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Diet ‘revelation’ was catalyst for Highland woman’s new business

Nutritionist Wendy Urwin.
Nutritionist Wendy Urwin.

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to diet expert Wendy Urwin, of Wendy Urwin Nutrition, based near Cannich in the Highlands.

How and why did you start in business?

Twenty years ago I was a physical wreck. I’d had tummy problems from childhood, not helped by being a fussy eater and existing on the worst diet Scotland could offer circa 1980  – sweet, fizzy drinks and deep-fried delights.

My health declined throughout my 20s until I was unable to continue my work as a freshwater biologist and microbiologist, while I was also struggling to care for my daughter.

GPs were sceptical about chronic fatigue and could do little more than offer anti-depressants and antacids for irritable bowel syndrome, which didn’t help.

Healthy diet was the answer

I knew food affected my mood and energy, so in desperation, I experimented and avidly read what little research was available. Slowly my health started to improve but, due to a lack of support from a trained practitioner, it was a rocky road with many relapses.

The revelation diet and nutrition could heal in areas where conventional medicine couldn’t inspired me to find a way to help others in similar situations lead happy, fulfilling lives.

A healthy diet was an inspiration for Mrs Urwin.

How did you get to where you are today?

First, I had to gain a professional qualification so I could offer a high standard of clinical support. I enrolled on a postgraduate (MSc) nutritional therapy course in York and trained with the Institute of Functional Medicine, alongside medical doctors and GPs who wanted to learn more about nutrition and lifestyle medicine. This was a game changer.

After qualifying I opened my first clinic in the Nourish Cafe in Inverness, quickly filling my books with clients. Online work pre-Covid allowed me to reach clients throughout the Highlands & Islands and beyond.

Everything went online during the pandemic, but now I’m excited to be returning to in-person consultations and launching a specialist clinic at the Highland Wellness Centre in Inverness next month to support people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Who helped you?

My family have been amazing, especially my mother who cared for my children and pets when I was at college, and my husband working away from home. My husband has kept the faith and supported me, even when he didn’t have a clue what I was doing or what I was talking about.

Working as a sole trader, with limited business sense, it’s also been very reassuring to have the Federation of Small Businesses at my back for legal advice and support when I need it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Go for it. It’s a bit of a cliche, but too many remarkable people don’t turn their business aspirations into reality due to a fear they’re not ready – that they need more training and planning time, or should prioritise family. Don’t strive for perfection, just go for it.

What is your biggest mistake?

Selling classic cars which would have been worth a not-so-small fortune now.

What is your greatest achievement?

Helping clients improve their health and quality of life gives me amazing job satisfaction.

How is your business managing rapidly rising costs, and what should government do to help?

I’m fortunate to have low overheads, and working online has reduced the need to commute, but I still need to heat my office through the winter. The rising cost of domestic heating oil is a concern for those of us living in remote parts of the Highlands, something government has yet to recognise and address.

What do you do to relax?

Spend time outdoors with my family, dog, and ponies which also gives me a daily workout.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I’m reading Still Life, by Sarah Winman – recommended by book club friends. Prior to the arrival of 4G, I had no TV reception for more than 20 years, so I’m not much of a TV watcher.

What do you waste your money on?

I have ponies so there’s no money to spare.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Hydrate, with a glass of water then coffee.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a Honda Civic – a fabulous wee car. I’m a closet petrolhead and can claim prior ownership of a classic Mk2 Golf GTI and 1968 Mustang. I hanker after an old pick-up to tow my horsebox.