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Women In Nutritional Supplements and Natural Products: Leadership From a Female Perspective

| March 1, 2023

Women in Naturals

The Panel:

Lucille Perreault, President, Rene’s Naturals, Inc., Florida, www.essiac.ca

Ramona Billingslea, Marketing Manager/Educator, Betsy’s Health Foods Inc., Texas, www.betsyhealth.com

Ellen Schutt, Executive Director, GOED, www.goedomega3.com

Cheryl Myers, Chief of Scientific Affairs and Education, EuroPharma, Inc. (Terry Naturally), Wisconsin, www.europharmausa.com

Tori Hudson, ND, Medical Director, A Woman’s Time, and Co-founder/Co-owner, Vitanica, Oregon, www.vitanica.com

Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Florida, www.hpingredients.com

Suzanne Shelton, Founder, The Shelton Group, Illinois, www.sheltongrouppr.com

Beth Lambert, CEO, Herbalist & Alchemist, New Jersey, www.herbalist-alchemist.com

Kylen Ribeiro, CEO Lightbody, Florida, www.lightbodylabs.com

Michelle Klein, COO, Lightbody, Florida, www.lightbodylabs.com

Linda Boardman, CEO, Bragg Live Food Products LLC, California, www.bragg.com

Karen Howard, CEO, Executive Director, Organic & Natural Health Association, www.organicandnatural.org

Arich diversity of women helped create and sustain what the modern natural products/nutritional supplement industry has become. Vitamin Retailer (VR) reached out to several women who lead. Their journeys are unique, but they are all impassioned. Read and be inspired!

VR: Please summarize your history in the naturals channel.

Perreault: From 2014 to 2016, I was the national director of training for St. John Ambulance, an organization dedicated to training first aid to the general population in Canada. Based on this experience of helping people to heal, my husband and I owned and operated multi-modal therapy clinics that offered massage therapy, reflexology and chiropractic services. When the opportunity to purchase Essiac came up in 2019, we jumped at the chance to extend the legacy of Rene Caisse to help people take control of their wellness through natural solutions.

Billingslea: A child of the ‘70s, I grew up drinking Dr. Pepper and eating the occasional Ding Dong for breakfast. The closest I came to health food was listening to my sister talk about a great book she had read by Adelle Davis. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself dating and then marrying a man whose family owned and operated a newly established health food store!

Armed with my master’s degree in English, I spent the first years of my marriage juggling teaching, tutoring and doing the occasional desktop design work that the health food store needed to help it thrive. As the years progressed, I found myself doing more and more for the health food store and less and less teaching.

My history with the naturals hasn’t been something I chose so much as it has chosen me. This 2023 will mark the 30th year for our store and the 28th year for my involvement with it and the naturals industry as a whole. I’m also proud that we are now a Certified Woman-owned company.

Schutt: I’ve been in the natural products industry for more than 20 years in editorial, sales, consulting and management roles. I’ve seen the industry grow and evolve and the presence of more women has definitely made the industry stronger.

Myers: My first degree was in nursing, and though I went on to get other degrees and certifications, deep down I remain a registered nurse. Over the years, I became interested in natural interventions for improved health outcomes. I started at Enzymatic Therapy in 1998, in research validation and medical communications. Eventually, I became the vice president of Health Sciences. In 2009, I joined EuroPharma in my current position. Both companies were originally founded by Terry Lemerond, one of the most knowledgeable and eclectic thought leaders in the industry.

Hudson: I have been a licensed naturopathic physician and in clinical practice for over 38 years. My area of clinical practice and expertise is women’s health. I have also been the co-owner of a supplement company for women for about 28 years as well as a medical advisor to several supplement companies for approximately 33 years. I have been a clinician, educator, researcher, author, formulator and natural medicine consultant throughout my career.

Eng: In 2001, I founded my company, HP Ingredients, to provide herbal solutions for the rapidly growing botanical supplement industry. Before this, I served as vice president in investment and financial consultant. While at Gruntal, I was the youngest producer, was consistently a top 10 producer and was the No. 1 new accounts opener in the Chicago branch office. Quite a turnaround! It all started with tongkat ali from Malaysia, where I grew up. I was highly intrigued by this herb, which was popular in traditional use. One thing led to another, and I was the first to bring it to the U.S. and organize research to back up the claims and use by our local people the Orang Asli. I then formed an alliance with Dr. Juan Hancke to provide Andrographis paniculata along with the research. This model continues, and we just launched a new ingredient for women.

