Building a Successful Business with Next to Nothing

In 2014 Kyla Holley and Allison Davidson recognised the potential of improving Eating Disorder education for health professionals. They felt so strongly about it, they set up their own training business, The Australian Centre for Eating Disorders (ACFED).

Mel talked to Allison about how she and Kyla have built a successful training organisation with very limited resources.

What was your vision for ACFED when you first started?

From the beginning our aim was to improve the outcomes for people with eating disorders in Australia. Kyla completed her training in the UK and uses a treatment model that she has found very effective with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. Our vision was to share those skills with health professionals such as Psychologists, Counsellors and Dietitians. Better skills mean better outcomes.

Two years down the track, how does your business look?

We currently run training sessions in most major city in Australia, we’ve just sold out our course in New Zealand and we’re looking at expanding into Hong Kong in 2017.

As well as our 5-day course on eating disorders, we also run a 3-day course on obesity intervention and we are about to launch a program on nutritional interventions for people with eating disorders. Plus we’ve set up a network to connect people to ACFED approved health practitioners.

That’s a lot in a short time. What resources have you had to make this happen?

We had our own expertise and passion, but we had no money whatsoever.

How do you set up and market a brand new business with no money?

We have really done the hard yards, and we are only now starting to earn some money out of the business.

With marketing all I can say is that social media is a godsend. We’ve done a lot of research about where to find our target audience. Then we’ve reached out using Linked In, Facebook, Associations and events and conferences that attract allied health professionals.

Word of mouth has really helped.  The response to the courses has really been amazing so word has spread quickly.

You were the recipient of a MJA’s Business Excellence Scholarship, which has given you and Kyla a year of free business coaching. How has that helped?

We wanted a coach to make sure we were doing things right and to point out missed opportunities. And certainly our coach has done that.

But what’s surprised us is the value of a fresh pair of eyes. Our coach has acted as an impartial third person when it comes to making joint decisions. That fresh perspective has helped us to consider every angle when making big decisions and also to compromise when we don’t exactly agree.


MJA Business Solutions has been helping Coffs Coast businesses to grow and thrive since 2007.

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