Dr Katerina Vasilaki, founder and managing director of The Mediterranean Dietitian, tells BQ about how she turned her hobby into a business and the challenges that came along with it…
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
It is predominantly an online business offering nutritional information and dietetic services based around the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. This is done via a website, blog and recipe collections. I also offer one-to-one consultations either online or at The Glasgow Medical Rooms on St Vincent Street in Glasgow city centre.
In 2018 I plan to release my first online nutrition course for people who want to learn more about healthy eating before deciding if they need one-to-one support. There will be a range of packages offered to make this experience affordable and comprehensive to everyone.
What did you do before you started this business?
I moved to Glasgow from Corfu in 2006 after accepting a PhD scholarship at the University of Glasgow investigating the impact of vitamins on people with critical illness. When I moved to the UK I immediately noticed the difference in food and lifestyle choices that people living here make. It struck me that this could be one of the reasons why people struggle with obesity and related chronic disease.
After that I went on to work as a researcher for the University of Glasgow investigating the nutritional needs of patients with pancreatic cancer. I loved supporting my patients, but I also needed an outlet for developing my creativity, which is why I set up The Mediterranean Dietitian.
What inspired you to start up?
I was born and bred on the beautiful island of Corfu in the north of Greece where I spent lots of my childhood with my maternal grandmother who had her own vegetable, fruit and animal farm.
Cooking, meal times and local and seasonal produce were so key to my upbringing and after years living in the UK I wanted to create a platform to share the Mediterranean lifestyle with people who are motivated to focus on a long-term and sustainable lifestyle change.
I’ve also always been fascinated with blogging and photography and I wanted to combine that with my professional expertise as a dietitian and create an online business.
The Mediterranean Dietitian started as a hobby – an online space to share recipes and nutritional advice - but over the past two years I’ve worked hard to turn it into a business.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
I help people change their eating and become healthier by sharing the benefits and food of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I found Business Gateway was a great place to start. Other than that there are fantastic online courses, as well as online support groups where I go to for industry-related advice when I need it.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
I kept costs to a minimum by doing much of the work myself. I also run my own nutrition clinics which help to cover some of the on-going expenses such as website fees and social media advertising.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Doing a Mediterranean Diet cookery demonstration on live TV – it was very nerve racking but fun and incredibly rewarding. This year I have been invited to speak and cook at a number of health and lifestyle-related festivals around Scotland – I’m hoping they will become some of my biggest achievements!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
I focus a lot on the creative component and recipe development of the business rather than solely running a nutrition clinic – I believe it’s important to inspire people and give them lots of free information in order to get them on board. I am very active in health and food-related circles and encourage collaborations with a variety of brands and people.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I love the variety and freedom of pursuing the areas that interest me. I’ve spent a lot of time developing skills in photography, technology and science which has been so rewarding. I would never be able to do all that if I was working for somebody else.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
I want to turn “The Mediterranean Dietitian” into a health brand that incorporates a strong website presence, clinics for individualised support and a range of foods and products. I also wish to establish a charity side to it, if all goes well.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Persistence and consistency is key to fulfilling any goal. Do not give up!
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement