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9 Lessons I've Learned in Business

Lessons learned as a wellness entrepreneur and how I overcame some big obstacles, like being in debt.
Jan 29, 2018 | Joy McCarthy

I've been a holistic nutritionist since 2009. Even though it's only nine years, it feels like I've been a student of nutrition my whole life. It's no secret I absolutely love what I do, whether it's writing, public speaking  or creating new recipes to share with you all. But it's definitely taken hard work, discipline and a lot of mistakes to get where I am. Mind you, I've still have so much I want to accomplish and many goals to achieve. 

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of new people and when I meet aspiring wellness entrepreneurs, I often get asked what I did to become successful because apparently I make it look easy? First of all, thank you for the compliment, but it hasn't been a piece of cake, ahem, I mean chia pudding. I tell you this because people sometimes have the impression that all I do is "have fun" because they don't see the behind-the-scenes work that goes on. Behind-the-scenes is not doom and gloom, but it's not play all day, every day either. Yes, we do have fun - but we are running a business and most days we werk, werk, werk (cue: Rihanna).

In case you're interested, I wrote a post about 10 of the most common questions I get asked as a wellness entrepreneur. 

There have been many ups and downs over the last 9 years that have shaped my business and career. Even though some of them I would rather not repeat (like being in major debt which caused incredible stress), all of these trials and tribulations taught me many lessons that got me to where I am today. I don't have debt anymore (thankfully), and that's mainly because I learned how to properly save, live within my means and make a profit doing what I love.


Since I've been doing this for nearly a decade, I thought I would share some lessons I've learned  being an entrepreneur. My hope is that it will give you inspiration in your own business! And I also hope it prevents you from making the mistakes I've made. 

Don't give up.

There will be days you feel like giving up and that's okay and it's TOTALLY normal to feel that way. Usually when you feel defeated and want to give up what you're doing, it's often when you are on the cusp of some major breakthrough, personally or professionally or both! When I am having an off day, I change my scenery. If I'm at the office and I'm feeling stagnant, I will just leave for a few minutes or maybe longer and get some fresh air. The other thing I do is read or listen to a podcast that inspires me. 


Seeing what my friends and colleagues in the same business are up to really keeps me on my toes. When I see their successes, it makes me want to reach higher. Now I realize for some people, seeing their colleagues succeed may be a bit of a downer if you're playing the comparison game. But instead of letting it get you down, let that inspire you and help you recognize you have such GREAT potential to achieve a ton of awesome things too!!!

Remember, Facebook and Instagram photos are simply a highlight reel. Those people who you look up to are working just as hard as you are!

Invest in your business.

One of the hardest decisions I ever made in the early years was to pay a graphic designer to help me make my marketing materials, presentations and website look more professional. This was/is an investment that has now paid for itself in spades!! I'm so glad because Microsoft Publisher (does that even exist anymore??) for posters and marketing is just not professional. Of course, nowadays there are many do-it-yourself graphic design tools online but they are often still quite limiting. This is one of the reasons I created the Joyous Health Business program. I want to teach others in the wellness industry EVERYTHING I possibly can to help them take their passion and turn it into a thriving business. 


Appreciate your team.

For many years, Joyous Health was just me – a sole proprietor and boss-lady. Now, Joyous Health is Joy (still the boss-lady, hehe!), Walker, Rachel, Carol and [insert your name here, Operations Coordinator]. Walker joined me full-time in October 2013and while it was a blessing, it took some getting used to and figuring out how I could go from doing everything, to allowing someone else to make decisions and contribute. Now that Joyous Health is four of us, everyone's happiness and job satisfaction is incredibly important to me. It's super important to make sure your team feels like their ideas and contributions are valuable. And, it's important to make sure they are appreciated. Appreciation can be as simple as a thank you, or buying your team a green juice! When they feel appreciated, they will be more loyal, committed and happier (right, team!?!?). 

Balance what? How about self-care.

I've written a lot about balance and it's a word that drives me kinda bonkers. As an entrepreneur, I don't know that it's possible to have balance. But it IS possible to make self-care a priority.Whether that means going outside for a daily walk in nature, setting boundaries on social media, having your daily smoothie, getting a massage once a month or practicing meditation, take care of yourself. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs, from Arianna Huffington to Mark Zuckerburg, may not be perfectly balanced, but they are sure to make time for self-care so that they return to work feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day!

