Australia’s growing rate of obesity was weighing heavily – pun intended – on Sharon Thurin’s mind in 2005. After a sleepless night grappling with the issue, the mother-of-three decided to do something about it and started Slim Secrets.
The unintentional entrepreneur’s nutritionally-balanced snacks were an instant success. She continues to introduce new products (including a recent collaboration with Olympic swimmer Michael Klim) and now has her sights set on the American market.
Thurin tells us more about her quest to keep Australia healthy.
What inspired you to start Slim Secrets?
I worked in pharmacies with my husband for 15 years while our three kids were young and growing up. They are now 27, 26 and 20. I have always taken an interest in health and wellness and have worked with nutritionists at the anti-ageing clinic I helped set up. It was with this background – but no actual food or real business knowledge – that I innocently started Slim Secrets.
I founded Slim Secrets one sleepless night in 2005 as I lay in bed concerned about the growing rate of obesity in Australia. I realised there was a gap in the health and wellbeing market, so I set about creating a healthy snack bar range that had a point of difference. One that was nutritionally better than others, had funky packaging and actually tasted like a treat. It was meant to be a hobby but I haven’t looked back!
Tell us about your collaboration with Olympic swimmer Michael Klim?
The Slim Secrets brand has a very big female audience and I felt that there was a gap in the market for a male-oriented active range that was as nutritionally balanced as the Slim Secrets range. We had supplied Michael and his wife Lindy with Slim Secrets protein bars in the past and he was a big fan of them. He approached me about doing a range of snack products with him. We have co-branded the Milk Active powered by Slim Secrets range and are very proud of how well it has been received by so many consumers. The best part of the collaboration is that we are actually having fun in the process!
What kind of growth is the business enjoying?
We are very grateful that in this uncertain economic climate that our business is growing rapidly in turnover, product ranges and customers.
What’s the most challenging thing about the weight loss industry? How are you working to overcome this?
There are so many fad diets and diet products coming out which cause consumers a lot of confusion. It isn’t great for the industry. We have set ourselves apart from the weight loss industry as our snack products are also directed to the health and fitness conscious consumer. We don’t sell meal replacements but rather just snacks designed to keep you going between meals that are a better alternative than the high sugar/fat products. We add healthy ingredients such as chia seeds, green tea extract and more as well as aiming for as many of our products to be wheat/gluten free. We also don’t use artificial sweeteners or colours as many other diet products do. Slim Secrets can sit in the supermarkets for example in all areas such as weight management, health or sports nutrition and this is very unusual for our style of products.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
How important relationship building is in business and never give up without a fight!
Tell us more about your global expansion?
We have had an amazing response to our brand in so many overseas countries and are working on growing this area of our business. However the most exciting element of our global expansion is that we are currently working with some very prominent US businessmen to license our brand to them in the US/Canada. We believe this will help grow our name and brand globally in a very positive way. If this formula works we will look at doing the same in other countries such as India where we have had some keen interest.
Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to? Who are they and why?
There are so many entrepreneurs I admire and too many to list. However Richard Branson is one of the people I admire. He has been able to create successful businesses because he attracts great people, and because he has the courage and perseverance to get things done. I love that he is also approachable and happy to talk and mentor others. I also admire women such as Janine Allis from Boost Juice who had an idea and has grown that idea into such a huge and diverse success story. She is also happy to mentor others (including chatting to me in my early days pre-launch).
What tips would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Research is essential
- Don’t be afraid to take the first step
- Take small steps so that you don’t put everything on the line
- Speak to and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and people cleverer than you
- Plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan if you feel it may be advantageous
- Life balance is important
- Building relationships is very important
- Be the best you can be in everything you do.
What’s next for you?
We are launching many more innovative new products this year as well as working on our global expansion. There is still so much growth in Slim Secrets and potential to tap. If only there were more hours in a day!