Shelton: When I first joined the natural products industry in 1988 as the vice president of sales & marketing for a chemical-free, biodegradable disposable diaper company, I immediately loved the industry. Over the next couple of years, several people asked if I did any consulting on the side, so I decided to make a leap of faith, starting the Shelton Group in 1990. My first herbal products client was Eclectic Institute working with Ed Alstat. When DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994) was passed in 1994, I decided to work toward focusing on that aspect of the natural channel, because that was where my heart was. Along the way I have worked with many of the best companies in the industry, some—like Sabinsa, NOW and Herbalist & Alchemist—have kept me on retainer for literally decades. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Lambert: I have been working in the “channel” since the early 1990s—over 30 years. I made a career switch from investment banking to companies that were dedicated to being good for the earth and good for people. Running a community-supported farm whose farmers included two other women and publishing and distributing Permaculture Books through Permaculture Resources, a company I co-owned with architect Carol Tunell, led to an introduction to David Winston in 1995.

David was seeking someone to run his herbal products company, Herbalist & Alchemist (H&A). And so, for the last 28 years, that’s what I have been doing. H&A is a long-time member of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), where I have served on the Board and as Chair for a turn. I chair AHPA’s charitable foundation and chair the Education Committee and am an active committee member on several working committees. H&A is also a member of the National Animal Supplements Council, and I am a Board Member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

Ribeiro: My business partner, Michelle Klein, and I spent our lives training to become NCAA collegiate athletes; I was a Florida State swimming & diving captain and Michelle was a volleyball captain. From there, I made my way as a retail executive and eventually became a registered yoga teacher. In the next phase of my career, it was important to me that I really make a big impact in the world from a health and wellness standpoint. So, I took my skill set to a St. Pete start-up organization, DefenderShield, a leader in digital wellness.

Klein: I joined DefenderShield as a marketing manager right after graduating from college with a major in journalism and minor in health & wellness education and business administration. Kylen and I grew DefenderShield from just three to almost 20 employees and from a handful of products to over 100.

We wanted to figure out how to help the body become more resilient in our modern digital lifestyle, with more toxins surrounding us than ever before. The supplement industry didn’t have a solution, so we created one with the help of industry experts, scientists and formulators. As a sister company to DefenderShield, we established women-owned Lightbody.

Boardman: In 1990, I became assistant business unit manager for Ocean Spray Cranberries, and from there, served various positions in the naturals industry, including Whole Foods Market, Applegate Farms, Kicking Horse Coffee, Frontier Natural Products, Oregon Ice Cream, Reliance Vitamins, several of which I remain as a member of their Boards of Directors. Currently, I am CEO of Bragg Live Food Products, since March of 2019.

Howard: After September 11, I wanted to find a new way to utilize my health care legislative and advocacy skills, which led me to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, for whom I served as executive director from 2001 to 2011. My goal to stay in the industry and continue working with quality supplement companies led me first to the National Animal Supplement Council, and then to the Organic & Natural Health Association when I was hired to bring the Board’s vision to light in 2014.

VR: How have women made a long-lasting impact in the nutritional supplement industry? Who are your inspirations and why?

Perrault: In general, women are primary caregivers to their families and loved ones. I believe this translates into their commitment to providing safe, effective and natural solutions. Of course, my main inspiration is Rene Caisse. Rene dedicated her life to perfecting her Essiac formula to help people at her Bracebridge clinic, and eventually, worldwide. She was a rebel in the health industry—she fought the establishment and never gave up because she was dedicated to believing in the healing power of nature.

Billingslea: My real “sheroes” in the naturals industry are the women I work with. Besides taking on the challenges of a retail position, they also gladly undertake the monumental task of learning about the key benefits of several thousand products. In any given day, they may be the shoulder to cry on, the recipient of someone’s misplaced anger, or the detective tasked with helping a customer find that just right product. And they do all this along with managing the logistics of running a supplement store: boxing mail orders, unpacking deliveries, taking inventory, answering telephone calls and more. Their enthusiasm for continually learning new things about supplements and nutrition and the human body perpetually amazes me.

I also know that the health foods industry is what it is in part because of women like my mother-in-law, the Betsy of Betsy’s Health Foods. For more than 40 years, she has helped customers in our part of northwest Harris County reach their health goals in truly remarkable ways. She has served on the founding board of Citizen’s For Health, lobbied for the all-important passage of DSHEA, volunteered for many a committee for the NNFA (National Nutritional Foods Association), helped manufacturers by joining their retailer boards and more. From her, I have learned the art of balancing heartwarming customer service with a sometimes outside-the-box way of thinking to solve problems.

