Julianne will work with us to educate, inform and campaign as a high profile entrepreneur who lives with anaphylaxis.
Julianne Ponan (31) didn’t start out wanting to be an entrepreneur. She began her career in finance and took her first job overseas in Beijing and was beginning to progress in a world of maths, figures and investment.
At the age of 22, she was asked to look at the books of a company called Creative Nature which had specialised in importing candles, incense, salt lamps, oils, teas and some foods from overseas for sale. Given her financial training, she could see losses and she reported back to the directors. Her insight led to her being asked to consider taking over the company to turn it around. In considering this, she realised here was an opportunity to not only flex her entrepreneurial instinct but to also support people like her.
Julianne has anaphylaxis and has multiple severe allergies to foods and other products such as certain perfumes and skin care products. She had her first anaphylactic shock as a toddler at nursery and has had other attacks since ending up in intensive care. The problem with being so allergic to many foods and ingredients is eating becomes a chore, a bore, always having to be carefully planned. One of the most frustrating things for Julianne was never being able to have a ‘snack’ or enjoy ‘food on the go’. She also always missed out at birthday parties and social gatherings on cakes and desserts – the treats that others take for granted. Even if she could find a safe snack or treat, it was often bland, lacking in flavour or taste. As she grew up she associated snacks and treats with chewing on cardboard or trying to eat sawdust.
She agreed to take over and transform Creative Nature and make it her own – which she did. Today Creative Nature is known as the challenger brand in the free from, vegan friendly snack and superfood sector. Products are exported currently to 14 countries and can be found in supermarkets, independent shops and cafes, on airlines globally. With a small team, Julianne has spent the last decade not only building her business but also changing for the better the lives of people with limited choices when it comes to their diet.
This journey in business has not always been easy. Julianne found many challenges including around her gender, her age and even her heritage. She has been overlooked as the ‘boss’ on many occasions with others assuming the males in the room ran the company, she has been dismissed as being too young to make it in such a competitive sector against huge brands with huge budgets and she has even had to face racist remarks. None of this has dimmed her enthusiasm and passion for her business, her team and also her purpose of enriching the lives of people who have to make careful, daily decisions around what they consume.
Her top tips for anyone in business are:
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