Health game changer: Belle Gibson, The Whole Pantry

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Photography Julian Kingma

The inspiration behind The Whole Pantry

Growing up in a household with an autistic brother and a mother with multiple sclerosis, Gibson always had a strong awareness of health. But it was at age 20, when she was diagnosed with malignant and inoperable brain cancer and given four months to live that her life really switched gears.

“That was the pinnacle moment where I properly took control of my health. For months afterwards I read all the health information I could. I experimented with being vegetarian, pescatarian and juice cleanses, before figuring out that certain whole foods felt right for me.”

Knowing she wasn’t the only person struggling with health issues, the idea for The Whole Pantry (TWP) app was born.

“I wanted to give people access to wellness information, inspiring healthy recipes and a community. A base so people can encourage wellness back into their lives again, on a platform that most of us are constantly attached to – our phone. The name came from the word whole – recognising the integral needs for a whole life approach we all need to live, not just one aspect of it. The pantry end of it plays on the traditional meaning of pantry – a toolkit, store room, the library of the house, on a digital platform.”


Starting up The Whole Pantry

Gibson borrowed from friends, withdrew from credit cards and had a team willing to hold off on initial invoices because they felt the importance of getting her project off the ground.

“It was a juggling act. We started on the app in February 2013; it was meant to be a two-year project but we had it up and running in nine months. We’ve been called one of the youngest, most successful start-up companies in Australia. I had a meeting with Apple recently and they said, ‘You’ve done business very differently, Belle, usually people support their business through an app, you’ve made the app the base of your business.’ I thought that was a cool perspective.”

That’s not to say it’s been easy, though. Gibson works really late nights for deadlines and says she feels constantly ‘on’. “(It’s all part of having a new business. Though every Tuesday or Wednesday I have an Oli [Gibson has a son Olivier, aged three] and Mumma day where I’m 95 per cent ‘off’ – for my own stability and health, and time with him.”


Related: How to eat clean


Lessons in success

• Think differently and be fearless. “I have emails and people coming up to me worrying there isn’t enough space for more figures in wellness businesses and I always make the point there is plenty of room and love to go round. You’ve got to let go of the fear that other people in the industry are competition; we’re actually vital to each other.”

• Don’t underestimate start-up costs. “Always account for 20 per cent more than you think.”

• Stick to your guns. “At the moment I’m spending a lot of time and money backtracking on some parts of the design for the app I felt weren’t right initially.”


What I wish all women knew...

“That if you slowly introduce more good habits over time, once you fill your life with small yet effective changes, there is eventually no room left for the bad, or destructive to exist.”

Read more on fellow health game changer Sammy Veall, hip-hop yoga instructor