Sandy Abram Founder Wholesome Hub and Co-Founder First Ray has embraced multiple career transitions, from Registered Nurse to corporate Asia-Pacific Marketing Manager for Adobe, to organic food wholesaler and ecommerce retailer. She has embraced the journey and been running her own show for over 13 years now as a successful business owner. Sandy treats organic food as medicine and has created Wholesome Hub as a wellness brand with 1000 products and expert advice, attracting thousands of customers by enabling people to shop by their Values.
In 2018, Sandy was named a Remodista 80 Women2Watch Honoree, and recognised as one of the Top 50 People in E-commerce. She is a member of Fair Trade Australia & New Zealand and Organics Australia.
Tell us about the journey that led you to launch Wholesome Hub in 2016, and your business First Ray in 2005?
They say from adversity comes opportunity and so it was the case with First Ray. I was working pretty hard and long hours in the corporate world and was just diagnosed with severe endometriosis. Given a pretty bleak outlook of my future, I decided to take my health into my own hands and find an alternative path to the pretty awful drugs being offered as a solution. Through an organic diet, the help of an amazing naturopath and doing things that were good for my like yoga and meditation, I healed myself and became an organic nut!
As part of my change of lifestyle, I knew that working in the corporate world wasn’t great for me and my health. So I decided to combine two loves and desires; promoting organic food and doing something positive in the world and starting my own business and getting out of the corporate world. And so First Ray was born!
Wholesome Hub came 11 years later as I really wanted to connect with our community on a more personal level. I wanted to make it easier for people to find the products and solutions they need to live a healthier life on a happier planet. There is so much information out there about the things we can do to live healthier and lighter on our planet so I wanted Wholesome Hub to inspire and educate people to make positive changes and to also provide the link between someone’s desire and action.
Share with us the philosophy that underpins both of your businesses.
We have three core pillars at Wholesome Hub and First Ray which are organic, ethical and sustainable. All the products we do represent these values as we believe these things not only improve the health and wellbeing of people as foods, drinks, beauty products and products for your home aren’t full or nasty chemicals, but they ensure farmers and producers are treated fairly, animals are treated with respect and our soils, waterways, biodiversity, oceans and planet are looked after as well.
We also have a company vision statement and our first statement is respect for self, respect for others and respect for our environment. I think this forms a big part of our philosophy too and not only represents the products we do, but how we treat our customers, our fellow employees, our suppliers and everyone really.
You are a qualified registered Nurse, have been a Marketing Manager in corporate environments, and completed an MBA. Why did you decide to change your career trajectory, and how do these combined skills add value in your business?
The change in career came from wanting to do something I was passionate about and something that made a positive contribution to our world and people’s lives. We all have the ability to make an impact on the world around us – through our choices, the things we buy and the things we say no to. Sometimes people think they can’t make a difference and have no power. This is far from the truth. Every choice we make has an impact – we just need to decide is it for good or not. I wanted to help people that wanted to make positive choices.
Every career taught me so much which has helped me in my own business. For example, Nursing was the best teacher about the value of life, the importance of our health and wellbeing and all about prioritization and time management. My time in the corporate word taught me about brand management whilst my MBA was extremely valuable when it came to financial models, strategy and business planning. I think we can learn new things from whatever we do, we just need to be open to realizing it.
Having run your own successful business for over 13 years, what would you say to women who are considering the leap from a corporate career to entrepreneurship?
Do it! But be prepared for a lot of hard work. Unlike some jobs where you can “clock in” and “clock out” having your own business doesn’t work this way. It’s always there needing your input and there’s always something that needs attending to so even when you’re on holidays, taking a break, or trying to sleep at 3am in the morning – be prepared for those unexpected phone calls, those unexpected disasters and interruptions or those thoughts niggling in your head…how to grow your business, find great staff, solve that IT problem.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Juggling being the business woman I want to be and being the mother I want to be. I’m a very hands on Mum and have two precious 8 year old children. When it comes to prioritizing, my children always come first which means often things aren’t done as quickly as I would like in the business or perhaps to the capacity I want them done. I have learnt (and am still learning) how to let go and accept that not everything will get done today.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of how I have conducted myself and being able to achieve what I have without compromising my values, changing who I am or stepping on anyone along the way. I’m a pretty competitive girl by nature and you have to be strong in business – but I don’t feel this means you have to compete at all costs, where you lose your values, morals, or become someone that you’re not just to get ahead.
It can get pretty nasty out there in the business world but what I’ve done, I’ve done without lowering my standards and the person I am, just for the sake of getting ahead and making a few extra dollars. At the end of the day, I sleep lightly and hold my head high.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
I hope you like rollercoasters!
I would say that having your own business will give you the biggest highs, exhilaration and thrills but be prepared for the dark tunnels and scary dips! I would also say that having your business never gets easy. I had this perception that after a certain amount of time everything would be smooth sailing, I’d be able to work part time, have long lunches with the girls and have this fabulous work / life balance.
For me, it certainly hasn’t been that way as I remember distinctly at the 10 year mark I was having one of “those days” – managing staff, dealing with operational issues, one disaster and problems after another – everything was happening at the same time and I remember thinking to myself it wasn’t meant to be this way. It was meant to be easy by now. If you have your own business and have the desire to keep growing, then there will always be more to do. But boy, the view at the top of the rollercoaster, sure is beautiful!
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