Welcome to DAWN!

Welcome to DAWN!

Dear newest member of Developing and Advancing Women in Naturals:

Per your request, you have now been officially enrolled as a DAWN member and will have access to our organization and its attendant website and blog, www.dawnnetwork.org/blog.

We are thrilled to add your voice and creative energy to this new alliance supporting women’s ascent in the natural products industry. DAWN fosters female executive achievement and entrepreneurship within this domain by providing informational guidance and technical assistance through its website, e-newsletter and workshop events.

Our DAWN network blog (www.dawnnetwork.org/blog) features original and published articles concerning women in business, from issues we face to ways we can surmount them. In our current “Executive Spotlight,” we talk with The Vitamin Shoppe executive Rikke Cumberbatch and Digestive Care and Nutrition Expert Brenda Watson about what drives them to excel in the naturals industry today. We also examine the importance of “envisioning” in female leadership appraisal and development.

We foresee both the website and blog as forums for mentorship and sponsorship tools, active networking facilitation, self-assessments, e-newsletter distribution, industry job searches and more. We are currently designing these highly interactive elements and welcome all ideas and suggestions you may have during this process. As well, if you are interested in writing for our blog or newsletter, please email info@dawnnetwork.org with your thoughts or to request more information.

A word about DAWN:

DAWN was founded on the belief that the natural products industry is perfect for women’s individual and collective leadership. With its attention to sustainable sourcing practices, naturals industry has proved especially alluring to female professionals and start-ups, and therefore is primed for our across-the-board success! By harnessing our shared ambition and ecological ethics, we have the chance to positively impact our industry, while simultaneously furthering women’s overall contributions in business.

For each new DAWN member, Reserveage Organics will donate $5 to the Whole Planet Foundation, which provides microcredit loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. The foundation targets the poorest individuals and families, with a special focus on women. We are excited to share in Whole Planet Foundation’s mission to add financial leverage to women’s ingenuity –the core principle of DAWN.

DAWN newsletter:

DAWN will launch its inaugural newsletter at Expo West in March 2012! In the interest of conserving paper, the newsletter will be available only through our website, where issues will be archived and accessible to active members.

Our first edition will focus more deeply on “envisioning opportunities and trends” as well as on the crucial differences between “sponsorship” and “mentorship” – two areas that the prestigious Harvard Business Review has identified as vital to furthering women’s professional advancement.

We look forward to DAWN being a collaborative venture that will show the world what innovative and inspiring leaders women truly are!


Naomi Whittel, Founder and the DAWN team

CEO Spotlight: Brenda Watson, Digestive Health Pioneer

Fifteen years ago, Brenda Watson walked into Naomi Whittel’s health food store in south Florida and began a conversation that continues today. “She told me what her goals were that day,” Naomi said, “and she has achieved every one of them. She’s the face of her brand.”

Now a bestselling author of six books on digestive health, Brenda pioneered natural health care clinics in Florida, formulated her own herbal blends, and hosts The Road to Perfect Health, a series of specials about digestive health for PBS. Brenda continues to inspire and mentor Naomi, who wanted to feature Brenda in this first issue of DAWN.

Brenda, who says she has “always been an entrepreneur,” was delighted to share the lessons she has learned along her journey. If illness can be a motivator, it certainly was for Brenda, who was “always sick” as a child.

She suffered from gluten intolerance that led to migraine headaches and an auto-immune condition that caused her hair to fall out in the 6th grade. She also contracted lyme disease.

As a grown woman she was determined to educate herself so she could begin to improve her digestive health. In doing so, she became a leading authority on “optimum nutrition and digestion, natural detoxification methods, and herbal internal cleansing.”

Brenda sensed she would never be a follower in a male-dominated environment. The primary male in her life—her father, a manager at Southern Bell—recognized it as well. “He said, ‘Your own ideas are too strong to follow others.’” Brenda was ready to lead.

She started her journey by going back to school to study nutrition and holistic health. Part of her education was apprenticing at a colonics clinic in Clearwater, Fla., that was owned by a practitioner who had been a pioneer in the field since the 1970s. For six months Brenda just observed and started applying what she was learning to her own health. She began to heal. And by the time she left the clinic a few years later, she was running the clinic and ready to branch out with her own.

With a little cash and $5,000 on a credit card, Brenda opened the first of five natural health clinics in 1993. At each of her clinics, she started a training program for colon therapy, and took on apprentices who ‘graduated’ and started their own practices. She began formulating her own herbal blends in 1995.

When it came time to make her first presentation about digestive health, she was nervous. “I thought, ‘How am I going to talk to them about constipation,’” she laughs. “But then I pretended I was in the audience and realized that I’m really helping someone. People want to hear this.”

How Brenda stays focused and on track
Going With Your Gut. “Your gut is your emotional center, the core of your being metaphysically and spiritually. I think women have a wonderful access to their gut feelings about people. Young women really need to hone in on their intuitive sense and stay focused. At the same time, be careful not to pre-judge.”

