The latest in our series talking to business leaders about how they got to where they are today, Growth Stories continues with Jon Welshman, founder of Natures Healthbox. A family-run, Brighton-based health company, Jon sat down to talk to us about his company's beginnings, the challenges of running a business, and weathering Covid-19 along the way...
To begin, could you tell us a little about your business?
Nature’s Health Box is a family-run natural health company based in Brighton, sending health and beauty products all over the country. The website was launched on 10 January 2013, a time where we were highly reliant on Google Adwords and Facebook ads for traffic.
We initially ranked well for gluten-free products, as well as coconut oils. However, the product range drastically grew over time, expanding into a number of different areas as we enjoyed constantly experimenting.
Growth is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. What challenges did you face as a business leader, and what strategies did you employ to overcome them?
After a period of time, it became difficult to grow within the product range we were offering. We made a decision to expand into new emerging areas, so we could get an early foot in the door. This is where we learned about CBD and how CBD oils were doubling in sale each year in the UK as the legislation began to relax.
We decided to invest a significant portion of our time and resources into building out a section on the website specifically targeting CBD oils, gummies, creams and plenty of others. Jump forward to today, and CBD products account for 42% of our sales! Obviously, we don’t want to pigeonhole our company, so this means we’re also looking at other areas and potential options to grow and expand again, but the focus on CBD certainly paid off.
To what extent have external factors affected your business over time? What can businesses do to future-proof against these kinds of peripheral shifts?
External changes have had a huge effect on business sales, but if you have a carefully chosen product range, then a drop on one product should be offset by the rise of another. For example, as lockdown kicked in, we saw the sale of protein powders and vitamins fall off a cliff. However, we then saw the sale of Nasaleze Travel Germ & Virus Protection shoot through the roof, from 2 sales per month to 267 sales in March. By mid-April we had completely run out of stock!
Another factor can be Google Updates. A number of other companies within our industry were hit by the Medic Update, affecting YMYL websites (Your Money, Your Life), so they lost a huge portion of their rankings and therefore traffic and sales from Google. We have always chosen to go down a long-term path with SEO, focusing on high-quality PR, writing in-depth content and not chasing the latest trend or trick. This has helped us to casually float through each update while many others have gone through difficult periods.
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Following on from that, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business operations? What new areas of activity has it spurred within the organisation?
The rush of sales for certain products made it quite difficult to keep up with demand. We’re a small, family-run company, so to meet all these sales, we had to take a number of other products off the website temporarily while we tried to keep up and send everything out to our customers so they weren’t left waiting for weeks on end. We also had to add a clear banner on the homepage letting customers know there might be delays getting the products sent out.
Can you identify three lessons you’ve learnt in your time as a business leader? How have they affected your own role as a manager and owner?
Healthy business growth often relies on several factors. What facets of business would you say have promoted growth in your organisation the most? And what should SMEs look to improve/develop to maximise their chances of success?
We invested more of our time and commitment into SEO in the summer of 2019 and this saw our traffic increase significantly.
In 2018 we brought in 210,000 visitors, while in 2019 we brought in 309,000, a growth of 47%, while the revenue matched this level of growth. Despite the difficulties this year, we’re currently 51% up on last year, showing significant levels of exponential growth.
We’ve been featured in a large number of powerful publications over the past year too, including Metro, Cosmopolitan, MSN, Unilad, Netdoctor, Yahoo, Women’s Health Mag, Daily Mail, Heart FM, GoodToKnow, Mirror, Female First, Hello Magazine and the Independent, to name just a few. This is a significant level higher than a number of our much bigger competitors.
If an online company is to be successful, they must invest in increasing their page speed, improving the user experience and ensuring a quick and natural navigation path through the site and the purchasing funnel, great customer service and complete brand trust. The first step is getting your website in front of customers, but it’s all pointless if you don’t build a connection with the visitor.
What one piece of advice would you give you to other business leaders looking to grow their business?
Don’t take any short cuts; it will take time. Invest in the right people and build out a long-term strategy with regular deadlines to keep the team on track.
Thanks to Jon for contributing to this edition. Looking for more insights and advice? You can read the rest of our Growth Stories series at the links below:
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