Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Danielle Gaffen, founder of Eat Well Crohn's Colitis, located in La Mesa, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I work virtually with people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis who struggle with confusion about what to eat to manage their symptoms, resulting in a limited diet, weight loss, and fatigue. I help my clients implement a highly personalized nutrition plan that clarifies which foods to add that may be beneficial, reduces fear and anxiety around eating, reduces inflammation, and ultimately helps them get their lives back.
Tell us about yourself
My interest in nutrition grew after college when my mom developed three perforations in her colon from taking pain medications and steroids for a rare autoimmune reaction she developed, transverse myelitis. From complications of the disease, she needed two feet of her intestines removed. She wound up with an ileostomy that was ultimately reversed after six months. Even on total parenteral nutrition (IV nutrition), she lost 55 pounds and developed malnutrition. I was her primary caregiver for two years, and I could see how powerful nutrition played a role in her survival, let alone wellbeing.
My interest in gut health increased when I met my now husband, who has Crohn’s disease. He’s 6 feet and weighed 127 pounds at his lowest due to symptoms of the disease. He literally became afraid to eat because he associated all foods with pain, diarrhea, and discomfort. He’s also struggled with complications like iron and B12 deficiency.
Since we’ve been together, I’m proud to report my husband has gained a healthy amount of weight to feel better and have enough energy to make it through the day because we learned which foods actually do cause his pain, discomfort, and digestive issues. And we focus more on the foods that make him feel good while ensuring he’s getting the macros and micronutrients he needs. And slowly but surely, we’ve removed the fear and anxiety from eating. He now weighs 185 pounds.
Understanding the link between nutrition and gut disease prompted me to obtain my master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences, become a registered dietitian, and ultimately specialize in nutrition for people with inflammatory bowel diseases.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Building my inter-professional team. For the first year, I did everything myself for two reasons:
• I had no startup capital. I had time but no money. So if I wanted something to get done, I needed to learn how to do it myself and go for it because I literally couldn’t pay anyone.
• Reflecting on that first year, I think it’s good practice as a business owner to know what a job entails before hiring out.
A year later, I was at the point financially where my time became more valuable, and I was able to contract several of the jobs that my time was not best utilized. For example, I hired contractors to edit my YouTube videos, assist with SEO optimization, create blogs and social media posts, and provide more sophisticated website building and development.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The primary goal in my nutrition private practice is to help clients feel better and get to the point where they don’t need me anymore — the goal is not to keep them around forever! Unfortunately, this means constant client turnover and motivates me to continue marketing efforts to reach more people and share more information about my services.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
If I had three suggestions for a dietitian interested in pursuing private practice:1
- Say yes to opportunities that come your way. You allow yourself to grow and continue building your career by staying open.
- You don’t need to create your entire private practice overnight. This is not a race but a marathon. You can learn as you go, and you can keep on taking little steps to get you to where you want to be.
- This goes out to the Type A perfectionists out there: you don’t need to be perfect in this line of work. I don’t know about you, but my perfectionist tendencies have prevented me from getting started in some areas of my life. And it’s a problem because you have to start. So my recommendation is to "just do it" and learn and improve as you go. But just start!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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