Schutt: I’ve worked with some amazing people in this industry, both men and women, over the years, and I can say that having a team with both men and women on it brings balance and allows for broader perspectives. I think the different ways of thinking that men and women bring to the table make the outcome of a given project or nutraceutical business stronger.

Myers: I have met so many brilliant women who are educators, health care practitioners, retailers, writers, researchers and corporate executives. It remains true that there are not as many women in visible positions of leadership in all these fields, but that has improved dramatically since I began in this industry 25 years ago. I remember the first quality validation conference I attended in 1999. Out of over 100 attendees, there were three women, of which I was one. The last similar conference one of my associates attended was about 35 percent women.

Who are my inspirations? The women who kept botanical medical knowledge alive in Europe and Colonial America. They were often not rewarded for being the local midwives and wise women, and risked persecution. However, their drive to care for people in need kept the various ointments, balms, teas and poultices in demand.

Hudson: Many companies have been started and/or led by women. In addition, the work of many women clinicians and herbalists have been utilized by supplement companies, and some of my most beloved educators are women. These have included Cascade Anderson-Geller (herbalist and educator), Rosemary Gladstar (herbalist and educator), Tieraona Lowdog, MD (physician and educator), and Agatha Thrash, MD (physician and educator).

Eng: Although not in the industry, but someone I believe is indeed an inspiration to many in this industry including myself —Oprah Winfrey is someone who is truly a muse, especially to me. As a minority woman born in poverty, Oprah Winfrey built her empire, and became the first Black billionaire in the United States in 2003. Oprah is showing us that even if you are a female, a minority, born into poverty, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Oprah never saw herself as a victim who has less potential in life; she was ready to conquer the world as if she is whole and full of limitless potential.

Shelton: Many women have played pivotal roles in building this industry. There are a lot of remarkable women leaders in the industry today that I admire tremendously, and many of them are involved in running Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN), but I am going to look back at the people who influenced me early on.

One of the first people I met when I joined the industry in 1988 was Sandy Gooch, who owned the legendary natural products chain in California, Mrs. Gooch’s. There was a question always asked of new products back then that determined if anyone was willing to hear more about it: Is it Goochable? That was shorthand for “will it meet the incredibly high standards to get on the shelves in the top stores in the industry?” That really resonated with me, and commitment to high standards has guided me through the decades.

Other significant inspirations include Peggy Brevoort, Nancy Potter Knudsen, Lynda LeMole, Beth Lambert and Heather Granato.

Lambert: I think first of the many women I have met through our trade organization, AHPA. The early pioneers, such as Peggy Brevoort, Rosemary Gladstar, Sara Katz, Lynda LeMole and Kay Wright. Board members that I have served with including Katie Huggins (Traditional Medicinals), Staci Eisner (PlusPharma), Rupa Das (BI Nutraceuticals), Cindy Angerhoffer (Aveda), Jackie Greenfield (Gaia), Lyra Heller (Metagenics), Leah Porter (Naturex), Bethany Davis (Megafood), Alessandra Storzini (Indena). Herbalists/practitioners from the internationally known leaders Dr. Tieraona Low Dog or Aviva Romm, to specialists such as Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, DVM and community leaders like Kerry Adams RH(AHG) have strong voices and are leaders in their respective communities.

Educators and researchers, such as Amy Howell (blueberry and cranberry research, Rutgers), Julie Elmer (FIRA-Rutgers) and Geetha Ghai (Rutgers) have been amazing resources. Women are also leaders in our supply chain. Farmers, such as Linda Shanahan and women in key positions with our suppliers, such as Dorie Moran (Pacific Botanicals). And, women who have worked at our trade association, AHPA, over the years including Amber Bennett, Jane Wilson, Natasha Weaver, Holly Johnson, Melissa Do and Anissa Medina.

Their skills as entrepreneurs, pioneers, organizers, scientists, practitioners are both collectively and individually inspiring. I have valued their insights, leadership and commitment to advance this industry as well as education and research about botanicals.

Boardman: Patricia Bragg was a pioneer as an early business leader in the natural foods industry, taking the reins from Paul Bragg upon his sudden death in the 1970s. She stayed true to Bragg’s health education mission and developed products that made living the Bragg healthy lifestyle easier for consumers to adopt plant based, nutrient dense and focused on harvesting time tested botanical health enhancing ingredients.

