In 2012, Mona Hecke became a self published author and released her debut book The Lunchbox Revolution, an inspirational guide aimed at creating great eating habits, with naturopathic advice as well as lots of simple, tasty recipes for the whole family. After travelling all over Australia distributing and promoting the book, it is now in it’s fifth print run, still going strong and the best selling children’s health book in the country.
“This literally changed my world,” says Mona Hecke. “It was my way of putting my passion on paper and helping as many families as I could understand the importance of good nutrition.”
While the book has taken Mona’s career in multiple directions, it certainly wasn’t the beginning of her business. Mona entered the healthcare industry with an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy in 2002 while still a busy mum with three young children.
“I thought that by learning about health and nutrition I could help my children navigate those critical years more smoothly than I did. I never started out to become a naturopath, but as time went on I loved it more and more, and the more I learned the more I realised I didn’t know; so it opened this great can of worms and just made sense to keep going. Ask any of my old lecturers and they will tell you that I was the annoying one with all the questions and lots of stories,” she tells FX Medicine.
While she took on her studies with keen interest, Mona never gave much thought into how she would use her qualifications professionally. After graduating, she approached her local Healthy Life store for clinic hours.
“As I was new to the profession, my clients were primarily through the store and from referral through family and friends. I also spent time on the shop floor talking to customers and understanding the plethora of medications and supplements many were taking (something we didn’t learn in college) and found this is where the true learning begins,” says Mona.
It was during this exposure to the industry that Mona’s focus became food and practical eating solutions for busy people, mums, active families and health in the workplace.
“When starting out, you have this bright eyed, optimistic view that success will be easy, but you soon learn that there is so much you don’t know and you can question your own knowledge and purpose. It is really important in those early years to figure out what it is that you do best, what do you offer that is unique and special, what drives you and brings you joy? My passion is nutrition and inspiring people to live healthier lives by making healthier food choices.”
While Mona has found success in clinic, she admits her methods are not at all “fancy” but rather practical, hands on, easy to apply, simple strategies that generate compliance.
“If a patient can’t apply your protocols, if they are too complicated and unrealistic, then no one is going to be happy. Keep it simple, keep it real; baby steps get results. Clients live in the real world too and if they can get good results while still working, living and feeling well, then it’s a win win for everyone.”
In fact, Mona believes naturopathy is well positioned to provide practical solutions for people’s busy lives.
“There is so much we can do from so many modalities and I think that is where our industry stands out from the medical profession. We have the opportunity to connect with people on a personal and practical level. I think nutrition education is going to continue to grow; health statistics are telling us that there is much work to be done and I think health education in schools is the next step. It needs to start from when they are young, every school should have a veggie garden!”
With her down-to-earth approach, Mona believes the greatest asset of her clinic is her honesty.
“There is a saying that ‘Your greatest asset can be your greatest weakness’. I have a propensity for truth and honesty, and I am always truthful and honest with my clients. This is who I am and this is how I teach, from my truth and from the heart. I see the potential in people and I want them to get results, so I don’t see the point in not being honest and sharing stories from my own personal experiences. I am happy to say that 99% of the time people appreciate it, and knowing they can trust me to open up and speak about anything creates a special relationship where they feel safe and valued,” says Mona.
But it was her family and community needs that inspired The Lunchbox Revolution and eventually took her business to a whole new level. When Mona packed her children’s lunch boxes, people noticed. Soon she was receiving feedback from her kids, their friends and parents about her unique lunch boxes and the type of food the kids were eating.
“It was all positive and I ended up writing a weekly article in the school newsletter and including a ‘recipe of the week’. I initiated the start of ‘healthy fundraisers’ , like mango drives instead of pie drives and saw the potential to put all this information in a book. Years later I published the book and the rest is history. The book has brought me great joy and the ability to do what I love everyday. It definitely brings business to the clinic and I still get a buzz when people ask me to autograph the book. It makes me feel like a celebrity,” says Mona.
Since publishing, Mona's business has grown in so many different directions. She has developed a great relationship with the Gold Coast City Council enabling her to regularly speak with their Depot Staff and Councillors. She also runs weekly nutrition classes in community libraries, leads food seminars, facilitates corporate health workshops to Government bodies and private companies, and participates in food expos. One of her more recent diversifications was to launch ‘Aussie Health Girl’ on YouTube, taking Aussie health to the world. She counts social media including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin as primary sources of business generation, but concedes that word of mouth and having a good reputation in this industry cannot be underestimated.
Mona’s career brings her diversity and satisfaction. In any given week she could be holding an evening workshop in a health store, delivering afternoon workshops to Government offices or chatting with year 12 students about the role of nutrition for their brains. This would be mixed in with a day in her private clinic and still finding time to squeeze in a radio interview and a community food seminar for 100+ people.
“People love talking about food, I love talking about food, I love sharing recipes, health tips and practical solutions on how to stay healthy in this crazy modern world. I tell stories from my childhood, share funny stories about my children and this keeps it real for people and let’s them know that at the end of the day we are all just doing our best to balance life and work while making good choices about food,” says Mona.
“We are in a really unique position as naturopaths because our training has opened our knowledge in so many different fields and we have the ability to see from many different angles,” she adds.
“Sharing a glimpse of this with your patients can help them to see that there is so much we can do together to get them to where they want to be. A client’s health journey is never just about one thing, so showing them the diversity of modalities that can help allows them to take responsibility and ultimately empower them to become self motivated about their health. When they understand that, it’s a great day!”
What are your top three business tips?
- Find your joy, your passion for life and find a way to make it your living.
- Listen to your intuition and follow your heart.
- Never ever stop reading and learning from business leaders who have gone before you, everyone has a story and every story has something to teach you.
What advice do you have for students and graduates?
Be knowledgeable about your community; connect with like minded groups, watch and listen, and find what it is they are most passionate about. When you teach from the heart, sincerity follows, people trust you; that’s when you have found your special gift!
What do you love about complementary medicine?
What’s not to love?!