Work ON your biz, as much as IN your biz.

I learned this one early on. I don't know if it's my marketing and advertising education/experience I have to thank for this one, but from day one having my own business I invested the time to work ON my business as much as IN my business. What I mean by "on" my business is the marketing of your business. Many entrepreneurs - let's use nutritionists as an example -- spend most of their day working in their business, creating seminars, writing articles, developing recipes and basically all the things they love. This is working "IN" your business. But working "on" your business is just as important. This may mean making time on a daily basis to promote your business whether that be sharing content on social media or going to a networking event. Simply put, promoting your business is an ongoing effort and even when you feel like you've "made" it, you'll still want to do both. 

Be Picky with partnerships

As you grow your brand on social media, other businesses will start to take notice and may look to you as a potential ambassador or influencer for their business. If you're an entrepreneur with any sort of social following, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. I get DMs on Instagram and emails on a daily basis from businesses wanting to send me free product, do sponsored content or work together. It's easy to say yes to everything especially because it's nice to get free stuff, but BE PICKY.

Ask yourself, is partnering or promoting this brand really going to help MY brand grow?

Additionally, and we talk about this a lot in the Joyous Health Business Program, is AUTHENTICITY. Ask yourself, is this a brand I can really stand behind and would I use this product or service myself? Never do anything for the money. (Side note: I really don't like the word "never" but in this case it applies). In other words, don't be a sell out. You see this all the time on instagram. At Joyous Health, we are super picky about brands we work with. The brands that we do choose to work with are brands that I believe in wholeheartedly and are products that I use in my daily life to live joyously!

Start before you're ready, not when the time is perfect

There is never a perfect time to start something new. As my good friend Stuart Knight has always said, start somewhere because somewhere is a place! Honestly, there is never a perfect time to start. If you're waiting to write blog posts until you have 1,000 followers on Instagram, what about the 500 followers you already have? The more you share, the more your brand will grow. So get writing or creating and get sharing! 


I say "if you can" because I realize if you take out a business loan or you're undertaking a massive project, purchase inventory, expand or renovate your biz whether that be online or offline, debt can be necessary for growth. However, if none of that applies to you, then simply learn to live within your means. When you're growing a business, that may mean living on a super tight budget that doesn't allow for retail therapy or weekend partying with your friends. For me, the large majority of my money earned went to paying off school debt, paying rent and buying groceries. Man oh man, did I ever learn the value of a dollar the hard way. 


There you have it, nine lessons I've learned in business. Whether you're just starting out, or you've been running a business for many years, I hope this post gives you some things to think about. 

If you've got great advice to share, please post below! 

Wishing you much success in your entrepreneurial journey,


Tara V.   •   March 8, 2018

Hi Joy, Thanks for such an inspiring post!


Raman Chatha   •   December 17, 2018

Hello Joy, it’s great reading the success of women...I follow Meagan Telphner for few years and that’s where I found your link. I’m in a family food biz doing great but not to my liking. I’ve always wanted to be in nutrition but never took the plunge with all financial family boundaries. But I’m definitely inspired by the likes of you Meagan, Marnie Waserman just to name a few. I want to change the face of our existing business and turn into a health conscious recipes and feel good about what I’m selling and the best for the consumer.. really want to work with a Nutrionist to innovate recipes for my existing products.. ie. gluten free samosas it’s a ethnic snack every one loves them. Your business program sounds great, things I need to learn.. like you said work on the business which I’m lacking.. best of luck Joy

Joy McCarthy   •   December 18, 2018

Amanda   •   October 30, 2019

I loved reading this and found it super helpful and relatable! I just started my own business and I am grateful for people like you sharing your experiences, what helped and the struggles so we can learn what helps and what maybe not to repeat! :) I love what you and your husband (and team!!) have created and I just love using your recipes with the children I work with and support through play therapy! You really are such a JOY and I look forward to continuing to follow you and cook all that you create! Have a magical day and thank you again for simply being you and sharing with authenticity!!!!!

Joy McCarthy   •   October 30, 2019

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