Howard: I am inspired daily by our female customers who shape the industry with their purchasing patterns, their concerns regarding transparency and quality, and their commitment to the health of their families. Women in our industry serve me as teachers, role models and mentors. Debra Short, executive director of SENPA, represents the backbone of the industry, independent retailers, many of whom were founded by women. Lise Alschuler, ND was the first to walk me through the science of supplementation, its impact on health, and its power to address chronic health issues. Naomi Whittel is a walking demonstration of the future of our industry, its commitment to our core values and the ability to be successful and take care of our Earth’s limited resources. All three have one commonality. They are motivated to succeed in their quest for the health of people and the planet, and thus, are also financially successful.

VR: How can we as an industry elevate and support other women to encourage them to lead and contribute their skills and talents as we move forward?

Perrault: I am an accountant by training and have conducted research on accounting practices in small businesses and charities. I believe that we need to provide women with financial literacy to run their businesses effectively. Women nail the customer service part of their business, but we need to also focus on the financial aspects of our business to continue to provide the services that our community really needs. Just as I promote that we take charge of our health, women business owners need to take charge of their financial health as well.

Billingslea: As a lifelong educator, I try to focus on teachable moments whenever they present themselves. At our store, we like to focus on people’s strengths and try to be encouraging instead of dwelling on mistakes. Truth be told, in 30 years of existence, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t made a mistake or two. What we do the next time is what counts the most.

Schutt: I applaud the work of WIN for calling attention to the issue and raising awareness at all levels of business. GOED is proud to support this organization and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish in this very important mission.

Myers: The way to encourage women is to recruit and promote. I think the natural health world is more egalitarian than many types of business, which is an advantage. I know many women in positions of important decision making, and some of our best retail stores are owned or managed by women. However, unless we consciously recruit and promote women, those numbers are not going to grow.

Hudson: Encourage and support small businesswomen entrepreneurs—stores could seek out more women-owned business and include those products in their inventory. More women could be included in the leadership within companies.

Eng: Take time to sit down with your female employees to get to know what drives them, as well as what their fears may be, and their goals. Women are known to be excellent communicators, and as such, what they reveal about themselves in these areas can serve as excellent guideposts to providing the atmosphere in which they will want to excel.

Shelton: Encourage the young women you know to consider a career in our industry and offer to make introductions. And get involved with the organization WIN as a member or a sponsor to help our industry achieve gender parity.

Lambert: A good way to support women in our industry is to encourage them to join trade associations. Mentor them—a phone call or a breakfast to chat and get them comfortable with the trade group dynamics. Encourage them to join the committees that are important for their business; volunteer for working groups and meet peers in the industry. Run for the Board and become a part of the leadership.

And let’s not forget about our next generation of leaders. Invest in the future by speaking at high school or college events for careers. Let those looking for meaningful work know about our industry. Many of the recent entrants to our industry have lateralled in. It would be great to inspire students to augment their studies and passions with coursework that will prepare them for the scientific and regulatory aspects of our industry.

Ribeiro: Throughout my career I’ve always valued hiring and developing women into leadership roles. Frequently, women’s unique skill sets, talents and eye for detail are very valuable in any role within a company. I will continue to support the innovation, creativity, voices and leadership growth of women, and believe the naturals industry should continue highlighting and providing special opportunities for visibility and marketing to women leaders and innovators.

Klein: I think we are doing a great job already! The number of female leaders and contributors I see at conferences, events, and connect with through the supplements industry is amazing. It is what helped make it easier for Kylen and I to navigate co-founding a completely new supplement concept in a completely new industry for us. I don’t think I would have felt as supported and connected if it wasn’t for the women we already knew doing the same thing.

Boardman: I encourage transparency of information. It is critical to learning and development to have access to data. I also encourage team members to sit in and listen to their cohorts’ meetings. Exposure is so important to growing in one’s career. And always, always ask questions! We try to provide many opportunities, from town hall meetings to CEO Zoom drop-ins for team members to be curious. Proving opportunity for women to learn from and share with other women in the industry helps continue growth and career expansion.

Howard: We all need to learn how to mentor women to navigate the workplace successfully and pursue their talents openly. As a board member of WIN, we are taking specific steps to create data-based solutions relating to increasing the number of women in leadership, growing the number of women in science and research, and expanding investment opportunities for female-led business. All for the sake of ensuring better opportunities for rising leaders in our industry. VR

Extra! Extra!

