SIBO eat more foods than they were eating before.
Writing the cook book
She is very aggressive when it comes to achieving to her goals. She loves photography and was lucky to have a friend who is a professional food photographer. The friend coached her on how to take food photos and through that, Rebecca was able to take all the photos in her first cook book. She would spend 12 to 16 hours every day working on it. She got a graphic designer online who would help her do the ebook.
She used to cook and take photographs of the food at home during the days then send all the content to her graphic designer. Within one month the cook book was finished.
Testing the cook book
Rebecca partnered with Australia’s leading SIBO specialist who had developed a diet protocol that Rebecca followed. Rebecca contacted her and asked if she could use her protocol in the cook book. They negotiated the necessary terms, and that enabled Rebecca to develop SIBO-oriented recipes that would meet the market need.
She then used her network to test the recipes and got about 15 people testing each recipe. That worked very well.
Benefits of the cook book
Rebecca didn’t have any clientele and only had a Facebook page for The Healthy Gut with a few likes from friends and family. There was an active Facebook group for SIBO where Rebecca was very active, so she decided to give away her cook book for free to the group members and all she asked for was a person’s name and email. She then launched the cook book by sending an email out using MailChimp, and set up a landing page on her website to capture people’s names and email addresses. She also posted the same on Facebook and she quickly started getting people on her database which rose to over 1,000 people.
Then, she realised that she needed to build a community of people who were willing to buy from her and the people who got her cook book for free did not convert into paying customers very well. Despite all that, they gave her a launch pad to start building a community of buyers.
Core revenue streams
Her cook books are one of them; they were her main revenue stream for a long time. She now has her SIBO Coaching Program which is a monthly subscription to a live webinar with her and special speakers who are made up of the world’s top SIBO doctors. She is currently in the process of launching her menu plan to help people plan out what they will be eating every week. In addition, she does events like shopping tours where she teaches people how to shop for this new way of eating. She also has a contribution button for her podcast. She is in the process of securing sponsors for the podcast but at the moment she asks people to contribute money towards the running of the podcast.
Cost of printing
Rebecca wanted to partner with a local printing company. She had found one in Melbourne which did the first cook book very well. But when she went back to them for the second cook book, it was a total disaster and they had to reprint it 8 times because every time they printed it, there were too many errors in it. She ended up going to China to print her books. That enabled her to print a lot more books. She recently negotiated a partnership with a US based company that purchased the rights to her books for the US editions and they now manage the printing, orders and distribution of the books to customers in the US and Canada. The partnership is working really well.
Initially, Rebecca was funding everything from her own savings but she now works smartly by partnering with the right people.
Volume of sales
Rebecca has sold several thousand books so far.
Business model for the meal plan
Rebecca says she is currently launching as a two-week meal plan that will later on become a monthly subscription. She realised that she didn’t have enough products that people could keep buying, and doing a full cook book was very time consuming and expensive, so she decided to develop food solutions because that’s what people were demanding from her.
Therefore, the meal plans are a great way for her to generate recurring revenue. She now has a subscription functionality on her website so that people can just buy whenever they want. She has seen that the more she can do products that sell themselves, it’s better for her financially. She is also partnering with a US company that produces ready-made meals and they are going to create a SIBO friendly line including snacks that people can buy at stores. Because Rebecca has built such a strong brand around her great expertise and reputation on SIBO, she has gotten enormous interest from people.
She always thinks about how to build data around people so that she can communicate with them better. She set up an easy online survey through Google forms and asked people what they would need her ready-made meals and snacks to cater to in terms of dietary requirements. That way, she could make sure that when she developed them, they would be right for the customers. She then asked them to leave their email addresses if they wanted to know when the ready-made meals and snacks were in the market. That has gotten her more than 600 people filling the survey so far and it has gotten her the needed data so quickly while also growing her email list.
She always uses that kind of research to know what her potential customer base wants. For example, when it came to her cook books, she would go to her Facebook group and ask people what meals they were struggling with most, among other questions. She applied the same research techniques before starting her coaching program and meal plans. That technique ensures that when she goes to market, she is confident that the market wants what she is offering because they have already told her what they want.
Tip: When developing a new product or service, before you spend any money on marketing, make sure that you have done your due diligence and that you’ve spoken to your ideal target market about whether it’s something they actually want.
The ready-made meals and snacks
Rebecca is very excited about this and it has been another steep learning curve for her.
Printed book Vs. Ebook
With the cook book, Rebecca says people prefer them in front of them as they cook in the kitchen. When she had just printed her second cook book, Rebecca attended a SIBO conference in the US where all the top SIBO doctors were attending. She wanted the doctors to know her and wanted to know them too. She took several cook books with her to the conference and gave them out to the speakers with her business cards attached. She even signed the books for them and it impressed and excited them all so much. The doctors always talk about how proud they are to have had the first edition of her book before she had really started out in the business. She acknowledges that that would never have been possible with an ebook. Printed books have a far higher impact than ebooks.
Her podcast was a direct result of her attending the conference in the US. She came away having met many doctors who were experts in SIBO and she thought that the SIBO information had to get out to the lay person because most of it was known among doctors but not among patients.
She contacted the doctors, told them that she wanted to launch a podcast on SIBO and invited them to guest on the podcast. Her first guest was the top SIBO doctor and they did a two-part special which enabled her to launch the podcast with a bang. That gave the podcast a lot of credibility. In quick succession she hosted a lot of other top doctors.
The podcast has given her authority in a space where she doesn’t have any medical qualifications. She is seen as a knowledgeable person in the SIBO space and she taken the mantle as the voice of the patient. She even has doctors coming to her asking for her insights into the patient realm. The podcast is her free product/gift and the only thing she needs to invest is her time, and ensuring that the content is very engaging. She has been promoting her services more heavily within the podcast to test the waters as she plans to generate revenues through sponsorships.
Tip: You can’t take people from not knowing you to asking them to pay thousands of dollars for your core product. You need to take them on a series of steps where you start small, start with something free and then work your way up to your key product
Her marketing consultancy
Rebecca still does her marketing consultancy services and she has identified her core market as health and wellness businesses. Her vision is to help reduce disease, obesity and chronic illnesses in the global population. She believes that she can achieve that by offering her marketing consultancy services to those health and wellness businesses so that they can improve their offerings, gain more clients and help more people get well.
To be remembered as someone who made an enormous difference in the lives of millions of people around the world by helping them to feel empowered and educated to take control of their health so that they could reduce their chronic illnesses, diabetes and obesity – Rebecca.
The Healthy Gut on all social media platforms
Rebecca Coomes on LinkedIn
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