Stacey Hughes, Director CQ Nutrition left her corporate career in the resources industry and started her business with her Dietitian husband Chris three years ago to provide a wide range of evidence based clinical and lifestyle focused nutrition services to the Central Queensland region. Stacey leads all aspects of CQ Nutrition‘s business strategy and has grown the business to provide services across 6 locations in just 3 years.
She strategically researched and used a range of small business support programs offered by both the Queensland Government’s Office for Small Business, and the Rockhampton City Council’s Smart Hub to fuel the business’s rapid growth.
Stacey is the architect of the range of services available, and also encouraged husband Chris to write the Tweaking Diet book, which promotes sustainable weight loss through small and achievable changes in diet. With a relentless focus on business improvement and customers, Stacey is constantly pushing boundaries to ensure the business is sustainable. Her next goal is to increase their team size and further expand CQ Nutrition’s program offerings.
Tell us about how you have strategically managed the growth stages of CQ Nutrition to now offering services across 6 locations including Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Blackwater, Emerald, Gladstone and Mackay?
Three years ago, my husband Chris and I started CQ Nutrition. I had left a corporate job of 8 years after the birth of my third child. I worked from home and Chris rented rooms from allied health practices.
The first step in our strategic growth was to hire people in order to make the business profitable to support two incomes. To hire our first Dietitian and first support staff member, we utilised the Rockhampton Smart Hub co-working space. Our first Dietitian relocated from Canberra to Rockhampton and we opened our first clinical practice. Additionally, we accessed the Regional Back to Work program as our support staff member had been out of the workforce for more than 52 weeks. When this program was extended for another 12 months, we decided to use this program to hire new graduate dietitians for Gladstone and Mackay.
To service all of the locations that now include Yeppoon, Blackwater and Emerald, we have had to form strong partnerships with Medical Practices to receive enough referrals to support the growth in these areas. Our next business goal is to increase the number of dietitians in each location, with support staff.
Strategically we have made the decision to stay bulk billed. This offers our services to those who need it the most and who often don’t have access to it. They can use it as a pathway to achieve their health goals.
You are using a range of innovative and unique diagnostic techniques and community engagement activities. What are the benefits of these initiatives?
The benefits to our clients in using our up to date scanning and diagnostic techniques is that they get an accurate and in-depth picture of what is actually happening in their body. For example: a person can weigh themselves at home, but not know the composition of the fat to muscle ratio, or they may have a fast or slow metabolism. Understanding the client’s body composition and tailoring an individualised nutrition plan can contribute to achieving their health goals. Lastly clients benefit from regularly attending consultations with a dietitian who provides accountability.
Our ‘My health for life’ program enables people who have risk factors to access a government funded program that is delivered by our dietitians. This community engagement activity assists clients who can’t access bulk billed appointments to gain education and support to reduce their risk factors from chronic disease such as diabetes.
How have you used the Government’s Back to Work program to staff your business and support people who have been long term unemployed to reenter the workforce?
CQ Nutrition has employed 3 new full-time team members using the Queensland Governments Back to Work Funding Program. The program has assisted us financially to grow our team considerably and support our new team members with appropriate training and setting our team up for success.
These new graduates get the benefits of two weeks training, full time employment, a mentor, and they get to put their training into practice. The funding allows us to be innovative with training and long term retention. We have a performance based scheme in place where every second year our dietitians can attend a dietitians conference in the US.
Tell us about the Tweaking Diet Book and how it came about?
The Tweaking Diet book was created with the client in mind. To guide them post consult when further questions arise and more in depth information is wanted.
Chris decided to write a book to address the objections and road blocks people face when on their weight loss journey. He wanted to show that there was a sustainable way to lose weight without following fad diets.
The feedback we have received about the book is that it is easy to read and gives people insights on how the can “tweak“ their existing diet and still achieve weight loss.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge is the work and family juggle. Chris and I both work long hours and have three small boys. It’s the same challenge for most small businesses: balancing the hours of work to make enough money to spend time with family.
We are both working on creating systems in our business to meet the challenges of more time, money and family time. This year we planned out our holidays for the year, and Sunday is family day. Business is meant to allow flexibility. I want our family to be living proof of that.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how Chris and I have come together professionally, bringing our complementary skill sets to the business. We have defined roles and different responsibilities within the business, which contributes to our success. Our vision has certainly changed over the last 3 years, and there have been thoughts of, “is this hard work worth it?”.
Nearly everything I do is completely out of my comfort zone. But when we get a business win I know that it has all been worth it. An example is winning Rockhampton’s first start up weekend. This opened up the opportunity to participate in the Start Up Stars program. This demonstrated to me that there are endless possibilities out there and each win leads to more confidence.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
My one piece of advice to future female leaders is to surround yourself with like-minded people. I have found my like-minded people by attending networking events, conferences and participating in Toastmasters. I learn so much and am motivated by other successful business people.
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