Don’t be Afraid of Hearing “No”

 

C&J Nutrition share their journey to building a nutrition consulting, counseling, and communications company

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As told by Willow Jarosh to Jessica Rosenberg

Willow Jarosh and Stephanie Clarke met in graduate school at Tufts University, where they both earned degrees focused in nutrition communications. From there was born a partnership that has withstood the test of time and distance.

Eleven years after graduating, Willow and Stephanie, the power team behind C&J Nutrition, share with the Soloist Collective what it took to establish themselves as experts in their field and build a unique communications agency that is changing lives every day.

On getting started

Part of our graduate program at Tufts included doing internships at various companies where we could test out the different ways to apply what we were learning in school. Stephanie and I both worked at magazines and we fell in love with taking nutrition research and translating it into information that could easily be consumed by lay people.

We spent the last semester of our program deciding how we could build a business that would allow us to disseminate useful and actionable nutritional information on every level, from 1-on-1, to small groups, and even large groups of people.

We were still discussing what that business would look like when we came across a Craigslist posting for office space in a New York City wellness center. It felt like the right time to leap, so we decided to give it a try for a year and see what happened.

On getting first clients

When we first launched C&J Nutrition we knew we wanted to see clients 1-on-1 in our private practice and we wanted to work as media consultants for companies who needed to communicate nutrition information either to their customers or to the press.

Since getting consulting clients in the food industry was one of our launch goals, we attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and simply went from booth to booth telling each company about our services. We got over any shyness really fast and learned a lot about the necessary balance between getting to know people while letting them get to know you. We came home from that event with a few clients, some of whom we still work with today.

To build up our private practice, we networked with the other professionals who had offices in our building and the surrounding area and attended networking events.

Our media work also helped. The more press we got for our clients, the more our own name was shared.

On growing the company

Over the years the company has grown beyond the first services that we offered. Today we still have the private practice, where I see a wide range of clients for nutritional care, as well as the media communications part of our firm. We also consult with PR companies when they need health-related quotes for press releases/press kits or need experts to represent brands at conventions or events. We work with food companies to write nutrition related web content, blog posts, recipes, press releases and any other nutritional focused content they might need.

That’s not all! Part of our business is in workplace wellness. We work with companies to design programs that help their employees be healthier while at work.

And last, but not least, we just published a cookbook designed to help pregnant women treat various pregnancy discomforts through food. The publishing process was so interesting that we’re now helping others with their own cookbook projects.

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When we started the business and we were just doing the private practice and the media consulting, we assumed that we’d always just do equal parts of everything. As the business has grown, we’ve let things organically settle. What percentage of our time goes to each facet of our business changes each year as the landscape of what we do shifts and evolves.

On knowing this was “the” thing

I love what Stephanie and I have built. Being able to diversify what we do really helps us stay excited about each of the aspects of our business. It might feel like work if we only did one of the things, but each project calls on different parts of our brains and skill sets, which makes everything always feel fresh.

That said, I knew this was “the” thing for me on a day when we had just finished a huge recipe testing project. We spent 15 hours working and I remember thinking, “I’m tired, but I’m so happy.” I also get that feeling after a private practice session where I’ve really connected with a client and it feels like we’re a team.

On challenges

Because there are so many challenges that come from running a business, I’ve always felt so lucky to have someone to work with closely. It helps to have someone to talk you down when you get overwhelmed or panicky. Amazingly, we’re never both freaking out at the same time.

I think that the number one reason we’ve been able to keep C&J Nutrition going for 10 years is that one of us always manages to keep a clear head. We also share the same work ethic, which has made a huge difference in moving the business forward.

At the beginning we struggled with external pressure to grow. We pushed ourselves really hard and stretched ourselves pretty thin. Once we’d established ourselves we were able to relax a little.

The next challenge we faced was the digitalization of health content. The media companies that we first worked with were paper magazines. As the publication space has evolved, we’ve had to adapt our approach and learn how to push content digitally.

And, of course, we’ve faced the ubiquitous challenge of knowing what to price our services. In that regard, we are lucky to have a great network of friends in New York City with whom we can have ongoing honest conversations about what they charge and what we should charge and vice versa. It’s important to have those honest conversations about pricing! Everyone keeping the information to themselves just hurts the industry.

On marketing our services

We use social media a lot to share our point of view and philosophy on nutrition. It allows potential clients to know if our ideals align and if we’ll be a good fit even before we connect.

Other than that, I’m a big believer in personal connections. I’ve been known to reach out to companies I adore to tell them we want to work with them. I always feel that an email or a phone call is a great way to get a relationship started.

On what I would have liked to know

I wish we’d known to get active on social media earlier. It would have helped us be really current on the next wave of content dissemination. Other than that, I wish someone had told us to avoid over thinking things.

Stephanie and I can talk for hours, but taking action is critical. It’s important to strike a good balance between strategizing and moving. Good strategy pushes you to move.

On advice for potential Soloists

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, all we can say is, don’t ever stop exploring. It’s easy to say no and cut yourself off, but exploring what’s out there in terms of trends, new business, and alternative strategies is how you solidify where your business goes. When you start looking for clients, don’t be afraid of the “no’s.” You will get them (we still do). It just takes one yes to establish your first client. And when you get that client, treat them so well that they’ll stick with you no matter what.