Key to building a successful business might not be what you think, Lauren Armes of Welltodo Global
Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Lauren Armes is an entrepreneur, speaker and the UK’s leading business coach for entrepreneurs and experts in the wellness industry.
She founded Well To Do Global in 2014 as a personal project and had no clue she would grow it exponentially into a globally recognised - and profitable - platform. We’re digging into how she built the business through multiple revenue streams and how she cuts through in a saturated market.
Stay tuned into the end of the episode for Lauren’s 6 quick questions!
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
This is Lauren for Female Startup Club. I want to hear all about the background story and how you got started with. Well To Do Sure. So as you'll quickly pick up from my accent and also Australian like you. So I moved to the UK actually seven years ago today, I arrived on a plane from L. A. Um I've been um via L. A. I went to Coachella had a wild time and then landed in London thinking, okay, this is the start of, you know, a two year adventure where my ambition had really been come to the UK advance my corporate career. So at the time I had been working in marketing and international sales roles for a company in Australia and I had great experience and I wanted to kind of come to London and climb the corporate ladder and live abroad.
00:02:16Edit I think I very quickly realized sitting in my 9-5 job in an office in London in a basement actually. So no view to the outside world. Um, yeah, I quickly realized that just I hadn't found that alignment in my work and my sense of personal identity and fulfillment. And I know that resonates with a lot of people who, you know, perhaps listening and thinking about starting a business or in the early stages. You, you get to a point in your career where you realize, you know, this doesn't like me up. This is not going to be something that will fulfill me for the years to come and we do work so many years of our lives. So it was at that point about a year and a half into my time in London where I was coming to the end of my two year visa and I knew that I would either have to go back to Australia or I had the option to sort of start something. Um I sort of start my own business, take a massive leap of faith with not much to lose because I figured if it doesn't work I'm gonna go back to Australia anyway um and sort of be in the same position that I would have been in otherwise.
00:03:26Edit And so I had this option of going back to Australia and getting an ancestry visa so that I could live and stay in the U. K. For a bit longer. And so I decided to use that last six months of my two year visa too. Just really give myself the chance to explore my personal passions, really start doing a lot of digging and research into what it is that um I felt excited about and start to just explore, you know, what would a business look like if I was doing something that I really loved. And the thing that kept coming up for me over and over again in that sort of research phase which was like stalking brands, you know, looking at other success stories, reading loads of entrepreneurial interviews, reading, listening to podcasts, reading books. The thing that stood out to me was this wellness space and I think as you know doing wellness in Australia has never really been a thing, like I didn't grow up thinking I'm into wellness, I just grew up in a country where you know, being outdoors, playing sports, being health conscious is sort of part of your life, but being in a city like London where there are so many things that you can do, there are so many, you know, identities that you can, you can take on, there are so many lives that you could live in this city.
00:04:43Edit It's it's such a vast space of people and culture and and so on. It occurred to me that wellness um was a very sort of defined community and lifestyle and an industry sector. So you were either somebody who went to the pub on friday night or you were somebody who went to a yoga class and so I started to really kind of tap into that community and it was in sort of aligning my personal passion for wellness and my curiosity for entrepreneurship that I started well to do just as a blog. So I was writing it on sort of the side of my full time job and it was really from the angle of you know, what's cool in the wellness space in London right now, what's happening in this space, what are people interested in? Um I started the instagram account and it was really just an outlet for me to explore wellness as an industry and in the back of my mind, I had this question which was like, what's my big business idea going to be?
00:05:45Edit And so I was, you know, just allowing myself to be curious like what's coming up here? What's, you know, what rabbit holes am I going down? What am I really being drawn to? And I went through the process of writing business plans for um an indoor spin studio. This is kind of prior to some of these boutique fitness studios popping up in London, I wrote a business plan for a cold pressed juice brand, I wrote a business plan for um an Athleisure brand and I just kind of allowed myself to experiment with that. And at the same time I was interviewing a load of people under the guise of, you know, I write this blog about wellness and so it's giving me access to some of their insights into what was working and what what wasn't. And so that's sort of where well to do was born. And it wasn't with the intention that that would become the business, it was with the intention that that would help me find my big business idea. And as it evolves over this sort of next 6-8 months, it actually sort of became the business accidentally because I realized, you know, I wasn't the only one looking for information and insights to help me figure out how to build a business in wellness.
