It is no surprise that podiatrist Rachael Ferguson established the multi-million dollar company SynxBody, given that she grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs. Being a founder all but ran in her veins.
The award-winning business owner, who helms from Rockingham, told The West Australian that she had her father to thank for her naturally innovative mindset.
“I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My dad would chat to me about running my own business,” she said.
“I could see him being successful, so it was always an exciting possibility to me.”
While running her own company always felt like a viable career path, Ms Ferguson first decided to enroll in a general science degree at Curtin University to determine what she was most passionate about.
After setting her sights on a career in podiatry, it didn’t take Ms Ferguson very long to begin identifying issues within the industry that desperately needed solving.
“One of the common problems we saw in clinics was people couldn’t fit insoles into trendy shows. There wasn’t anything slim available,” she said.
It was in 2011 that Ms Ferguson and her business partner at the time, fellow podiatrist Marie Lewis, started SynxBody in an effort to make foot care more accessible.
“We did 3D modeling and rendering, and got the molds made in China. We had to apply for global trademarks because we knew we had to secure our design,” she said.
Ms Ferguson said it was frustrating that the co-founders couldn’t initially get their products made in Australia.
“We’re really behind when it comes to manufacturing. We don’t have the right facilities and there could be more government incentives to bring the costs down,” she said.
The pair had to travel to China multiple times to find the right factories to make their products for their Synxsole range, which they decided to first market to other practitioners including podiatrists and physiotherapists.
However, getting the business off the ground did not unfold as smoothly as Ms Ferguson had hoped.
“We realized we were marketing to a small community of people. It took us a long time to break into the market at all,” she said.
Feeling like a radical shake-up was necessary, the co-founders decided to take a leap of faith and apply to appear on the reality competition series Shark Tank in 2015, which culminated in them receiving three offers.
Ultimately, they accepted Australian businessman Andrew Banks’ offer of a $100,000 investment, in exchange for 45 percent ownership — a move Ms Ferguson described as “the greatest decision ever”, given he has remained her key mentor.
Despite Shark Tank proving a success for the business, the challenges for Ms Ferguson were not over.
In 2017, Ms Lewis exited the company, and Ms Ferguson was left to figure out how to stand out against the business’ competitors.
Ultimately, she landed on widening SynxBody’s product range and switching her focus to entering the retail and pharmacy market.
“I thought we had to revamp and make everything more colorful and bright,” she said.
“Since then, we grew the range significantly and in 2018 I managed to get our insole into Chemist Warehouse.”
Now, SynxBody’s products are stocked in over 1000 pharmacies across Australia, including 500 Chemist Warehouse stores, and another 40 stores in New Zealand.
Ms Ferguson said it was taking time out for herself and prioritizing her own well-being that helped her keep persisting with her entrepreneurship journey when the going got tough.
“I didn’t want to leave and I’d already had people invest in me. If I had turned around and walked away we would have all been in debt,” she said.
“The turning point was when I worked on myself and exercised, meditated, and ate well. I worked on my mindset.”
She said it was crucial that business owners were made aware of existing support services for founders experiencing stress.
“I also believe there needs to be more access to cash through government grants. One of the biggest challenges for women in business is investment,” Ms Ferguson said.