The Naturally Proud Network will host its first event outside the US at Vitafoods Europe on 10 May at 16.30. Held at the Sustainability Resource Centre, the networking gathering is free and open to all Vitafoods attendees.
What attracted you to your career in the nutrition industry?
“I grew up in a family that's very into science and medical careers, but they're also very holistically and kind of across the board. I actually started my career as a clinical dietician and then I got really interested in making fortified nutritional products after my first master's degree. I took that into a second master's degree programme that was focused in food, biochemistry and manufacturing. And I've been working exclusively in this industry ever since.”
What is the Naturally Proud Network and why does the nutraceutical/supplement sector need an association like this?
“The Naturally Proud Network is a non-profit organisation and it's open to all LGBTIQA+ professionals and their allies in the nutraceutical and natural products industry. Our immediate goal is to be an international network focused on hosting events where our LGBTQIA+ allies and professionals can come together and develop meaningful relationships and a welcoming space, all while raising funds to support fellow non-profits that are doing great work to uplift the LGBTQIA+ community and cause.
“Membership continues to grow at a pretty rapid pace, which we're very excited about. We're planning to expand on that foundation of how we currently support and increase visibility of the LGBTQIA+ professionals.”
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness in the corporate world of how important it is to support women and help them reach positions of power. Do you see a similar awareness for the LGBTIQA+ community?
“I don't think so. Oftentimes, you can identify someone as female at a glance, but the same doesn't necessarily go for LGBTQIA+. So, it's sometimes difficult to tell if you have that representation or diversity. That's why I think it's so important to have more visibility with the LGBTQIA+ population in this industry so that we can recognise each other and come together and support each other, but also [so] that our allies know who we are and so we can contribute in that way.
“Inclusion and visibility are so important because we know that companies that truly embrace a diverse and inclusive culture at all levels of the organisation end up being more profitable; have less employee turnover; and are perceived as more positive by consumers.”
You founded Niche Nutrition in 2018. What are the benefits and challenges of being at the helm of a female-founded company?
“I think for me, the biggest challenge I faced personally being a female-founded, female-led business has been accidentally running into business situations where I can tell right away that the client is underestimating me. It's happened several times though that I have a client I could tell was stereotyping or underestimating me.
“They went in another direction and either came back later still needing my services because they didn't find the right fit, or I ended up doing the project anyway as the subcontractor for the other option they chose. [That] is my favourite because the client ends up paying more for the same service that I quoted!”
Have you ever felt yourself come up against the so-called glass ceiling and, if so, how did you break through it?
“Thankfully, the glass ceiling is not something I've really struggled with much in my career. I've always been very comfortable researching and negotiating a salary on the higher end and pushing myself to go for jobs that I know will be challenging for myself, even if they're a little bit outside of my comfort zone.
“I think I opted not to continue to climb the corporate ladder because of the hands-on R&D, which really brings me a lot of joy, and the higher I tended to go in title in the big corporations, the less I got to do that. But I'm a huge advocate for women that that are interested in reaching that level of C-Suite in big corporate business.”
Do you have a piece of advice to any female entrepreneurs thinking of setting up their own business or consultancy?
“I'd say, stop what you're doing right now and go for it! In seriousness though, it's not easy. [There is] less financial stability and regularity, and a lot of feeling overwhelmed because you have to learn these business tasks [...] but it is so worth it. I've now built an excellent network of fellow female entrepreneurs.
“And while, of course, there times you hear stories about someone wishing they had [...] handled something differently, I've not encountered a single woman founder that regrets breaking out and going solo.”