Interview with Kimberley Neve, founder of Neve Nutrition

Find out how her anger at the damage to our health caused by the food industry inspired former teacher Kimberley Neve to launch Neve Nutrition.

What’s your career background?

My first career was as a secondary teacher of languages (German, French, Italian and Spanish) and I quickly moved from teaching in England to international teaching in Switzerland and South Korea.

Teaching and being Head of Department meant working ridiculous hours and there were times where I felt really lonely, which had a huge impact on my health and wellbeing – I suffered for a long time with Binge Eating Disorder and as a result, depression.

The decision for a career change didn’t happen all of a sudden. I knew that I wanted to keep learning and not get bored, but also wasn’t keen on leadership roles in schools that meant less interaction with the kids – that was the fun part of the job! I kept researching different career options until I settled on nutrition, which had always been an interest, and finally found the perfect Masters course in London.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Obviously, my own personal experience ignited a passion for nutrition, but also an anger against the food and diet industries and the damage they do to personal health. I had counselling that changed everything for me, so I wanted to help others struggling with their relationship with food in a way that was accessible and based on real science.

Working with kids gave me experience dealing with complex personal issues with compassion, knowing when to listen and how to guide people through problems. It also gave me skills in breaking down information so that it was easy to understand, and a deep respect for the power of education.

All in all, I dreamed of being able to combine my love for nutrition and education with a keen desire to help others. Having had some awful bosses, I also really wanted to work for myself and own my own nutrition business one day.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

Step by step! While I was in South Korea, I spent my weekends studying biology, chemistry and nutrition remotely to be accepted onto an MSc in Global Public Health Nutrition at the University of Westminster.

It ended up being the perfect course to combine the concepts of nutrition with a wider understanding of how the food industry and food policies work, whilst also getting official accreditation as a Registered Associate Nutritionist.

I then managed to get my current full-time job as a food researcher, reporting directly to the Department of Health and Social Care on policies that can help people eat healthier diets. I hadn’t planned to move forward with my private nutrition consultancy dream until the pandemic hit.

COVID-19 and the first lockdowngave me extra time at home and the space to think more clearly about where I wanted to focus my energy career-wise. I’ve always known that I’d be the perfect person to help people with disordered eating, or anyone struggling with diets and weight loss, but the idea of starting my own business was always too daunting; I had no idea how. 

I decided to start with a website so that I had somewhere to refer people to. Then I quickly realised I needed some kind of logo and branding for the website to look any good. After that, I started to look at social media (Instagram and Facebook) and have been constantly trying to improve what I do.

I make lists of ideas and separate them into ‘this week’, ‘by the end of the month’ and ‘later’, which seems to work! Overall, it has taken a lot of Google research, reaching out to friends and colleagues for advice and webinars for tips and further information on things like marketing. 

What’s your USP?

I not only have professional qualifications in nutrition (I’m registered with the Association for Nutrition), but also the personal experience of struggling with an eating disorder and weight fluctuations.

I know what it’s like to be told how I ‘should’ eat by someone who has never struggled with weight, and the frustration of knowing what I need to do, but not being able to because of a deeper psychological issue. 

I’m very open and honest, and I’m not selling a product or diet plan, so I think clients really appreciate the realism of my approach. 

Who’s your target audience?

People who are sick of the diet cycle – starting a new diet, failing, feeling guilty, overeating or binge eating, and then starting all over again (and usually putting on more weight). 

I also have a lot of clients who just want to ‘check in’ – see if what they’re eating is ‘right’, ask for clarification on diet myths and find out ways to improve their nutrition in one or two sessions.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I’ve been working on building up my Instagram profile, but it’s very early days. I write a monthly blog on my website, as well as writing articles for other websites too (including this one!)

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

I’m honestly not sure; marketing is still something I’m working on. Clients have all been from word-of-mouth so far.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Probably imposter syndrome if I’m honest. That little voice saying ‘you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t have any followers, it’s just going to fail’. This normally happens when I’m tired or fed up with lockdown, so some days, it’s good to just take a break from everything.

Worrying what people will think of me (and my content) has been something to overcome too. It’s been really hard to just go for it and ask for support where I need it, or to let it go if someone has a negative opinion about something I’ve put together.

And your proudest moment so far?

My first paid client! Also, every testimonial so far has made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Why is work so important to you?

My mum and dad always had such a hard work ethic. My dad died quite suddenly as I was making a career change, but he was always so proud of me when I worked hard to achieve something. My mum has also been a great example of a strong woman who loves her job – she’s a nurse, so she knows what hard work is, and is renowned for her compassion and huge smile. 

Work also gives me a sense of purpose and enjoyment, which is how I know I’m in the right job. I struggled for so long with my eating disorder without even knowing that there was help available, or what help I actually needed.

I really thought I was just being greedy and lacking in self-discipline. I want to make a difference to people in the same position, and hopefully sooner for them than I experienced.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Make a detailed plan of what you need to start, then just start with the first step and take it from there.
  2. Don’t wait for perfection – it’s probably what has been holding you back. Something is better than nothing. It’s all a step in the right direction.
  3. Know when to take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, or start talking negatively to yourself, just stop and pick it up again when you have the mental energy back. It will pay off in the long run!

Find out more about Neve Nutrition here.