The Panel:

Lucille Perreault, President, Rene’s Naturals, Inc., Florida, www.essiac.ca

Ramona Billingslea, Marketing Manager/Educator, Betsy’s Health Foods Inc., Texas, www.betsyhealth.com

Ellen Schutt, Executive Director, GOED, www.goedomega3.com

Cheryl Myers, Chief of Scientific Affairs and Education, EuroPharma, Inc. (Terry Naturally), Wisconsin, www.europharmausa.com

Tori Hudson, ND, Medical Director, A Woman’s Time, and Co-founder/Co-owner, Vitanica, Oregon, www.vitanica.com

Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Florida, www.hpingredients.com

Suzanne Shelton, Founder, The Shelton Group, Illinois, www.sheltongrouppr.com

Beth Lambert, CEO, Herbalist & Alchemist, New Jersey, www.herbalist-alchemist.com

Kylen Ribeiro, CEO Lightbody, Florida, www.lightbodylabs.com

Michelle Klein, COO, Lightbody, Florida, www.lightbodylabs.com

Linda Boardman, CEO, Bragg Live Food Products LLC, California, www.bragg.com

Karen Howard, CEO, Executive Director, Organic & Natural Health Association, www.organicandnatural.org

Arich diversity of women helped create and sustain what the modern natural products/nutritional supplement industry has become. Vitamin Retailer (VR) reached out to several women who lead. Their journeys are unique, but they are all impassioned. Read and be inspired!

VR: Please summarize your history in the naturals channel.

Perreault: From 2014 to 2016, I was the national director of training for St. John Ambulance, an organization dedicated to training first aid to the general population in Canada. Based on this experience of helping people to heal, my husband and I owned and operated multi-modal therapy clinics that offered massage therapy, reflexology and chiropractic services. When the opportunity to purchase Essiac came up in 2019, we jumped at the chance to extend the legacy of Rene Caisse to help people take control of their wellness through natural solutions.

Billingslea: A child of the ‘70s, I grew up drinking Dr. Pepper and eating the occasional Ding Dong for breakfast. The closest I came to health food was listening to my sister talk about a great book she had read by Adelle Davis. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself dating and then marrying a man whose family owned and operated a newly established health food store!

Armed with my master’s degree in English, I spent the first years of my marriage juggling teaching, tutoring and doing the occasional desktop design work that the health food store needed to help it thrive. As the years progressed, I found myself doing more and more for the health food store and less and less teaching.

My history with the naturals hasn’t been something I chose so much as it has chosen me. This 2023 will mark the 30th year for our store and the 28th year for my involvement with it and the naturals industry as a whole. I’m also proud that we are now a Certified Woman-owned company.

Schutt: I’ve been in the natural products industry for more than 20 years in editorial, sales, consulting and management roles. I’ve seen the industry grow and evolve and the presence of more women has definitely made the industry stronger.

Myers: My first degree was in nursing, and though I went on to get other degrees and certifications, deep down I remain a registered nurse. Over the years, I became interested in natural interventions for improved health outcomes. I started at Enzymatic Therapy in 1998, in research validation and medical communications. Eventually, I became the vice president of Health Sciences. In 2009, I joined EuroPharma in my current position. Both companies were originally founded by Terry Lemerond, one of the most knowledgeable and eclectic thought leaders in the industry.

Hudson: I have been a licensed naturopathic physician and in clinical practice for over 38 years. My area of clinical practice and expertise is women’s health. I have also been the co-owner of a supplement company for women for about 28 years as well as a medical advisor to several supplement companies for approximately 33 years. I have been a clinician, educator, researcher, author, formulator and natural medicine consultant throughout my career.

Eng: In 2001, I founded my company, HP Ingredients, to provide herbal solutions for the rapidly growing botanical supplement industry. Before this, I served as vice president in investment and financial consultant. While at Gruntal, I was the youngest producer, was consistently a top 10 producer and was the No. 1 new accounts opener in the Chicago branch office. Quite a turnaround! It all started with tongkat ali from Malaysia, where I grew up. I was highly intrigued by this herb, which was popular in traditional use. One thing led to another, and I was the first to bring it to the U.S. and organize research to back up the claims and use by our local people the Orang Asli. I then formed an alliance with Dr. Juan Hancke to provide Andrographis paniculata along with the research. This model continues, and we just launched a new ingredient for women.