00:07:01Edit And so at that time no one else was doing anything like it. There was no other kind of big wellness site that you had to look that you could look to, you were just kind of writing the rule book yourself. Yeah, I mean the only other wellness websites that existed in terms of kind of media platforms and kind of content, we're very much geared around the lifestyle of wellness. So you know, there are plenty of articles about how to upgrade your smoothie and how to, you know, in which cool new studios you should be going to and you know why yoga is good for your mental well being or whatever. Um, but what I hadn't found was any sort of media outlet or content based platform that really looked at it from the perspective of the business of wellness. So what's driving consumer behavior, why is wellness becoming, you know, the next hot industry, why is it worth $4.2 trillion dollars globally? And from the perspective of an entrepreneur wanting to get into this space? So it took me about six or seven months to realize that that gap was there.
00:08:04Edit But when I did, it really felt like I'd come into alignment. Like those were my two areas of passion wellness, but I didn't want to tell people how to live well, I wanted to help them to figure out how to turn their passion into a profitable scalable business through the example of other businesses that have done that before them. And so when you have this hard moment or the light bulb moment of finding what you're passionate about and realizing this can be the business, What was the next phase? Did you have to have money to put into the business? Did you have to, what did you do next? Well, I think the tricky thing and you just touched on it was that there wasn't really another business that I could look to as a blueprint. So, you know, if you were to launch a skincare brands, there are so many great kind of business plans and commercial models that you can look to to say, okay, that's how my business is going to make money, I'm going to build the product and then sell it and it's sort of as simple as that. But what I was building was almost a community first, so I, you know, was connecting people to one another.
00:09:09Edit I was creating content online, but it wasn't at a point where, you know, we had hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of readers, it was quite a niche content platform. And so the next question I had to really ask myself was like, what is the business? And when you talk about like the early stages of starting a business, it's all well and good to have an instagram following which we had readers which we had um you know, a passion and a sense of like, you know what we want to do, but unless you can answer that question, how are we going to make money then you're not actually a business. And so that was the biggest challenge for me, was saying, okay, like what are we, are we a media business? Um the next sort of money making a revenue generating step was to launch our first event, which was the first step in kind of actually bringing cash into the business. And I think because I didn't have that clarity on like this is my business plan and he is like a 10 page document outlining it. I wasn't in a position to go out to investors and after investment because I wasn't could clear enough on that commercial vision.
00:10:16Edit And so instead I decided, you know, I want to figure out how to make this work because I'm excited about it and it lights my soul up and I'm loving meeting these people and writing this content. So my approach was more okay, what do I need to sacrifice to kind of bootstrap my life and you know, that meant moving out of my lovely apartment in Chelsea in London and actually at the time moving in with my then boyfriend, now husband's parents, temporarily. And so kind of going through this really unglamorous phase of my life where I had an idea and sort of these concepts in my mind, but I didn't really have a business yet because it wasn't making enough money for me to really survive. And so it was a really tricky stage of growing a business where you realize that, you know, um meeting people and offering them free advice and connecting them with other people and putting out articles on the, on the internet and um, you know, having a great instagram following doesn't actually pay bills, you have to actually figure out a commercial scalable model behind it.
00:11:22Edit And that was, that was kind of the challenging phase of that first kind of year and a half of my business really. And so how did you figure it out? So when I decided to kind of really commit to it, go back to Australia, apply for an ancestry visa and then come back to the UK, I had this sort of three month chunk at home living with my parents again and I felt like a massive failure if I'm honest in my life at that point, because I had this business that people were excited about and wanted to talk about and actually like I didn't even want to talk about it with anyone because it didn't feel like a real business to me because it didn't have the financial success behind it that I wanted. And so I just kind of went into this kind of hermit mode of ideation and thinking, okay, what does this audience that I've now created actually really need. And the thing that that sort of came to me quite quickly was the idea of bringing people together into a physical event space um and allowing them to connect with one another because this new, exciting industry, people want to learn from one another, They want to connect, they want to understand what it takes to build a business.
