How To Get Started In Functional Nutrition & Corporate Wellness

How To Get Started In Functional Nutrition & Corporate Wellness

How To Get Started In Functional Nutrition & Corporate Wellness

Since publishing my HB1060 post in February I have received a handful of emails and phone calls from holistic nutritionists and dietitians. They agree with my philosophy and the stand I took against the American Dietetic Association. Many have asked for advice on how to build or improve their own careers in holistic, functional nutrition and, or corporate wellness.

I decided to compile many of the questions I’ve received instead of trying to answer multiple emails. I hope this helps anyone who has the desire to teach and coach others in the area of holistic nutrition or corporate wellness.


1. How did you get started in corporate wellness? Did you work with individuals first and then progress into a corporate contract, or did you contact a company directly and introduce your programs? 

My Story  about how I entered into the corporate wellness world is serendipitous and definitely not the norm.


2. How do you find new clients? I know you have the website, but what would you say is the distribution of your clients? Personal referral or online inquiries? 

Online inquiries have worked for me more than other networks, but online is where I chose to put the majority of my time and focus over the years.


3. Are you involved long-term with any client(s), repeat engagements?

I contracted with Owens & Minor (the Fortune 500 company that I refer to in My Story above) for seven years. During that time, I wrote and facilitated 10 different wellness workshops for them (eating on the run, stressed out solutions, etc) and traveled all over the country to various sites to present on-site workshops per requests from the individual HR managers. Today I work with clients on 6 or 12-month contracts.


4. How do your workshops and classes work? Do you do them by yourself or do you bring in others from time to time?

Up to this point, I have been a one-woman show. Behind the scenes, I have a web designer, bookkeeper, and a couple subcontractors on an as needed basis, but I do all the writing, intellectual property design, marketing and workshop delivery. I’m certified in nutrition (I studied functional medicine and nutrition for over a decade.) I’ve completed a yoga teacher training and have taken numerous courses over the years (healing touch, acupressure, journal therapy, etc.) I incorporate those things when appropriate. I read and research, try to stay current with new and interesting “Healthy Discoveries” (not just nutrition). I never grow tired of learning and ultimately I teach what I’ve personally experienced, studied.


5. What other support do you offer corporate clients? For instance, incentivizing healthier lifestyles, contests, etc? 

I’m reinventing and designing new projects all the time, webinars, videos, get healthy challenges, etc. In the past, I did some vending machine make-overs (worked with local vendors around the U.S. and brought in healthier options). I’ve provided strategic consulting for wellness committees and one-on-one health coaching for individuals. Otherwise, my work predominately revolves around workshop facilitation and delivery.


6. While doing a project, how often does the fitness side of the equation come up in discussion/questions from employees?

Not often, but I make it clear that I’m a nutritionist and not a personal trainer. I bring balance balls and resistance bands in for some of my workshops and people rotate through interactive “stations” to try them out. Participants also receive pedometers as takeaways from my classes. I promote walking (10,000 steps) at the work-site because it’s easy and an inexpensive thing to incorporate into busy work days. These things are all within my comfort level and there hasn’t been a demand for more. Especially when I spend the majority of the class talking about nutrition and there is so much to cover regarding nutrition.


7. Do you partner with a fitness or physical activity groups? 

Some trainers have approached me in the past, but their intention was to sell memberships to their gym or training packages, so that wasn’t a good fit. When I teach corporate wellness classes I focus on providing education, resources, practical, do-able tips and not selling products or services.


8.  What qualifications, general tips would you give for combining motivational speaking and nutrition (especially Paleo?) is there a way of gaining low carb nutrition education, qualifications?

For motivational speaking I study and read the classics- Og Mandino is my all time favorite! I read his stuff over and over. The Greatest Miracle In The World is amazing. Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale are my heroes. I have always said,  “I want to be the Dale Carnegie of Wellness.” Any modern day Secret, self-improvement, positive thinking, motivational, business/sales guru, all use and recycle the original, classic works of the guys mentioned above. After you find a speaking mentor, role model, get out and start speaking! National Speakers Association, Toast Masters, Professional Organizations and Local Meet-Ups. The more you speak the better you become.

In regards to setting your fees, Allan Weiss was my go-to source in the early days. I used this book to create my first proposal in 2004 on value based fees (I don’t charge, nor do I recommend charging by the hour). Charge for the value you provide.


More recently [2015 update] 

The online business world is hopping and I’ve recently been studying creative entrepreneurship and blending this into my business. Some of the programs and resources I’ve recently purchased and found to be beneficial are:

Braid Creative e-course – This was the best investment I made in 2015. Sisters, Kathleen Shannon and Tara Street have developed a fantastic self-study course to help creative entrepreneurs blend who they are with what they do. I can not recommend this e-course enough. Also, Kathleen’s Being Boss Podcast is probably my favorite Healthy Discovery of the year. I love it!

