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Kimberly Ashton from Sydney, Australia

Chief Sprouting Officer & Co-Founder of Sprout Lifestyle

It’s important that you’re open to opportunities, modifying or changing and taking small directions that aren’t planned.

Eat, Speak, Learn: China exchange sparks healthy business

Kimberly Ashton has a passion for healthy eating. She speaks Chinese fluently too. So, when she visited Shanghai in 2013 after graduating from UTS and realised the west’s health food craze was still in its infancy in China, she saw a huge opportunity.

She started Sprout Lifestyle in Shanghai as a small event and wellness consulting company, working with individual and corporate clients. Now it operates from a two-storey premises with a health food shop selling whole grains, superfoods, snacks and convenience foods, a cooking classroom, a café, and Sprout’s sister company, named Better Betters, which sells nutritious ready-made meals.

Kimberly’s vision is for much more than a health food store, rather “a food education platform that advocates preventative health, wholesome meals and learning about your own health through interactive classes and workshops.”

She’s launching Sprout Lifestyle’s courses and training online, and already students from as far away as Qingdao in the north, Chengdu in the west and Kunming and Guangzhou in the south have taken part remotely. The company also makes health foods and private label muesli and oatmeal sourced locally, a first in China.

Kimberly completed a double degree of Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at UTS and took part in a Study Exchange to Hangzhou for a year. She studied in Chinese and lived in the community.

“The opportunity to actually study and live in China was definitely a huge plus for me and confidence boosting,” she says.

Back at UTS, she loved the practical hands-on way her lecturers taught, and this inspired her to bring the same elements into Sprout Lifestyle where she teaches clients by getting them to learn by doing.

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be passionate and persistent.

“Do what you love to do,” she says, but at the same time “understand clearly the goals you want to achieve and be very flexible.”

In the course of starting a business, “thousands of things” may come up and will keep changing, she says. “It’s important that you’re open to opportunities, modifying or changing and taking small directions that aren’t planned,” she says. “Follow your gut instinct – and don’t be so rigid.”

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