00:12:33Edit And so I approached um Ella Mills, who is the founder of deliciously Ella and she was sort of you know, still very much is, but at the time was like the pinup girl for the wellness industry in London and I said to her, you know, L. A. I know that you do a lot of talks about you know, living well and eating well, that would you come and do a talk about how you built your business and how you built this blog with millions of readers and so on. And so I asked her and I asked another woman who had launched a vegan cafe and another woman who had launched a nut milk company, the first nut milk company in London, can you believe that this was five years ago, not milk was not a thing. Um and so the three of them came and we sold um I think they sold 160 tickets. My again my husband then boyfriend was on the door selling tickets and bless him, you know, we we rented this space and it was it was a huge success and I think for me it was um evidence that I was going in the right direction and then it was also the first point at which the business was starting to generate money.
00:13:36Edit So we went on to I'd come back to the U. K. At this point to run that first event and we kind of went on to run monthly events for the foreseeable future. Um and that enabled me to hire my first employee. So we became a business that was really built on on cash and revenue. So rather than needing to take investment at that point, I was able to reinvest kind of cash now coming in through those event revenue streams. Um We took on a couple of kind of cash partners, so um fix sponsorships and and fee based partnerships with a law firm and a couple of other kind of investor groups that really wanted to connect with our audience as well. Um And it was from that point onwards that we started to kind of diversify our offering into consulting and helping brands to understand the future of the wellness industry, really kind of expanding our kind of services proposition into um you know, what is now a business which offers recruitment services, um consulting, downloadable trend reports, um courses, et cetera.
00:14:45Edit I just wanted to ask for perspective when you were hosting that first event with deliciously ella, how many people did you have kind of coming to your website? What was the size of the community back then? So I think we had about 15,000 Instagram followers um and traffic to our website was probably around about Um 3-5000 uses a month. Um and I think we had a database of around about 2000 and I think um whilst those are big numbers, they were really um really highly engaged audience members, so they had only signed up to our email list because they were interested in building a business in wellness and we've been really clear on that niche. And I guess interestingly, and I say this to clients all the time, it can be quite scary when you start a business to really go niche and say this is the person that I'm going to serve because you feel like you're just starting out, you should almost be all things to all people to maximize your reach.
00:15:52Edit And I think the best decision we made was to say we're not going to be for everyone interested in wellness, we're only going to be for that person who wants to start a business in wellness. And as a result, whenever our event tickets would go on sale, they get snapped up because the audience knew exactly what they were going to get from our, from our events because that's what they've been getting through our content. Um and it was also at a stage where instagram was so easy to build, you know, like our following was just growing so organically, there was no such thing as kind of instagram advertising, It was when it was a completely free platform, but we were getting such good engagement because wellness was such an exciting new, you know, um concept to be talking about, and London had this really clear kind of community growing around it and fast forward to today. Obviously the market is saturated with loads of content, there's loads of everything going on in every single industry and you've got a number of different revenue streams, making money from the events and the recruitment and I assume the website in general, the consulting, how do you kind of market and acquire new customers now and cut through all that noise to keep growing and what's the kind of position of the brand at the moment?
00:17:10Edit So it's a really good point I think, um where initially I would have said our audience is that person who wants to start a business in wellness as we've evolved as a business, we have realized that actually there are lots of different people that come to our events for different reasons. So we've had to be quite clear with our customer segmentation and what we would say our three core audience profiles are now are that person who actually there's four. So that person who wants to start a business is in the early, very, very early stages, wants to kind of soak up all that knowledge and inspiration, The person who has already built a brand or business and you know, wants to sort of take it to the next level or come in, you know, find out about what their competitors are doing or just be in the loop on market trends. And then the third person, because it's the wellness industry, there's that type of person who wants to be a wellness expert, so they don't want to launch a product or necessarily um grow a company as such, they want to be a coach or a nutritionist or a personal trainer, they want to be the next kind of joe wicks or Caylor, it seems, or build that personal brand and that type of person has very different objectives to the type of person who wants to launch a skincare brand or a nutrition powder or an Athleisure brand.
