I Nearly Gave Up

by Sara Peternell, MNT, BCHN®, Marketing Specialist, NANP

No, really. I almost gave up.

I have been in private nutrition practice for over 20 years. I taught at the Nutrition Therapy Institute for five years. I’ve been a mentor to countless holistic nutrition students. I co-authored an award-winning baby food cookbook in 2016. My holistic nutrition YouTube channel with nearly 2,000 followers actually makes me a little bit of money. My paper client files take up an entire closet.

I considered myself to be successful in this industry.

Until 2020.

I nearly gave up – last year broke me down – financially, creatively, optimistically. I figured that my clients were feeling like the rest of the world – “we’re all gonna die, so I might as well eat the chips and drink the beer.” Heck, I had a few of those days in 2020 too.

The phone just wasn’t ringing with any new business. Even my long-time clients were few and far between – everyone was hunkered down at home and in survival mode. I was dismayed because my newly launched 30-day, self-paced online program for living healthfully with autoimmune thyroid disease was sitting there empty with no enrollments. My expensive office in a gorgeous functional medicine practice was CLOSED. For over two months.

Bills were piling up, and you know – expenses to run a small business don’t just go away. So I accrued debt and I began to worry. I wasn’t paying myself (or my family!) anymore. But, I was still WORKING. Working my butt off to keep my business alive.

  • I worked hard to keep the content flowing on my social media channels.
  • I kept my YouTube channel alive with weekly video recordings.
  • I reached out regularly to my professional referral network to see if they had any ideas for patients who needed nutrition help.
  • I gave away a lot of nutrition for free (virtual events) to keep my name out there.

I kept treading water to stay afloat – and, I held on to my faith that people were indeed waiting for the right time to start focusing on their health again.

I mean, healthy beyond everything pandemic-related…

They will remember they want to cook and eat healthy! They will soon need a refresher on their supplements! Lifestyle adjustments will need to be made! Weight will need to be lost! Sanity will need to be restored! RIGHT?!

I prayed.

In the fall of 2020, I faced hard truths. There was the chance that things would in fact get worse. I had to cut costs and I had to begin a “maintain and build back” strategy for my business.

Or, I had to quit.

I decided to enlist the help of my awesome book-keeping firm (Salt Lake City Bookkeeping) – and they put numbers down clearly outlining what my financial goals needed to be to stay open. I had to cut expenses and let go of some pretty important people supporting my business. I had to move to a different office.

I actually cried and I lost quite a bit of sleep.

But, once I had a plan in place, I began to feel the clouds lifting. I could see how with a little (more) hard work I could recover lost earnings and I could stay open. (It turns out I love my new office space and the people there too!)

2020 was the year when many of us learned to “innovate or die” and I did a lot of that in the water-treading stage of saving my business. But, by year-end, I learned that getting back to basics was going to be my best bet.

  • supporting people with food-focused plans, not fancy functional nutrition – not for now, at least
  • encouraging family meals around a table – most of us are at home anyway
  • a toolbox filled with recipes and creative eating ideas – everyone is in a food rut
  • caring about ourselves again – there is no armageddon just yet, so let’s get back to work

I sought out a new plan to reach the people in my community with these holistic nutrition concepts. I focused on “nutrition near me” Google search engine optimization (SEO), while also leveraging my global YouTube platform.

I started “selling” holistic nutrition again. I had nothing to lose!

Sales is not easy in our field. But, we can and must do it – we need to remind people of what they need, what we offer and how our value proposition is actually a lifelong investment in true and lasting health.

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to get folks to pay attention to how they wish to live out their remaining years on this planet.

Well, as 2020 came to an end and I was fresh with ideas to tackle the new world we live in, I found that my intentions were quickly and easily manifesting. My wish for my local community to seek their best health and to – in turn – find me exploded around Christmas week. And, beyond my local community, I also took on new virtual USA clients, AND two new international clients!

I am delighted that holistic nutrition is truly a gift of hope. One that many of my new clients gave to themselves in the spirit of turning the page on a dreadful year.

What Can You Do If You Feel Like Giving Up?

  1. LISTEN! The NANP podcast is a TREMENDOUS resource for anyone in our field who feels like giving up. Chock-full of advice, business models and inspiring ideas for our community, the podcast is literally one way to “nourish your practice.” Don’t throw in the towel – listen to just one episode and you’ll get all fired up again!
  2. CONNECT! Circle back to our NANP community for support on how to refresh your business – visit the member forum in the member-section of the site for idea-loaded threads and practice-building insights.
  3. LEARN! Attend HEALCon2021 for some of the most powerful, passionate and compelling reasons to STAY IN OUR FIELD. In a pandemic year, “going it alone” took on a whole new meaning, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Meet up with your NANP family online for incredible continuing education and networking – and get the juices flowing once more!
  4. VOLUNTEER! Yep, do some work for free. See the impact holistic nutrition has in your local and underserved community. Just one day in a classroom teaching inner city kids about fruits and veggies, or a summer spent tending a community garden with senior citizens, or serving in a health-focused soup kitchen or shelter can be the spark that lights your way forward in professional practice. (I like Feeding America – they are looking for speakers/educators/policy writers/researchers and more.)
  5. BE PATIENT! Just when one door feels like it will close, there are always new doors opening. (You can always check out the NANP Career Center to see what is out there!)

Sara Peternell, MNT, BCHN®
Sara joined the NANP team as the Marketing Copywriter with a strong background in both marketing and nutrition. Sara earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Drake University in 1997 and went on to have a successful 10-year marketing career in both the private and non-profit sectors. She was the Website Manager for the Colorado Children’s Hospital prior to changing careers and pursuing her passion for holistic nutrition. In 2007, Sara completed the Master of Nutrition Therapy program at the Nutrition Therapy Institute. As a graduate of this renowned program, she became a Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), and later, was an instructor at the Institute for five years.

Sara’s nutrition practice, Family Nutrition Services, reaches clients all over the U.S., and even internationally – focusing on family nutrition, thyroid health, and detoxification programs. Sara has been offering personalized nutrition services to individuals, children, families, non-profits, and corporations since starting her business in 2005. Sara is co-author of Little Foodie: Recipes for Babies & Toddlers With Taste, Winner of Red Tricycle’s 2015 Best Cookbook for Babies Award.

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