After seeing how salt therapy helped his father overcome chronic respiratory illness, Irishman David Lindsay decided to bring the therapy back to his adopted homeland.
The first Salts of the Earth therapy centre opened in 2010. There are now six centres across Australia and the business is expected to grow by 85 percent this year. Lindsay took the concept to the US in 2012 and the first Salts of the Earth centre is scheduled to open there soon.
Founder David Lindsay tells us more about his journey from struggling small business owner to international entrepreneur.
How did you settle on selling salt?
My father suffers from asthma, bronchiectasis & chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He finally found relief by sitting in a room built from salt and inhaling minute salt particles. Having become immune to the majority of steroids and antibiotics, it was becoming increasingly hard for my father to shake a simple cold. When I visited him in Ireland in 2009, I couldn’t believe his progress from attending these salt rooms. Inspired by this, I conducted research into respiratory conditions in Australia and investigated if the therapy was available here. There was no one doing it. This is where my entrepreneurial thinking came into play. You are very lucky if you can unearth a complete new concept to an entire nation. Salts of the Earth was born.
What kind of growth is the business enjoying?
In year one, we very nearly broke even. In year two we started franchising as people were flying to us from all over Australia, and more and more people were asking if they could buy into our business. We grew by 70 percent and this year we are on track to grow a further 85 percent. Having opened Australia’s first Salt Room in June 2010, we presently have 6 Centres open across three states of Australia, with the opportunity to expand globally in 2013.
What’s the most challenging thing about your industry? How are you working to overcome this?
There is a massive stereotype out there that salt is bad for you. We spend the majority of our time on a re-education process about salt. Also, because we are a new industry in Australia, people know very little about us and most of our customers don’t believe in natural complementary therapies. We are combating this by providing our customers and industry with as much information as possible, to allow them make an informed decision. Word of mouth due to our amazing results is helping people make their own decisions about this therapy.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Business is a sport. The better you get at it, the more success you have. What do all elite athletes have? A coach. In December 2011, I invested in a program called the Board of Directors 12 run by a business coach called Stefan Kazakis. Why did I do this? Because I was a typical small business owner who was working 24/7 and both time and cash poor. I now see Stefan on a fortnightly basis to ensure I keep myself structured, organised and ten steps ahead of my business.
Tell us more about your recent expansion?
I signed up my first franchisee in September 2011, with three more signing up after that. The success we have had has resulted in six prime time TV interviews that have sent interest into our business through the roof. Without even advertising our franchise, we have received over 400 franchise enquiries in 2012 alone. Having realised this potential, we had to slow down the franchise sales, making sure we had the right backbone infrastructure so we can cope with rapid expansion. We know we have an amazing business and have heavily invested into its development.
Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to? Who are they and why?
I was always fascinated by my own father’s success. He grew up in inner city Dublin and left school at the age of 12 to help provide for his family. He was always an entrepreneur, seeking new challenges, building businesses and selling them. I also look up to two other leaders. Naturally, Richard Branson’s story is one that intrigues everyone, but my main inspiration since immigrating to Australia has been the late Jim Stynes, a fellow countryman. I met Jim once before his passing, at a signing in the MCG after his documentary.
As I was running late to his signing, the only parking I could get was quite a long distance away and I had to run the whole way there. So by the time I got there, Jim was just about to leave but I did get to meet him. The thing is – I was there to give him information on this respiratory therapy and because I was out of breath he joked to me that I was off to a flying start. Jim shared some inspiring words about being an immigrant himself and I have admired him ever since. It is almost fitting that Jim died on the morning of my birthday. He has inspired me to travel the route of helping others and I hope one day that I can hold my head as high as the three men above.
What tips would you give to someone starting a new business?
You can do all the planning you like but in the early days of your business, plans will change from month to month. Adopt these changes, be able to test and measure strategies that are ultimately going to pave your way to success. Also, know your boundaries. Humility was a big thing for me to get over, which is why I joined the Board of Directors 12 where my business coach Stefan broke me down and remoulded me into a more focused, motivated and business-savvy person. Instead of trying to do all the areas of business, I got a clear focus on my key strengths and employed experts to do the rest.
What’s next for you?
I will not stop until my affordable business model is global. Respiratory conditions are rampant globally and everyone should have the opportunity to try this therapy. I love what I do, and after I got engaged recently, customers – some of whom I have not even met – left engagement presents and cards for us. It means the world to me and brings me back down to earth. I have the best job in the world, helping people achieve better health and wellbeing and they love me for it.
We’re also about to make this therapy available to animals. Many animals suffer from respiratory conditions, so Salts of the Earth for Animal Lovers will be available soon.