00:18:29Edit So that's the third audience member. And then the fourth audience member as this whole industry has grown is that person who isn't ready to take the leap and start their own business, but they want to be part of the dynamic of the wellness industry, so they want to work for a wellness brand. So, and there are so many great opportunities in in that realm, whether that's working as a marketing manager for lulu lemon or whether it's, you know, being on operations manager in a boutique fitness studio. Um and so we've had to really get to know what those four customer profiles want from us and then we've learned how to learn a lot about kind of the power of digital marketing through automated campaigns, through, you know, funneling people through free resources into then being able to easily buy and navigate what we sell um to meet their specific needs. And so we realized that we are very much a digital business and I'm a people person and I built the business based on a lot of offline connections.
00:19:37Edit And so it's been a really difficult journey to shift into being an expert in the digital space. But what has enabled us to do is really scale our proposition so that we're not just reaching the people who can come to our live events were actually reaching those people wherever they are in the world. So it was sort of about year three that we shifted from being well to do London to being well to do global, so that we could really reposition ourselves as being relevant to anyone in the world that wants to achieve one of those four things in the wellness industry. And is that through things like courses and digital products that you're selling online, or is that still through global digital events and resources? So it's a combination, so for example, if you're someone who wants to build a business or launch a business, then we would funnel you through to the products that we sell, like our digital reports. So we know that you're someone who wants to know consumer trends that wants to better understand the business of wellness so that you can make better business decisions.
00:20:45Edit Um If you're somebody who wants to find a job in the wellness industry but you're not sure where to start, which is something we hear all the time. I want to work in wellness, but I don't know where to start. Then we designed an eight week online course and so we would funnel that customer into a journey where they get offered the opportunity to do this online course to better understand themselves better understand what opportunities exist in the wellness industry and from there to make a decision about whether they want to start a business or find a job and then they sort of funneled back into okay, well you should probably come to the world to do some, it you should probably listen to the world to do podcast, you should probably tap into our network of partners um you know, utilize this accountancy service, this law firm, so it's quite a complex web, but what we have managed to do is build a lot of automation into that so that if you come to well to do, because you found a really interesting article about, you know, I don't know if the Athleisure industry or the fact that This nutrition companies just raised £1..
00:21:48Edit then you'll then be taken on a journey that kind of response to your specific needs based on your interest in the business of wellness. Yeah. And you touched on something before when you were saying you found your four different audience profiles and then you figured out specifically what they wanted, how did you figure out what they wanted? Um so a few ways, one really easy way is just serving your audience. So regularly putting out surveys to our event attendees, Um the fact that I have literally done probably had like 5000 coffees in the last five years. I've had so much coffee and so many conversations and I set myself the challenge of meeting every interesting person in the wellness industry that was doing something of value and something um innovative or different and or even something the same. Like I wanted to embed myself in the culture of the wellness industry to better understand what people truly need.
00:22:51Edit And you know, there are so many business services websites out there, but when you're building a specific type of business, you want to plug into a network of people who truly understand your business. So if you're in the business of wellness, you want to go to events where people get your passion and your purpose, they get that you want to be a conscious ethical, sustainable business, you want to plug into resources that tell you exactly how that industry operates. So it was really asking those people like what do you need, what do you need from me and dedicating a lot of time initially to just getting to know intricately the people that we, that we wanted to serve just through conversation. And then as your business grows, you can't do that as much. So now we do a lot of surveying, um we do, you know, some social media listening and sort of understanding like what the conversations that are being had online around business of wellness um are saying to us about where we should be kind of taking our business and our message and on that note, where are you going to take the business and that message kind of maybe not so much right now with what's happening, but you know, in the years to come.
00:24:04Edit Yeah, what's going on in the world right now. Um we have had to pivot into a lot more of a digital space, particularly with our events and what's blowing us away is actually, you know, it has meant that we have reached a lot more people. So on Tuesday night we ran An event that we would typically host in person in London and we would be limited to 150 people and you know, we, we were able to exceed that and reach a much more diverse audience from all over the world, you know, at the start of the webinar digital event, it was a paid event um I asked people, you know, where are you listening from? And it's just amazing because those people would never have been able to come to to that live event. And so in terms of everything that's going on in the world right now, while there are lots of, you know, scary and challenging aspects for us, it's challenged us to say we do have a big vision, we do have a global vision, a lot of what we do is relevant to, you know, a much vaster audience.
