This week the Spotlight is on Maree Ferguson, the Founder and Director of Dietitian Connection, a community site connecting dietitians all over the world with one another and a place to share each other’s work, nutrition news and goals while improving the public profile of dietitians everywhere. Maree is a Registered Dietitian and Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the U.S. and also an Accredited Practising Dietitian in Australia.
She was previously the Director of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Australia, where she led more than 30 dietitians. Before that, she was a Senior Research Scientist at Abbott Nutrition in the U.S.
She has her MBA and as part of her PhD, Maree developed the Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) to identify patients at risk of malnutrition; which is now used in hospitals worldwide.
Maree, tell me more about what Dietitian Connection is all about.
Dietitian Connection, the “Essential Link for Nutrition Leaders” provides nutrition resources, news, jobs, events, product announcements and more – all in one place, with to-the-moment updates. Membership is growing rapidly, with over 3300 members from all over the world.
I launched Dietitian Connection in 2012 in response to an unfilled need – no single online destination existed to deliver credible, timely news and resources from multiple sources to busy nutrition professionals.
Today, In recognition of the conversation-power of social media, Dietitian Connection links nutrition professionals via a weekly e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with a strong, engaged following.
In the words of a Dietitian Connection member, “This site is the way of the future for dietitians to connect and stay up to date!”
Did you always know you were going to become an RD?
Ever since I was at high school I have always wanted to become a dietitian. I did Home Economics at school and really enjoyed the science of nutrition.
What made you want to start your own business?
I actually wrote a post on this very topic!
How long did it take for you to start seeing a profit?
I still haven’t seen a profit, I am hoping that will be in 2015!
Do you have anyone working for you?
I don’t have anyone working for me. However, I do have a lot of people helping me. I have a fantastic scientific advisory board, wonderful students who assist with managing the Dietitian Connection Facebook Student Page, and an army of volunteers who help out with many different tasks.
What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?
The hardest part about being a business owner is not having anyone to talk to! It can also be challenging not having a steady pay packet. Sometimes it’s a struggle to stay focused and hold yourself accountable. The benefits outweigh the negatives though. It’s so great to work on something you are passionate about it, and it doesn’t seem like “work”. I love the flexibility of doing whatever you like whenever you want, and not being constrained by a 9-5 job.
Did you build your website yourself or hire someone else?
I hired someone to build the Dietitian Connection website for me as the website was integral to the business and I wanted a high quality website.
What takes up the majority of your time/days?
Each day is very different for me. One day might involve strategic planning, coaching a new graduate on how to get a job or an experienced dietitian on how to grow their business, liaising with a company regarding sponsorship and/or planning a future event/webinar.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
I have been fortunate to have many accomplishments throughout my career including starting Dietitian Connection, developing the Malnutrition Screening Tool, and leading a dynamic group of dietitians at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. My highlight though is watching young students and dietitians realize their dreams.
How do you keep current on all of the trending topics and changing science of nutrition?
I subscribe to a number of different newsletters that keep me up-to-date on the latest nutrition news and research. Social media is also a great tool to keep abreast of trending topics. Members of Dietitian Connection then benefit from my reading by obtaining a summary of the latest nutrition news and research in a weekly e-newsletter.
How many days a week do you cook dinner at home?
I try to cook dinner at home most nights, although I might eat dinner out on the weekend.
Is there any food that you won’t eat?
Unfortunately for me living in Australia, I don’t eat seafood.
What do you think needs to be done to further elevate our profession and gain respect in the public eye?
I believe as a profession we need to improve our public profile and be the leaders in the nutrition space. In order to do this, I think we need to change the way we currently go about our business. I am convinced that we need to emotionally connect with and engage our key stakeholders and clients. Dietitian Connection will assist with this by being the “essential link for nutrition leaders” through offering tools to improve our leadership, marketing and business skills. And most importantly, inspiring dietitian-nutritionists to dream big and realize their dreams.
I’d like to thank Maree on behalf of dietitians everywhere for starting Dietitian Connection! If you haven’t checked out the site yet, be sure to do so at www.dietitianconnection.com. You can also connect with Maree via email at email@example.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.