Indie Herbalist Combines Three Passions To Make A Profit
Like all new college grads, Maria Noel Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown, New Hampshire, looked forward to putting her degree to good use. As a journalism major who also loved herbs, it seemed almost predictable that she would make a living by using the written word to educate others about herbs.
What was less predictable was that one of the nation's most respected natural magazines would crown her "staff herb expert," ultimately giving her the ability to chart her own Indie course. Here's how it happened.
dM: Tell me about life before Wintergreen Botanicals and how the business started?
I began studying herbs when I was in journalism school. My major afforded me a natural way to combine my interest in herbs with my studies. Class writing assignments included covering a student environmental group, "pocket" gardens and profiling a local herbalist.
After college, I landed a dream job as research editor for Natural Health Magazine. I gradually became the herb expert, and while I did my job well, I harbored a secret fantasy of becoming an herbalist. An assignment to write an article on how to become a holistic practitioner provided the push I needed to begin to formally study herbs. I began traveling to herbal programs around the country, including those offered by Michael Moore and Rosemary Gladstar. By then, there was no question whether I would go Indie. It was just a matter of timing.
Eventually, I began working at a natural food store (which I had done in college) so I could go to as many herbal programs as possible. This training was a key part of building my business long before it started. As a writer, I was largely invisible, even though my words reached thousands of readers. As a natural food store employee, I worked with real customers with real questions and concerns. I answered them one by one. I taught free classes. I wrote for free in the store newsletter. It was the best training, advertising and networking I could have asked for, and I got to do it all at once time, and got paid for it, with benefits.
I launched my business two months ago when I felt I had enough of a following to sustain it. I also got married, and having access to my husband's health benefits is a plus.
dM: What do you love about being Indie?
I devote all of my time to my dreams! I have three passions: teaching, counseling and writing. Up until now, I've done these things while holding down a full-time job. Now, these things are my full-time job and it's fabulous. I love how the three aspects of my business balance each other and work together. I may turn an article idea into a lecture or vice versa. Questions that come up in consultations may lead me to research a health concern for an article. What could easily be three separate careers blend seamlessly into one.
dM: What is your biggest Indie business challenge and how do you overcome it?
Finances are tricky. It can be hard to "make a living" as an herbalist, especially in the beginning. Almost no herbalist does just one thing. They may teach at local schools, garden, sell products or even design websites.
Even though my three-tiered business of teaching, consulting and freelance writing provides balance, the freelance writing part can be financially challenging. While it provides some bread and butter, it can also take up to six months to get paid for an article. Teaching and consulting stabilize things between freelance checks. They also provide a sense of community, which is hard to come by when you're writing all the time.
I am choosey about the projects I take on because I am no longer paid for every hour that I work. This requires me to make the most financially of the moments I do work to ensure that I cover my expenses and have money to live on.
dM: What are your future plans for Wintergreen Botanicals?
I look forward to starting a family in the next few years. I know it's difficult to balance young children and a traditional job, but now that I've created a business that I can either expand or contract with my life's needs, I can adjust to just about anything. I can set limits on my business if I need to, or I can expand like crazy depending on what comes up in my life. I won't need to ask permission of a boss to make the alterations I deem best for me and the people in my personal life. I'm excited about that!
Maria's story shows us that:
- Indies change the world. Maria combines her three great loves: writing, teaching and consulting, and still brings home the bacon. Isn't that the beauty of being Indie? Maria's journalism degree allows her to write about herbal topics in a professional manner. Her love for people allows her to help others enhance their lives by incorporating herbs into their daily routine. Her love for teaching allows her to educate the masses. Maria is creating and spreading a valuable legacy that will positively impact future generations. Maria is changing the world.
- Good timing rocks. With her resume, Maria would be successful no matter when she decided to go into business. But the fact that she built up her expertise and waited for the right time to "pounce" shows how good timing can maximize success. Marriage, spousal health benefits, a desire to plan a family — all of these things came together to let Maria know that it was a good time to make the Indie choice. Perhaps if she had waited until after children, things would have been different. Of course we'll never know, but she assessed her options and chose the time that felt most right for her.
- Advance planning pays off. Maria has observed that moms have a difficult time juggling traditional work and children, so instead of standing on the tracks and getting run over, Maria saw the train coming and jumped off the tracks when the jumping was good. Now, she has the freedom to build a solid business platform so that if children ever arrive, she can make adjustments based on her personal desires and not the needs an employer. Bravo Maria! Spread the word so other young women avoid the golden shackles that are so hard to slough off once the offspring arrive.
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