00:25:09Edit And so we are now kind of consolidating our efforts to really scale online. So put a lot more effort into just digital marketing to push our ticket sales to our global digital events. Everything that we sell is now scalable in a much more global way. Um so I think the vision for me has always been to help people build incredible businesses and careers in the wellness industry, but now it's less about just people in London and it's about anyone in the world wanting to achieve that mission. So, you know, the fact that late last year we started a podcast, so that instead of only being able to reach people through live events, we could take that message of successful entrepreneurial stories to an audience through the world to do business of wellness podcast. Um and just again, just kind of going a bit bigger in terms of our mission and who we who we can reach mm and in the beginning we were saying, you know, if you're wanting to for example start a business with the intention to sell it, is that the kind of intention that you have, is it a business that you're looking to sell in the future?
00:26:15Edit Yeah. So um initially when I started the business I was very emotionally invested in, it was my baby was you know my whole identity and the first time I ever did any work with a business coach, I started to think about actually what I want for my life and I'm the type of person who like can't have the same thing for breakfast every day because I get bored of routine. And so I very quickly learned about myself that I wouldn't want to be doing this forever even though I'm super passionate about it right now, it's a bit like you know, I might really love a breakfast one day and then think I can't ever eat that again. You know, I'm like that with lots of things in my life. So with the business I very quickly realized you do have to ask yourself that question and I'd never asked myself that question like did I start this business as a lifestyle business so that I could make a healthy income and live a nice life or did I start it so that I could work really hard for you know 5, 10, 15 years and then sell it and I think over the last few years I've probably moved more towards that camp, that second camp, which is building and scaling a business so that I can create opportunities for myself to do other things.
00:27:31Edit And so I now see business is a really empowering tool to really solve a problem and then move on to solving other problems. And so we've been able to kind of start a couple of other businesses in the background um and through my coaching, kind of take a couple of shares in businesses where we support and mentoring other entrepreneurs in the wellness space and that with that bird's eye view that we've created through well to do, um get a better understanding of what other opportunities lie ahead. So I think to answer your question, I have now a plan, a vision to have a business that scales and is scalable and you do different things in your business if you want it to be scalable. You think about processes, you think about, you know, not being too heavily attached to it through your personal brand image, being able to kind of distinguish those two things. So I'm Lauren Arms and this is well to do as a business so that it's not so reliant on me that actually it would be impossible to sell. Yeah. Being able to sort of step out of it and it still runs still functions, what is some general advice that you would have for anyone who wants to start up in the wellness sector, but also potentially wanting to start a media side or a publishing site?
00:28:49Edit Yeah, so, um as I said before, I've interviewed quite a few people now who run really successful media sites, so um for example, Mind Body Green is a is a is a site that most people would know us um media website, media business, and just recently they launched a supplement brand and you sort of think, okay, what the media company doing, launching a supplement brand, and when I asked Jason, the founder, About what he had learned from running a media platform and what he would do differently if he was to launch one. Now, his response was quite interesting and probably not the answer that you want to hear now, but the truth is it's not as easy to grow a media business now than it was 5, 10 years ago, because of the, just, just the way that digital marketing and um and media works like you can't get the organic reach that you once could, it comes down so much to paid paid reach and paid content.
00:29:52Edit And so I would suggest to anyone wanting to use content as a driver for their business to also think about other ways in which your business is going to monetize that audience, whether that's also selling a product, physical product, whether it's also selling an educational element, like a membership or um or courses or umm reports or whatever else it is and that you can no longer really, truly go into a media or publishing business thinking that you're going to make money through advertising and just clicks and traffic. So it doesn't mean that you shouldn't go down that path. It just means that content I think is now more of a marketing aspect to building a successful business rather than a business in itself. In my experience. Amazing. Thanks so much for that. It's time for the six Quick Q's. Cool. All right. No one, What's your why?
00:30:57Edit I think um I why quite simply is to live a life of impact um to learn more about myself and others and to live a great life. What is the number one marketing strategy that's made your business pop The # one thing um connection, real connection with people. Is there someone in particular? I think it's actually, it's actually the compounding effect of really becoming connected in the industry that you're in. Um and it will never just be one person that makes your business successful. It will be the compounding effect of all of the people that you network with and connect with. And because of that, I can call on lots of different experts and people who, you know, I've done favors for or they've done favors for me and really lean on that industry connection and real life community, not just digital community to um to really like grow and scale my business and open up a whole world of opportunities.