Having A Vision, Or Not. “I didn’t have a vision. Every day, I just knew that I was building something. I’d think, ‘Okay, I gotta do more next month.’”

Proceeding With Confidence. “I’ve never had a sense of failure. Not that I haven’t made mistakes. I just don’t dwell on them. I move on.’”

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up. “I’m a follow-up queen. Getting into Whole Foods was a big deal.” She didn’t rest until she did.

Managing Credit and Bills. She is proud to say she paid off her credit card every month. “I told my staff, ‘We do not charge on a card we cannot pay off every month.’ In the beginning, when the money wasn’t there to pay her bills, she instructed her accountant
to write the checks anyway but not send them just yet. “The money will come,” she told them. “Always make sure you pay the little guy first and leave the lawyers last.”

Take Care of Your Gut. “We are inundated with fatty toxins and bacteria. It’s in the air we breathe and the foods we eat.” Learn what you can do to protect your digestive health.

For more information about Brenda Watson, visit www.brendwatson.com

Exec Exclusive: Rikke Cumberbatch, The Vitamin Shoppe

DAWN sits down with Rikke Cumberbatch, category manager of specialty supplements for The Vitamin Shoppe to talk about excelling as a female in the natural products industry.


DAWN: What sparked your interest in the naturals industry?

RIKKE CUMBERBATCH: I wanted a change and was looking for a company that would not only have a profound impact on my life but also on the lives of the customers that we serve. I wanted to say that I was making a difference in someone’s life for the better and that it wasn’t just another article of clothing or an accessory that went into someone’s closet or was irrelevant next season.

I also wanted to know that maybe someone felt a little better or was happier because there was a company that cared about health. I just happened to be lucky enough to be given the chance to join a company that offered that opportunity.

I feel very fortunate that The Vitamin Shoppe and the vendor community were willing to wholeheartedly accept someone new to the industry.

DAWN: How has The Vitamin Shoppe facilitated your success as a female?

RC: I truly believe that the sky is the limit within The Vitamin Shoppe. I have never before worked in a retail environment that has been as supportive and encouraging and, most importantly, compassionate about its employees. I really don’t think that the proverbial glass ceiling exists here. It’s a company where you really are in charge of your own destiny. I have flourished both personally and professionally at The Vitamin Shoppe.

DAWN: What challenges have you faced as a female executive?

RC: In the past, the biggest challenge from a corporate perspective has always centered on the work/life balance. At The Vitamin Shoppe, I find that the company and managers, as a whole, just “get it” when it comes to work and family. Here we do indeed walk the walk. I appreciate the support I get and most importantly the freedom to do my job.

DAWN: How do you differentiate your strengths as a female executive?

RC: I don’t really. I see myself as an executive first and foremost, as does everyone else at The Vitamin Shoppe. There are not male and female challenges so much as general challenges to address and grow from. So whether you’re male or female, I think that is how you become stronger overall.

DAWN: What resources do you use for professional development?

RC: I have learned and will certainly continue to learn from my peers within The Vitamin Shoppe, both at the corporate office as well as from the stores. I find that there is an incredible desire to learn and educate each other at all levels and across all departments.

I also read as many industry publications as possible. One of The Vitamin Shoppe’s core objectives and values is knowledge, which is accessible through our Vitamin Shoppe University as well as our annual product education conference. Never before, in my many years in retail, have I had such ease of access to this much information.

Additionally, the vendor community has been instrumental to my growth and development in the natural supplements industry.

DAWN: What advice do you have to give to females who want to excel in the naturals industry?

RC: To be open-minded and always willing to learn from your peers, both internally and externally and from all levels. This is an industry where everyone “has skin in the game” and is more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge. If you embrace this industry, it will embrace you back tenfold.

I can truly say that I have never been happier and more content in what I do every day.

About Rikke:

Rikke Cumberbatch is the category manager of specialty supplements for The Vitamin Shoppe (TVS). She has been at TVS for more than three years, starting as the category manager for vitamins, and has been in the retail industry for more than 18 years. Part of Cumberbatch’s responsibility is to formulate private label products. She also functions as the buyer in the specialty supplements category. Prior to TVS, she held buying positions for Gucci, Bloomingdales, Tommy Hilfiger, Macy’s, and most recently, Toys “R” Us.

Veronica empowers Through Solar Enterprise

Meet Veronica, owner of a solar energy business in Malawi.


Veronica was able to generate income through her business thanks to Whole Planet Foundation’s partnership with Microloan Foundation. The MicroLoan Foundation trains and mentors women so they can successfully market and service solar energy products specifically designed for remote rural settings, as well as manage the stock effectively.

It is estimated that just 8 percent of Malawians are connected to a national energy grid. Lately, that is becoming increasingly unreliable. So Malawians are relying on solar energy.

Veronica is making a huge amount of additional money by renting out fully-charged LED lamps each evening to the public and also by charging mobile phones. Veronica has pre-orders for this service for the next month and a local school wants to purchase the entirety of her next stock of solar packs.

Business for Veronica is certainly booming.

Photo courtesy of MicroLoan Foundation.