Fiona McKiernan was shocked when her contract as a director of nutrition services at a large medical facility ended in June 2016. She could continue to work for the hospital, but she knew the adjusted position wasn’t right for her. “My intuition told me it was time for a change,” she says. “The stress of six years in leadership roles in healthcare environments had taken its toll on my body, so I decided to take six months off to recoup my health, lower my stress levels and spend time in my home country of Ireland.”
After being nudged several times by a friend in the health field, McKiernan decided to open her doors as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with her own practice, Zero to Hero Nutrition. She offers nutrition counseling and education to help people manage chronic health conditions, focusing on the healing power of food.
“What I perceived as the biggest blow in my career was the catalyst towards my biggest and most rewarding success,” she says.
McKiernan reports healthy, growing revenue and a full schedule of clients. “If I had not put in the legwork at the beginning, I would not have been able to handle clients when they started coming through the door,” she says.
McKiernan explains that perception was a big obstacle when she was first starting her practice. People would ask why she was going to open an office when she didn’t have any clients, or why she would work without getting paid. “What they failed to realize was those precious first few weeks, when I did not have as many clients, was a crucial time for building solid processes and procedures that laid a strong foundation for growth,” McKiernan says.
She attended financial and marketing workshops, where she started setting goals for her business and plans to meet them. She met every few weeks with volunteer mentors Carol Kerwin and Bob Kerwin, to whom McKiernan credits the successful launch of her business. “While Carol provided the encouragement that I needed to stick with it, Bob questioned everything and really made me think outside the box!” she recalls. The Kerwins’ firm grasp on small business planning, financials, branding and marketing helped push McKiernan to think bigger for her business.