00:32:06Edit Amazing. Number three is where do you hang out to get start to get started to get smarter. Um probably in a quiet place, reading a book. Yeah, I love reading um I love just being a lifelong learner, reading about business strategy, reading about success mindset and you're really committing to generating a greater sense of self awareness because the more you know yourself, I think the more successful you are in business, Do you have any book recommendations that I should add to my reading list? So many, so many um top three off the top of my head would be the big leap by gay Hendricks Your about us at making money by Jensen zero and probably Blue Ocean Strategy, which is a really difficult book to read through, but it really helps you to think about how to create a unique brand rather than competing with existing brands.
00:33:09Edit I'm going to add those all to my cards after this. Number four is how do you win the day and that's around your am and PM rituals that kind of set you up to be productive and feeling happy and successful every day. So I will admit as a caveat to this that I don't do this every day and I think it's important not to do it every day because it reminds you of how good it does make your day when you get it right. Um so my ideal am routine would be getting up not looking at my phone, taking out a journal just doing a brain dump that kind of um you know morning pages, philosophy of just letting whatever comes out, get onto the page um Doing a bit of meditation or going for a walk outside and having a good kind of healthy breakfast or just a delicious flat white um P. M. Would be like clocking off from work and I think with everything going on with the coronavirus pandemic. It's and people working from home it's becoming more tempting to just keep working.
00:34:12Edit But I think the key to sleeping well and being more productive is not to work more hours. It's to be more disciplined with the hours that you do work and more focused so that for me involves switching off turning off devices and having those few hours before bed before you know without any screen time. And so again I don't get that right every day. But that would be my ideal for being productive and focused. It sounds like a great day for those days that you do it all. Um number five is if you only had $1,000 left in your business bank account where would you spend it? And that's kind of to highlight like your most important resources that you would allocate towards. Oh that's so tricky. Um I would probably continue to invest in my V. A. Because she really helps me to focus on the work that I do that makes money and not stuff around doing add many type stuff that she's really good at and then probably ads digital digital marketing and spend of some description.
00:35:22Edit This isn't and number six, how do you deal with failure? And that can be either personal experience or your general approach and your general mindset. I would say I'm quite a resilient person but I wasn't born that way. I felt resilience through moving towards failure rather than away from it. You know when I started my business, it was not an overnight success. It was a few years of real hard slog and not being able to even afford to have my hair cut. Like I really experience and I'm like a typed a Capricorn through and through like super ambitious, very hard on myself sets really high expectations for myself. So that in itself felt like a failure at the heart of it. But I also knew that on the other side of going through those challenges and knowing myself better on the other side and being more resilient that I would be able to really cope with anything. So as a result, nothing really fazes me anymore.
00:36:25Edit I have a balance of emotional involvement in my business and also just seeing it as a business. I approach sales as just putting my work out into the world. I don't take it personally when someone says they don't want to buy the thing from us. Um and so in terms of how I deal with failure, I think it's absolutely just about moving towards it saying this might not work, but I'm gonna give it a go anyway, and that's that's the only way to build resilience and build a thick skin and you so need that when you're an entrepreneur. That's true. I feel like it's problem solving, rejection and dealing with things you didn't know you had to ever deal with in life. Yeah, it's not easy and that's why they always say if it was easy, everybody would do it and we're for those listening and for you and I were in the minority of people who have put ourselves out there and said I'm gonna be brave enough to make something and try and sell it in a world where lots of, you know, there's lots of stuff and lots of things that people could be consuming, so you know, um you should be super proud of making that leap and I'm definitely proud of myself, but it's definitely been fraught with with challenges and failures along the way.
00:37:41Edit Yeah, Oh, thank you so much for taking the time to record an episode for the female startup club podcast. I just love talking to you, Thank you so much doing, I love everything that you do and I'm so inspired by this podcast and um yeah, the more women that can start businesses in the age that we're living in more freedom and confidence and empowerment, we'll see. It's it's such an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Yes, it's definitely an exciting time for women to be entrepreneurs. Where can people find you, they can find me um in real life in London and online, um either via the world to do global website, which is well to do global dot com or my personal website, which is Lauren Arms dot co, which is where you'll find me kind of, talking more about my business coaching and how I support female entrepreneurs as well. Amazing. Thank you.