Quiet Power Strategy Book – When I started my business over a decade ago there weren’t a lot of resources or models for women. Today, women like Tara Gentile are writing and providing road maps like this, that are incredibly helpful.

Creative Class e-course – A good online, self-study course created by Paul Jarvis to help creative entrepreneurs with marketing and branding for their products and business.

Six Appeal Process online course – Copy-writing from the master herself, Ash Ambirge at The Middle Finger Project.

B-School – Marie Forleo’s wildly successful online business school for creating a life and business you love. It opens for enrollment every February.


Regarding a holistic nutrition education and qualifications, you pretty much have to seek that out on your own. Since the late 90’s I have attended numerous functional medicine/nutrition conferences and holistic classes and workshops (many of which I have written about on this blog). I am indebted to the late Robert Crayhon for hosting Boulderfest  (a functional medicine conference in Colorado every year) and bringing in speakers like Loren Cordain, author of the Paleo Diet, before the general public even heard the term “Paleo.”

My Integrative, Holistic Nutrition School Recommendations:

Bauman College

Institute For Integrative Nutrition

Nutrition Therapy Institute

University of Bridgeport


My Low Carb, Paleo, Primal, Continuing Education Recommendations:

Ancestral Health Symposium

Primal Blueprint Certified Expert

Weston A. Price Foundation

Charles Poliquin Education

21 Day Sugar Detox Coaching Program

Institute of Functional Medicine 

American Academy of Environmental Medicine


Other Corporate Wellness Recommendations: people who are changing it up and challenging the status quo.

Rosie Ward


9. What did you find challenging about opening your own holistic health business?

Marketing! It’s not my cup of tea. It’s been said that you can have the greatest idea in the world, but it’ll die a quick death if you can’t get the word out and constantly pitch your service/product. Your idea (vision) is worth 3%, while the execution/marketing is worth 97%.


10. Is there anything you would do differently?

Constant marketing, build strong professional networks, hustle… all the time!


11. Do you have any advice for fledgling holistic health business owners?

Self Esteem – When you’re in business for yourself you have to be strong mentally and be able to manage your emotions. I had to hire an attorney to fight to hold onto the name, Healthy Discoveries, when a major institution was using it without my permission. The people who say, “your service is too expensive” or  “wouldn’t it be so much easier if you just threw in the towel and got a ‘real job’?” are the exact people who will want your lifestyle/freedom, and ask for free help and advice without even saying ‘thank you’ when times are good. Birthing a business can be a messy, scary, labor-intensive process; but the reward is tenfold. The people who stick by you throughout the process are worth their weight in gold, but ultimately *you* have to stick by, support yourself and have a strong sense of self-esteem through the thick and thin.

Money Management – If you can’t manage $2,000 (i.e. pay off your consumer debts, put 20% in savings, 20% in a tax account, contribute to your monthly ROTH/retirement account, pay your individual health insurance premium AND THEN pay yourself). You won’t be able to manage $200K or 2 million. Sorry, harsh I know, but true. People receive windfalls, and win the lottery every day, but in 5 years they are just as broke as they were before the money. Be a responsible money manager (8-12 months of income in savings is ideal before you quit your day job). Be a savvy marketer, have a service or product that differentiates you from the rest of the market and provide exceptional value to your customers. If all those things are in place (along with believing in yourself ) your chance of succeeding in business increases exponentially.


12. I’m months away from completing my RD (Registered Dietitian) degree and I hate it! I want to practice the philosophies of functional/holistic nutrition and not the food pyramid, RDA, American Dietetic Association rhetoric. What should I do? 

I recommend sticking it out and finishing. As a licensed RD, you have the best of both worlds. You will be protected from future legislation like the HB1060 bill in Colorado that I testified against. I know many RDs who don’t practice any of the RD philosophies they learned in school. They seek out holistic, Paleo, integrative, functional nutrition practices and they create a unique niche for themselves. They are licensed to practice and they can practice however they choose. Here are a few examples of Paleo, low carb, functional medicine nutritionists who also happen to be RDs. 

However, for me, since I’m not currently in or almost finished with an RD program I wouldn’t go back for a Masters in Dietetics at this stage of the game. If I were to go back to school, I would add a Masters in Public Health or Organizational Development to my Nutrition Certification and Communication degree.

Good Luck!


Here’s a picture of me teaching a corporate wellness class in Boston, Massachusetts in 2008. I felt then, and I still feel today that this is exactly what I was born to do!

Comments 1

  • Diane Wilkes says: June 27, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Hi Jolene,

    My daughter has her BA from San Diego State in Liberal Studies – she wanted to be an elementary school teacher and now wishes to pursue her Masters in Holistic Nutrition and Education at Hawthorne University on line. Help! Is this a good idea – she is 24 and is very interested in holistic nutrition. I see from your above comments it isn’t easy – i am just a concerned Mom if this is a good career path with her BA? She may eventually get her Doctorate in HN
    Thanks for sharing your above information – it is so nice you are doing what you are born to do! Blessings – Diane

Comments are closed.