What lengths would you go to to take a chance and start your dream business? Jess Thomas’ leap of faith included selling her car, quitting her job and getting down to doing good old fashioned hard work. Our number one babe with balls – stocking all around Australia, signing deals with Branson at the same time as being a mum – find out how she does it!
What did you study and what was your original intended career path?
I studied a double degree in Commerce and Journalism. I really didn’t have an intended career path when I left uni, but I did soon find myself climbing up the corporate ladder in the marketing world. I was a Marketing Manager when I decided to leave the corporate world and jump full time into Health Lab. I’m a big believer that you really only learn by getting your hands dirty and making mistakes, and no degree (well at least not the ones I did) can prepare you for the realities of running a business and marketing a product.
Give us a brief background on your career to date:
I started my career off at L’Oreal Australia where I remained for many years, then moving across to Retail Zoo where I was a Marketing Manager for another few years. I was very blessed to start my career in two amazing and tough companies that taught me so much about business and marketing, and most importantly developing a thick skin. It was a great foundation for starting Health Lab.
What was the inspiration about Health Lab?
I was busy, stressed and working extremely long hours in the corporate world and it wasn’t too long until I was in a very committed relationship with the chocolate and cookie jars on our floor, especially around that 3pm mark!
I soon started embarking on the search for actually healthy snacks for something that wasn’t boring (such as a bloody apple) that would leave me unsatisfied and on the hunt again 15 minutes later. All I wanted was something healthy, but still delicious enough get me through my afternoon sugar cravings and keep me working productively into the evening.
Health Lab was founded because I saw a gap for nourishing and healthy snacks that were conveniently delivered straight to busy women, like myself, that had no time to be baking, as there were deals we could be making. Healthy snacks that helped women remain productive, energized and ready to tackle the world.
Tell us about starting up, how did you fund Health Lab and grow so fast?
I actually sold my car to start the business. It was enough to create a website and purchase some basic kitchen equipment. From the beginning, I continued to re-invest any money back into the business to fund ongoing growth.
What are some of the ways you have gotten your brand out there?
The business really started at the grassroots level and we got our “hands dirty” in the local community doing product tastings in local fitness studios, giving away a lot of samples, stocking in local cafes and did a stack of collaborations with other similar brands and influencers. But to be honest, I think you just have to be consistent and persistent and eventually the hard work starts paying off!
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you?
Oh God there have been so many! I think one of the biggest ones for me is learning that good things really do take time and you need to have a lot of patience. I used to get very frustrated with how long it would take to land a key account or get a new product launched into the market. But I’ve now learnt the value now of slowing down and understand that success is a marathon, not a sprint! Often the big and testing challenges prove to be the best thing to happen to the business and they always happen for a reason.
How do you manage to juggle being a mother and a business?
This is all very new to me as I have a very fresh 5-week-old little girl. I have actually continued to work since having Gigi and have quickly learnt it really is a constant juggling act and it can be really hard at times – especially when you are getting minimal sleep. I try and work around Gigi as much as possible, so have had to become very flexible and so much more efficient with my time. I am very lucky to have a lot of amazing support from my husband and family, so that makes things a bit more achievable.
What are your three top well being tips?
1. Do something you love and that you are passionate about.
2. Surround yourself with uplifting, inspiring and positive people.
3. Work on your mindset.
What have been some of your highlights?
Oh I have a few amazing ones, including recently landing having our protein balls stocked on Virgin Airlines. But the ultimate highlight would be the opportunity to work alongside my husband every day to grow the business.
What are your favourite apps for doing business?
I can’t believe I get excited by Shopify and Xero Apps! Haha…I guess they aren’t terribly exciting but are amazing for an ecommerce business.
What’s next for Health Lab?
We are just about to launch a guilt-free, on-the-go protein smoothie range for women! The new guilt-free protein smoothies are almost too good to be true and are designed to meet female consumers demands all are; high protein, low carb, have no refined sugars and are low calorie. Plus they absolutely delicious in three satisfying flavours; chocolate, coffee and strawberry.
How do you define success?
I think I’ve learnt that success is really a continuous journey and your definition of success changes over the years. Now, how I define ‘success’ is being true to yourself, loving what you do and living life on your terms. I feel very lucky to be doing just that at this stage in my life.
What would you say to your 21-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid to dream REALLY big!
What person dead or alive would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Oh as cliché as it might be, I’d have to say Oprah. It really is an incredible empire she has created and I love her work on mindset, goal setting and achieving your dreams.
What’s your favorite song/s right now?
Haha I have a newborn so twinkle, twinkle little star is a real hit ☺