Shelton: When I first joined the natural products industry in 1988 as the vice president of sales & marketing for a chemical-free, biodegradable disposable diaper company, I immediately loved the industry. Over the next couple of years, several people asked if I did any consulting on the side, so I decided to make a leap of faith, starting the Shelton Group in 1990. My first herbal products client was Eclectic Institute working with Ed Alstat. When DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994) was passed in 1994, I decided to work toward focusing on that aspect of the natural channel, because that was where my heart was. Along the way I have worked with many of the best companies in the industry, some—like Sabinsa, NOW and Herbalist & Alchemist—have kept me on retainer for literally decades. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Lambert: I have been working in the “channel” since the early 1990s—over 30 years. I made a career switch from investment banking to companies that were dedicated to being good for the earth and good for people. Running a community-supported farm whose farmers included two other women and publishing and distributing Permaculture Books through Permaculture Resources, a company I co-owned with architect Carol Tunell, led to an introduction to David Winston in 1995.

David was seeking someone to run his herbal products company, Herbalist & Alchemist (H&A). And so, for the last 28 years, that’s what I have been doing. H&A is a long-time member of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), where I have served on the Board and as Chair for a turn. I chair AHPA’s charitable foundation and chair the Education Committee and am an active committee member on several working committees. H&A is also a member of the National Animal Supplements Council, and I am a Board Member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

Ribeiro: My business partner, Michelle Klein, and I spent our lives training to become NCAA collegiate athletes; I was a Florida State swimming & diving captain and Michelle was a volleyball captain. From there, I made my way as a retail executive and eventually became a registered yoga teacher. In the next phase of my career, it was important to me that I really make a big impact in the world from a health and wellness standpoint. So, I took my skill set to a St. Pete start-up organization, DefenderShield, a leader in digital wellness.

Klein: I joined DefenderShield as a marketing manager right after graduating from college with a major in journalism and minor in health & wellness education and business administration. Kylen and I grew DefenderShield from just three to almost 20 employees and from a handful of products to over 100.

We wanted to figure out how to help the body become more resilient in our modern digital lifestyle, with more toxins surrounding us than ever before. The supplement industry didn’t have a solution, so we created one with the help of industry experts, scientists and formulators. As a sister company to DefenderShield, we established women-owned Lightbody.

Boardman: In 1990, I became assistant business unit manager for Ocean Spray Cranberries, and from there, served various positions in the naturals industry, including Whole Foods Market, Applegate Farms, Kicking Horse Coffee, Frontier Natural Products, Oregon Ice Cream, Reliance Vitamins, several of which I remain as a member of their Boards of Directors. Currently, I am CEO of Bragg Live Food Products, since March of 2019.

Howard: After September 11, I wanted to find a new way to utilize my health care legislative and advocacy skills, which led me to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, for whom I served as executive director from 2001 to 2011. My goal to stay in the industry and continue working with quality supplement companies led me first to the National Animal Supplement Council, and then to the Organic & Natural Health Association when I was hired to bring the Board’s vision to light in 2014.

VR: How have women made a long-lasting impact in the nutritional supplement industry? Who are your inspirations and why?

Perrault: In general, women are primary caregivers to their families and loved ones. I believe this translates into their commitment to providing safe, effective and natural solutions. Of course, my main inspiration is Rene Caisse. Rene dedicated her life to perfecting her Essiac formula to help people at her Bracebridge clinic, and eventually, worldwide. She was a rebel in the health industry—she fought the establishment and never gave up because she was dedicated to believing in the healing power of nature.

Billingslea: My real “sheroes” in the naturals industry are the women I work with. Besides taking on the challenges of a retail position, they also gladly undertake the monumental task of learning about the key benefits of several thousand products. In any given day, they may be the shoulder to cry on, the recipient of someone’s misplaced anger, or the detective tasked with helping a customer find that just right product. And they do all this along with managing the logistics of running a supplement store: boxing mail orders, unpacking deliveries, taking inventory, answering telephone calls and more. Their enthusiasm for continually learning new things about supplements and nutrition and the human body perpetually amazes me.

I also know that the health foods industry is what it is in part because of women like my mother-in-law, the Betsy of Betsy’s Health Foods. For more than 40 years, she has helped customers in our part of northwest Harris County reach their health goals in truly remarkable ways. She has served on the founding board of Citizen’s For Health, lobbied for the all-important passage of DSHEA, volunteered for many a committee for the NNFA (National Nutritional Foods Association), helped manufacturers by joining their retailer boards and more. From her, I have learned the art of balancing heartwarming customer service with a sometimes outside-the-box way of thinking to solve problems.

