Inspirational Women: Sharon Thurin

Stacey Vanoska

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

Name and role:  

Sharon Thurin, founder and director of Slim Secrets

Tell us about your role. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My daily roles are very diverse and include a mix of marketing, accounts, sales, production, new product development, customer support, export management and more. I love the fact that my day is never boring. I can be doing invoices one minute, working out online strategy the next, liaising with distributors, chatting to customers, tasting new products, chatting to my overseas counterparts… and that can all be in the space of a couple of hours!

Of course whilst there is never a dull moment in my day I also have very little time out as I often work at night too (with exports) and all the multi tasking can be very stressful! When it gets too much, it’s time for that massage or time out with my family!

How/when did you know this was what you wanted to do as a career?

My background before starting Slim Secrets was quite diverse. I have an Arts/Law degree, Diploma of Education and I’ve done a life/health wellness coaching course. I worked for 15 years with my husband in his pharmacies whilst our 3 kids were young and growing up (they are now 29, 27 and 21).

I come from a medical family (my father, brother, father in-law and brother-in-law are all Doctors) and as such have always taken an interest in health and wellness. I also worked closely with various nutritionists at an anti-aging clinic I helped set up in my early career.

It was with all this background (but no actual food or real business knowledge) that I innocently started Slim Secrets. It all happened one sleepless night in 2005 as I lay in bed concerned about the growing rate of obesity in Australia. After my experience working with weight management specialists in the anti-aging clinic and then doing some health/weight loss coaching myself to help improve people’s health I realised  there was a gap in the health and wellbeing market. I set about creating a healthy snack bar range that had a point of difference (nutritionally better than others, fun packaging and a product that actually tasted like a treat). It was meant to be a side hobby… but I have never looked back.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My family inspires me to be the best I can be. My parents live life to the full and give back in a big way which has paved the way for me. My husband and kids are so proud of what I do with Slim Secrets (my daughter Mel is now working with me in the business which has been fantastic!) and they inspire me to keep achieving even when I may not have the energy! Life also inspires me – I wear a bracelet by Fairley Jewellery that states “you only live once” and try to live by that every day.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

My mentors have varied from family members to business colleagues. In the early days when things were tough setting up Slim Secrets there were many times I wanted to give up even before the launch and if it wasn’t for my husband Peter (who is a business speaker in his business called Blackbelt In Excellence) and our kids coaxing me on, Slim Secrets wouldn’t be where it is today. My extended family are also great business mentors for me.

Also, in the early days I had a coffee with Janine Allis from Boost Juice and she gave me some great tips especially regarding intellectual property traps. I love chatting to other like-minded business women and have attended some Business Chicks functions and other such events for this reason.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then? How did you overcome these?

There are many challenges that had to be overcome in the early days and some that continue today. Initially, challenges included my lack of knowledge in the area of food, labeling and lack of business experience (Google and Austrade were my best friends in those days). However a big challenge initially was also being a new brand coming into the market with very little marketing funds or knowledge and competing for shelf space with some of the better known, larger brands. Proving to distributors that Slim Secrets was going to be a success and convincing them to take on the brand was definitely challenging but because the brand did have some unique characteristics this challenge was overcome quite quickly in the early days.

Another challenge is our reliance on contract manufacturers for our products. This means that we have pressure on us in regards to pricing, new product development isn’t as fast as I would like it to be and sometimes we need stock produced urgently for exports or supermarket orders due to unexpected demand and we can’t always fulfill this as it is out of our control. There is no real way to overcome this except to build great relationships with our contactors and this definitely helps when we need things done urgently.

For exports, the dollar has been challenging for us but still manageable.

I believe I am very lucky as the business has grown and developed very quickly and we are not plagued by many of the challenges that so many businesses are in today’s climate.

What are your goals for the future?

We are launching many more innovative new products this year as well as working on our global expansion. Probably the most exciting goal which has been taking longer than I had hoped was to launch in the US under a license agreement. This should be happening in early July and we hope to capture the large US market. There is still so much growth in Slim Secrets and potential to tap… if only there were more hours in a day!!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

It can look extremely daunting at the beginning and you may be apprehensive to start a business for reasons such as inexperience, gender, competition, family etc. When I started I nearly gave up within the first 3 months as everything was so hard and new for me. Thankfully my husband Peter was an amazing support and he kept me in the game and without his and my whole family’s support I may not have survived the first few months of my new business.

My advice would be finding someone in your life that you can talk to and bounce ideas and thoughts off. Get sound advice and don’t be afraid to ask questions from other experienced business owners. Ensure you have a plan but don’t be too rigid with it as sometimes opportunities present themselves that are too good to not to pursue.

Do it – don’t just dream about it. Anyone can have a great idea; it’s about turning those ideas into reality. There’s never a right time; you’re never too young or old. If you’re dreaming about it, grab the opportunity now. Sure it takes courage, but sometimes you’ve got to take that leap of faith. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen and can you live with the consequences? I’m not advocating that you put everything you own on the line, but don’t be afraid of failure. We risk more than failure if we don’t try to turn our business dreams into reality; we risk not achieving our potential in life.

My advice recapped in 8 steps:

  1. Research is essential
  2. Don’t be afraid to take the first step
  3. Take small steps so that you don’t put everything on the line
  4. Speak to and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs
  5. Plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan if you feel it may be advantageous
  6. Life balance is important
  7. Building relationships is very important
  8. Be the best you can be in everything you do