A few months ago during my holidays in Ubud (Bali), I had the opportunity to meet Laura Thomas, the founder of Happy Sugar Habits, digital nomad and leader of the Tribewanted Bali Start-up co-working group.
With a strong coaching, training, facilitation, startup and writing background, Laura’s work at Happy Sugar Habit focuses on supporting and inspiring people to make positive, practical, long-lasting behavioural shifts around sugar.
Laura has formally presented ‘The Sugar Diaries’ on UK Health Radio and has written for and featured in The Telegraph, UK Health & Fitness and Elle magazine.
Learn how Laura has grown what she started as a blog into a business, how working from a co-working space helps herself and her business and the tips and resources that she uses to keep evolving at a professional and personal level.
How did the ‘Happy Sugar Habits’ journey begin?
Happy Sugar Habits started with a blog which was my outlet to share nutritional advice and findings as I was realising how hooked on sugar I personally was. I started sharing the shocking amount of sugar in yoghurts and as people found my articles helpful I carried on. I decided to study a professional coaching qualification, launch an online detox programme I was on my entrepreneurial way!
How did Happy Sugar Habits evolve from starting as a blog to becoming a business?
It’s really been a winding and rollercoaster of a journey. The main theme and drive throughout has been that I want to help stop suffering to occur when it comes to sugar or a diet mentality around food so it can be enjoyed in a sensible healthy way.
The blog articles every week over three years built up an audience who knew and trusted me and the engagement on the blog and social and through free sessions I did helped deepen my expertise and test methods to really offer products (my 6 week detox) and services (coaching packages) that help with a big problem.
What are in your opinion, the key planning aspects before starting a business?
I didn’t do much planning myself and in hindsight, I really learnt from this. When planning, your time needs to be factored in. If you want to start blogging, how much time do you need to write the average post, to schedule it, to do social media, on how many platforms, etc. How much do you want to post. What future revenue models are viable for your longer term vision and what do you need to build...
Who is your blog for? What is their aim or problem? What are your timescales and resources? It is questions like these that I feel needed to be answered in the planning stage.
I would also say don’t spend too long on planning though. You can learn so much through action.
What is the part that you like the most about what you do? What is it the part that you dislike the most?
I really feel incredibly energised when I have a coaching session with someone and they have a complete breakthrough with understanding themselves, identifying their blockers and forming a super practical action of a way that will move them forwards. I also love writing when I’m in the flow and it’s something I really feel passionate about sharing.
Dislike-wise, it’s the admin and selling. I had my own blockers to overcome in realising the value I provide, so I was often underselling myself and found it uncomfortable. Now with coaching so many on such a specific issue, I am much more confident in myself and I don’t sell, I respond and help.
You are currently working from HUBUD, a co-working space in Bali. What advantages does a co-working space offer you and your business?
Community, intellectual engagement, like-minded friends and inspiration. As a human, it aids my personal wellbeing on many levels and on a business level I can tap into a wide range of expertise without having to go online to look for it. I would very much struggle to go back to working 100% at home after experiencing working at Hubud.
What recommendations do you give to people working from home or remotely to make their days more productive?
I think productive tips work for different people. I find having some structure in the day gives me things to work around. Meetings or an office to be in at a time. It means I get up to do my morning routine and have to time box tasks a bit – otherwise there is a risk I could be dragging out a task that just needs a bit of a deadline.
I know it’s hard but creating boundaries is important. I’m still mastering this myself but I appreciate the value of having a more 9-5 adapted routine structure that you’ve moulded to work for you.
What challenges did you encounter when you formally founded Happy Sugar Habits as a company and how did you solve them?
One challenge is the sheer overwhelm in information these days – both online and offline. Business advise, marketing methods and techniques from lots of experts offering their expertise can be debilitating at times, especially in a entrepreneurial hub like Hubud. I’ve learnt to trust in my own intuition more with this and remind myself that I am the only person with the full picture of my business and long term vision.
What have been the biggest joys so far?
Speaking at a couple of big events. One at a health exhibition in Edinburgh in 2014 and then this year in Ubud in Bali at the PechaKucha 20x20 evening. I had to present 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide and they moved automatically. It was challenging but I absolutely loved it. A recording of it on my website. recording of this presentation is available on my website.
What tips would you give people who have a blog and want to take it to the next level and make it a source of income?
There are lots of advice out there on this but from my experience, I would focus on the quality of your content and nail who it’s valuable to and who you’re speaking to. Then pick your social media of choice and build engagement somewhere. Show yourself and be you. It took me a while to break out of my corporate shell into being myself online and it’s still something I’m working on, but it creates the bond and connection with your relevant audience – which is really what blogging and social media is all about.
Once you have this, then you can start exploring what paid products and services would be valuable to these people and what they would buy.
What tactics are working better to promote your business and acquire new clients?
For me, guest blogging and writing articles for online publications has been my most successful means of getting new readers. I have learnt to write and connect with people through that medium and love the fact that one of my articles can provide someone with clarity and instant help to make them move forwards right in that moment.
How important is social media for your business? Which social media platform shows more engagement with your desired audience?
I’ve made and am probably still making my fair share of mistakes with social media. It’s important but it’s not everything and I believe you have to make it work for you. I’ve built my e-mail list pretty well through guest writing and some social, however of course, the blogs I guest with share that on their feeds. I don’t have loads of followers but have found Facebook the best for engagement so far. I know Instagram is good for engagement but I’ve put more focus on Facebook so I tend to get more there – I feel like that is where my tribe are right now.
How is technology helping you run your business remotely?
It’s incredible and helping me everyday. Skype is great. Slack is my new thing. Other tools like Acuity Scheduling also make my coaching practice and organisation work a heck of a lot better than before I had them.
If you had to pick one or two, which book, podcast or blog would you recommend any entrepreneur to help them run their business more effectively?
For blogging and writing authentically along with the ups and down of the entrepreneurial journey, I think Brene Brown’s books e.g. Daring Greatly are great resources. I also think Seth Godin’s blog gives a lot of food for thought when it comes to marketing. I’m a fan of the Lean Start Up methods and I love Entrepreneur.com.
What is your key piece of advice for anyone wanting to start their own business?
Use the people and tools out there that have experience in supporting and guiding the phase you’re in. So if you’re looking for the right idea, do some self-development work and understand your strengths with tools and books. Then talk out your ideas and pick somethings to play with. If you’re ready to get started, hire a good coach or mentor and above all, take action quickly and start making mistakes because they are inevitable!
Any exciting future projects that you can share with us?
Right now I’m gearing up my coaching for the Christmas and Jan periods. Christmas is actually when coaching can be very valuable and Jan is when lots of people are looking for the support around sugar. I’m also looking at exploring potentially running retreats here in Bali next year, running my online sugar course again and one day hope to get everything into a book that reaches far and wide.
More about Laura:
Laura Thomas is a health coach, writer, inspirational speaker and content creator.
Laura helps support and inspire people to make positive, practical, long-lasting behavioural shifts around sugar but at the same time not take it so far they get too obsessed with ‘sugar-free’ as a restrictive diet or being overly fixated on food.