Schutt: I’ve worked with some amazing people in this industry, both men and women, over the years, and I can say that having a team with both men and women on it brings balance and allows for broader perspectives. I think the different ways of thinking that men and women bring to the table make the outcome of a given project or nutraceutical business stronger.

Myers: I have met so many brilliant women who are educators, health care practitioners, retailers, writers, researchers and corporate executives. It remains true that there are not as many women in visible positions of leadership in all these fields, but that has improved dramatically since I began in this industry 25 years ago. I remember the first quality validation conference I attended in 1999. Out of over 100 attendees, there were three women, of which I was one. The last similar conference one of my associates attended was about 35 percent women.

Who are my inspirations? The women who kept botanical medical knowledge alive in Europe and Colonial America. They were often not rewarded for being the local midwives and wise women, and risked persecution. However, their drive to care for people in need kept the various ointments, balms, teas and poultices in demand.

Hudson: Many companies have been started and/or led by women. In addition, the work of many women clinicians and herbalists have been utilized by supplement companies, and some of my most beloved educators are women. These have included Cascade Anderson-Geller (herbalist and educator), Rosemary Gladstar (herbalist and educator), Tieraona Lowdog, MD (physician and educator), and Agatha Thrash, MD (physician and educator).

Eng: Although not in the industry, but someone I believe is indeed an inspiration to many in this industry including myself —Oprah Winfrey is someone who is truly a muse, especially to me. As a minority woman born in poverty, Oprah Winfrey built her empire, and became the first Black billionaire in the United States in 2003. Oprah is showing us that even if you are a female, a minority, born into poverty, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Oprah never saw herself as a victim who has less potential in life; she was ready to conquer the world as if she is whole and full of limitless potential.

Shelton: Many women have played pivotal roles in building this industry. There are a lot of remarkable women leaders in the industry today that I admire tremendously, and many of them are involved in running Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN), but I am going to look back at the people who influenced me early on.

One of the first people I met when I joined the industry in 1988 was Sandy Gooch, who owned the legendary natural products chain in California, Mrs. Gooch’s. There was a question always asked of new products back then that determined if anyone was willing to hear more about it: Is it Goochable? That was shorthand for “will it meet the incredibly high standards to get on the shelves in the top stores in the industry?” That really resonated with me, and commitment to high standards has guided me through the decades.

Other significant inspirations include Peggy Brevoort, Nancy Potter Knudsen, Lynda LeMole, Beth Lambert and Heather Granato.

Lambert: I think first of the many women I have met through our trade organization, AHPA. The early pioneers, such as Peggy Brevoort, Rosemary Gladstar, Sara Katz, Lynda LeMole and Kay Wright. Board members that I have served with including Katie Huggins (Traditional Medicinals), Staci Eisner (PlusPharma), Rupa Das (BI Nutraceuticals), Cindy Angerhoffer (Aveda), Jackie Greenfield (Gaia), Lyra Heller (Metagenics), Leah Porter (Naturex), Bethany Davis (Megafood), Alessandra Storzini (Indena). Herbalists/practitioners from the internationally known leaders Dr. Tieraona Low Dog or Aviva Romm, to specialists such as Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, DVM and community leaders like Kerry Adams RH(AHG) have strong voices and are leaders in their respective communities.

Educators and researchers, such as Amy Howell (blueberry and cranberry research, Rutgers), Julie Elmer (FIRA-Rutgers) and Geetha Ghai (Rutgers) have been amazing resources. Women are also leaders in our supply chain. Farmers, such as Linda Shanahan and women in key positions with our suppliers, such as Dorie Moran (Pacific Botanicals). And, women who have worked at our trade association, AHPA, over the years including Amber Bennett, Jane Wilson, Natasha Weaver, Holly Johnson, Melissa Do and Anissa Medina.

Their skills as entrepreneurs, pioneers, organizers, scientists, practitioners are both collectively and individually inspiring. I have valued their insights, leadership and commitment to advance this industry as well as education and research about botanicals.

Boardman: Patricia Bragg was a pioneer as an early business leader in the natural foods industry, taking the reins from Paul Bragg upon his sudden death in the 1970s. She stayed true to Bragg’s health education mission and developed products that made living the Bragg healthy lifestyle easier for consumers to adopt plant based, nutrient dense and focused on harvesting time tested botanical health enhancing ingredients.

