Feng-Yuan Liu (2004)

“It was at Lauriston that I cultivated my curiosity to explore new avenues, developed the courage to just ‘give it a go’, and instilled in me my commitment to excellence that got me to keep showing up, keep practicing and keep moving forward even when things got tough.”

A boundary-breaking entrepreneur and mum, alumna Feng-Yuan Liu spoke to Lauriston students at their Founder’s Day assembly in 2022 about her journey post Lauriston. She spoke about the challenges that she faced and overcame, personally and professionally.

My Lauriston Journey

The reality is, academic excellence has always been a big deal for my parents. So sending me to Lauriston, they knew I would have the right support to help me grow and excel academically. And they weren’t wrong about that. I was inspired by my teachers, challenged by them, but in ways that I really came to appreciate.

I participated in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and it’s still something I talk about to this day. It was through IB that I did my first proper bit of research and write up through the extended essay component, a skill that proved invaluable when I went on to study dietetics at university.

The amount of support I received with preparing for the final exams allowed me to create a methodical routine around doing practice exams, getting valuable and timely feedback from my teachers and knowing exactly where to focus on in my study time. This is what physically and mentally prepped me for final exams at the end of year 12. Even though in hindsight I recognise how gruelling it was, in the moment, there was so much camaraderie between my peers, and so much nurturing from our teachers that it felt like we were all in it together – and by the end of it all, it felt like a collective win that we all celebrated together. That kind of relationship building and bonding, and complete immersion and engagement in life are values that I bring forward in the work that I now do, in both the communities that I am part of and the ones that I have created with my clients.

More than academic excellence

It was during my time at Lauriston that I stretched well outside my comfort zone to participate in things I never would have otherwise participated in – and I’m so grateful I did, embodying the Lauriston value of Engagement in Life. It was through this that I discovered my love for debating, participated in the music community and played hockey and volleyball, and learnt to work in a team and experience the pride of representing my school at inter school sports.

It was at Lauriston that I cultivated my curiosity to explore new avenues, developed the courage to just “give it a go”, and instilled in me my commitment to excellence that got me to keep showing up, keep practicing and keep moving forward even when things got tough.

It’s these solid foundations and values developed during my time at Lauriston that I still fall back on even today.

My professional journey

These days, I am the CEO of my own company, using Nutrition as a foundation to coach high performance business owners, helping them recover from burnout and perform at their peak.

But my journey to where I am today has not been a straightforward one.

After graduating from Lauriston, my initial offer was for law school, but when I realised that I was always more into science at school, I quickly went back to the drawing board. It was actually my mum who suggested that I give nutrition and dietetics a go, but at the time I saw it as a stepping-stone into medicine. However, after the first couple of years, the subjects that I was most drawn to were the nutrition ones, so when the time came to branch out, I decided to stick with dietetics.

Throughout the course, the focus was placed on clinical dietetics, with a view that when you graduate, you compete for one of the very few new graduate clinical roles in major hospitals. I initially did a short stint in a metropolitan hospital. But this cemented for me that I really didn’t want to work in an environment where dietitians were more of an afterthought, and you never got to see patients for long enough to make any significant difference to their health and wellbeing. It was at this point that I decided to take matters into my own hands and start my own business in dietetics, something unheard of for a new graduate.

The courage to trust myself

My dad almost fell off his chair when I told him that I wasn’t going to go for a stable job in a hospital anymore and was going to forge a path for myself. My parents love me, but they’re also very conservative. It wasn’t a path they approved of or supported.

But this was also a turning point in my life where I learnt to trust and back myself.

In the early days, it was tough, and quitting was very tempting. I barely had any patients, I was still very green in my journey as a health professional, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing as far as the business side of things. However, I asked a lot of questions and took on a lot of feedback from dietitians who were in private practice, and in my eyes were successful. During the next several years, I focused on being the best dietitian I could be.

When I first graduated from University, I was basing all my recommendations on guidelines, simply because this was what we were taught to do. But over the years, I realised that the guidelines were extremely limited. The biggest issue was that these guidelines were developed for the average healthy population – but that wasn’t who I saw. I worked with people with chronic health issues, with hormone imbalances, with specific performance needs. Following the dietary guidelines were making these people fatter, sicker and performing sub optimally, both physically and mentally. I dived into the science, examining the human physiology and biochemistry, and created a completely different protocol to help my clients. This was a breakthrough point in my career that saw me be courageous enough to step out of the box and do things completely differently, which ultimately saw me go from being a new graduate to being a pioneer within the industry.

But, while I achieved a level of excellence as a dietitian, I was still struggling to make sense of the business side of things. In 2015, I set up my own bricks and mortar clinic. On the surface, we had made it. But what was embarrassing for me to admit at the time was that while I had a team of practitioners and a full-time administrative assistant, I had to work 6.5 days a week, 12 hours a day both inside and outside my own clinic just to pay the bills, pay my staff and keep the doors open. It wasn’t sustainable – I couldn’t see how I could take a day off, go on a holiday, let alone have a baby one day.

The frustration with my situation and the desire to do better in the business kicked off a new phase in my journey where I committed to working with a mentor on growing my business. Over the next 12 months, I grew leaps and bounds, and once again stretched myself far outside my comfort zone. I shut down my physical premise and said goodbye to my team as I took everything online. I learnt to package up my expertise into high value programs, retreats and events, and deliver them in a way that allowed me to make a bigger impact without burning myself out. I took the business from under $100k to over half a million dollars in 12 months, and achieved what less than 1% of all dietitians achieve in business over the course of their entire careers.

Taking stock

These days, being a CEO means being able to take a big step back from time to time, to see where the gaps are for better ways to serve my clients, better ways to do my job and better ways to create the lasting impact I want to create in people’s lives, and then taking a giant leap forward with the courage to launch headfirst into the unknown, and the commitment to excellence to bring to life the big plans and goals I have for myself and my company.

Now, even though it’s been 18 years since I graduated from Lauriston, the relationship I have with this school is still strong, and I find myself drawn to engaging with the community and giving back to this community through my participation in the Career Expo as well as by being here today. For me, I have taken all of Lauriston’s values: Relationships, Engagement in Life, Courage, Creativity and Intellectual Curiosity, and embodied that through everything I have done since. It has formed a core part of who I am and how I operate, allowing me to step into being the fullest version of myself in business and in life.

To me, Lauriston truly is a School for life.