Howard: I am inspired daily by our female customers who shape the industry with their purchasing patterns, their concerns regarding transparency and quality, and their commitment to the health of their families. Women in our industry serve me as teachers, role models and mentors. Debra Short, executive director of SENPA, represents the backbone of the industry, independent retailers, many of whom were founded by women. Lise Alschuler, ND was the first to walk me through the science of supplementation, its impact on health, and its power to address chronic health issues. Naomi Whittel is a walking demonstration of the future of our industry, its commitment to our core values and the ability to be successful and take care of our Earth’s limited resources. All three have one commonality. They are motivated to succeed in their quest for the health of people and the planet, and thus, are also financially successful.

VR: How can we as an industry elevate and support other women to encourage them to lead and contribute their skills and talents as we move forward?

Perrault: I am an accountant by training and have conducted research on accounting practices in small businesses and charities. I believe that we need to provide women with financial literacy to run their businesses effectively. Women nail the customer service part of their business, but we need to also focus on the financial aspects of our business to continue to provide the services that our community really needs. Just as I promote that we take charge of our health, women business owners need to take charge of their financial health as well.

Billingslea: As a lifelong educator, I try to focus on teachable moments whenever they present themselves. At our store, we like to focus on people’s strengths and try to be encouraging instead of dwelling on mistakes. Truth be told, in 30 years of existence, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t made a mistake or two. What we do the next time is what counts the most.

Schutt: I applaud the work of WIN for calling attention to the issue and raising awareness at all levels of business. GOED is proud to support this organization and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish in this very important mission.

Myers: The way to encourage women is to recruit and promote. I think the natural health world is more egalitarian than many types of business, which is an advantage. I know many women in positions of important decision making, and some of our best retail stores are owned or managed by women. However, unless we consciously recruit and promote women, those numbers are not going to grow.

Hudson: Encourage and support small businesswomen entrepreneurs—stores could seek out more women-owned business and include those products in their inventory. More women could be included in the leadership within companies.

Eng: Take time to sit down with your female employees to get to know what drives them, as well as what their fears may be, and their goals. Women are known to be excellent communicators, and as such, what they reveal about themselves in these areas can serve as excellent guideposts to providing the atmosphere in which they will want to excel.

Shelton: Encourage the young women you know to consider a career in our industry and offer to make introductions. And get involved with the organization WIN as a member or a sponsor to help our industry achieve gender parity.

Lambert: A good way to support women in our industry is to encourage them to join trade associations. Mentor them—a phone call or a breakfast to chat and get them comfortable with the trade group dynamics. Encourage them to join the committees that are important for their business; volunteer for working groups and meet peers in the industry. Run for the Board and become a part of the leadership.

And let’s not forget about our next generation of leaders. Invest in the future by speaking at high school or college events for careers. Let those looking for meaningful work know about our industry. Many of the recent entrants to our industry have lateralled in. It would be great to inspire students to augment their studies and passions with coursework that will prepare them for the scientific and regulatory aspects of our industry.

Ribeiro: Throughout my career I’ve always valued hiring and developing women into leadership roles. Frequently, women’s unique skill sets, talents and eye for detail are very valuable in any role within a company. I will continue to support the innovation, creativity, voices and leadership growth of women, and believe the naturals industry should continue highlighting and providing special opportunities for visibility and marketing to women leaders and innovators.

Klein: I think we are doing a great job already! The number of female leaders and contributors I see at conferences, events, and connect with through the supplements industry is amazing. It is what helped make it easier for Kylen and I to navigate co-founding a completely new supplement concept in a completely new industry for us. I don’t think I would have felt as supported and connected if it wasn’t for the women we already knew doing the same thing.

Boardman: I encourage transparency of information. It is critical to learning and development to have access to data. I also encourage team members to sit in and listen to their cohorts’ meetings. Exposure is so important to growing in one’s career. And always, always ask questions! We try to provide many opportunities, from town hall meetings to CEO Zoom drop-ins for team members to be curious. Proving opportunity for women to learn from and share with other women in the industry helps continue growth and career expansion.

Howard: We all need to learn how to mentor women to navigate the workplace successfully and pursue their talents openly. As a board member of WIN, we are taking specific steps to create data-based solutions relating to increasing the number of women in leadership, growing the number of women in science and research, and expanding investment opportunities for female-led business. All for the sake of ensuring better opportunities for rising leaders in our industry. VR

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